Pandemic a "catalyst" for innovation – QBE Singapore CEO

Being forced to adapt, the insurance industry will digitalise even faster, says leader

Pandemic a "catalyst" for innovation – QBE Singapore CEO


By Gabriel Olano

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge changes in how life is lived, and businesses have been forced to adapt in order to ensure survival. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the adage goes. 

According to Ronak Shah (pictured), CEO of QBE Singapore, the pandemic has accelerated the insurance industry’s direction towards further digitalisation.

“One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has been the catalyst for innovation in insurance, unlocking greater levels of customer experience and personalisation,” Shah told Insurance Business. “The insurance industry has mostly operated in a traditional manner and put digitalisation on the backburner, be it across policy servicing, claims processing or distribution to name a few.

“The pandemic has allowed the industry to take a pause, reflect and execute on a number of these transitional areas supporting both efficiency and growth for our business.  As we continue to innovate our solutions and transition to more digitalised processes, we need to maintain our focus on meeting customer needs.”

In QBE’s case, it developed what it calls the Green Despatch Solution in response to the pandemic and associated business shutdowns.

“During the pandemic, we received numerous requests from our business partners and customers to move to electronic distribution of documents,” Shah said.

“This inspired our team to conceptualise and launch the Green Despatch Solution to mitigate disruptions in our business during this unprecedented time when we are operating under work-from-home arrangements. It works to help alleviate the burden of menial, repetitive, high-volume tasks for employees by using robotic process automation technology. It is primed to pick up, encrypt and share documents with customers electronically, while also shifting the claims and advisory processes online. This has made it easier for our customers to access their policies with greater convenience and get assistance swiftly.”

Shah added that this allowed QBE Singapore to place more focus on enhancing its value propositions to business partners, intermediaries, and clients, as well as making everyday operations more sustainable.

“Our Green Despatch Solution is just one part of our 2020 digital roadmap, and our goal is to continue to utilise this solution after this pandemic,” he said. “QBE Asia is in the process of rolling out an entire suite of digital tools that will benefit our customers, business partners and employees in their service delivery to our stakeholders. Our digitalisation efforts will focus on areas such as customer experience, pricing tools, rating and quote engines, policy administration, payment reconciliation and collection and will enable QBE Asia to cater to not just the B2C segments, but the B2B2C sector as well.”

However, Shah was also cautious on how to implement these digitalisation efforts.

“Insurance companies should avoid approaching digitisation without a customer lens,” he said. “Finding the right people for the roles is crucial too; the right people need to be identified and appointed to drive the digital transformations, and existing roles need to be redefined to ensure they can adapt. Lastly, digital adoption cannot be treated in a silo manner – it must be embedded across the entire organisation. The digitalisation journey is an active and collective effort by the entire organisation, not a one-off process.”

With the societal shifts caused by COVID-19 being here to stay, long after the infections have subsided, Shah believes that digitalisation across the industry will move even faster.

“I see this moving very quickly across every function within the industry with the main pillars of distribution, new business, servicing of existing business and claims – defining how technology is going to be adopted and utilised by an organisation,” he said. “We will also see more builds and innovations around insurtech, and deep tech such as AI, playing a necessary and critical role in digitalising existing processes, developing new sales and delivery platforms and alternative products. It will need the support of the entire ecosystem in order for it to work and with regulators playing a very active role in enabling this for the industry. Exciting times are ahead.”

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