Great expectations

Great expectations

Great expectations IAN MURESS, CEO of international operations at Crawford & Company, is approaching four decades in the claims space – and in the next decade, the industry veteran expects insurance to transform significantly.

“I would say the industry could be unrecognizable from what we now know,” he says, “with likely insurer and broker consolidation, the growth of new markets in the rising economies of the East, and markets in Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong becoming less reliant on London with local capital and skill sets available.”

For the past 15 years, Muress has occupied executive roles at Crawford & Co., the world’s largest publicly listed independent provider of claims management solutions to insurers and self-insured entities. Based in London, today he heads up Crawford’s international businesses outside of the US. As such, he’s attuned to the threats and opportunities currently facing the industry – particularly disruptors.

“Disruption is often seen to be driven by technology, and certainly this is right, but it is aligned to, and mostly about, anticipating customer expectations of service,” he says. “Customer expectations have evolved – they want their needs met immediately and available on numerous platforms, reflecting their lifestyles and work patterns. We need to find the insurance solutions that meet those expectations.”

He points to the use of artificial intelligence to automate back-office tasks and handle high-volume, rules-based work.

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“Once programmed, AI systems can replicate decision-making processes and apply them more quickly and more efficiently than human operators,” he says. “What is clear is that AI has evolved in the past 18 months and is here to stay, and needs to be factored into future planning in order for companies to remain competitive.”

While many in the industry have reacted to technological advances with dismay, Muress describes the recent activity around disruption and change as “very healthy.”

“It is forcing the industry to consider entrenched positions and develop new ways of doing business that put the customer at the heart of what we do,” he says. “Comparison websites should really have been called ‘disruptors,’ but their emergence took place in a different business environment, and they weren’t being chased by such a huge cohort of businesses as seems to be the case now.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he continues, “I believe the industry is in the midst of a hugely turbulent period in which many of the services and income streams it has relied upon are being questioned and attacked by innovators. This doesn’t necessarily mean all innovation is going to come from outside the industry.”

The insurtech threat

Worth nearly $5 trillion, the global insurance industry faces challenges from insurtech firms – businesses with a mission to develop new technologies that will revolutionize the client service experience for insurance customers across the globe.

One insurtech startup that has attracted considerable attention is Lemonade, said to be the world’s first modern peer-to-peer insurance company. It initially provided homeowner’s and renter’s insurance in New York, but the company has for a license in 46 US states and the District of Columbia, hoping to be available to 97% of the US population in 2017.

But the burgeoning insurtech space brings with it opportunities for incumbents to form new partnerships.

Muress highlights Crawford’s foray into the ‘gig economy’ through its $36 million acquisition of a majority stake in WeGoLook, a business focused on making it easier for consumers to verify information so they can more easily make important decisions.

“WeGoLook [is] an online and mobile platform that deploys thousands of people called ‘lookers’ from a nationwide network to inspect and verify information, helping clients make real-time decisions,” Muress explains. “We are looking to bring the WeGoLook model to the UK, Australia and Canada in 2017. The model is very portable, in that the technology and business architecture readily lends itself to a ‘lift and shift’ model. It’s good to go. We are very ambitious about how quickly we can push this out into the international businesses, and we’re working on a very successful, established model coming out of the US. It is our belief that the demands of both insurers and customers can be met quickly and easily with applications such as this.”

Embracing change

Muress says he’s been pleased to see organizations such as the Association of British

Insurers taking a positive role in developing the framework for liability insurance, particularly around driverless cars, allowing change in the industry to occur.

“The industry could choose an entrenched position, given that it faces something of an existential threat once vehicles learn to drive for themselves,” he says, “but where there is change, there is opportunity, and it is pleasing to see insurers put their best foot forward.”

Muress believes it is incumbent upon the industry as a whole to embrace advances in technology.

“Disruption is happening now, and even if you don’t belong to the millennial age group, you can still be part of the future. Either you want to be part of disruption or you might want to collaborate, but to not work with change is not an option.”

Illustrating the point, he recalls events that kicked off at Crawford & Co. back in 2009.

“We saw the need for more complex skill sets to meet the claims needs of the future, so we developed our complex claims offering, Crawford Global Technical Services,” he says. “It became increasingly clear that dualqualified adjusters were an essential piece of our solution. We needed engineers, forensic accountants, surveyors, cyber experts, all of whom would also be adjusters.”

Muress says the days of fixed roles in underwriting, claims or distribution are long gone.

“The forward-thinking insurance business should embrace skills like analytics, coding and applied mathematics,” he says, “because these are the types of backgrounds that will drive innovation and allow them to think beyond today’s methodologies.”