The insurance industry has been starved of innovation, and historically, technology has improved by increments rather than leaps and bounds. But it doesn’t have to be that way – and, in the view of Dale Smith, CEO of JAVLN, it absolutely shouldn’t.
“Insurance is ready for disruption by modern software and modern vendors,” Smith says. “At the moment, we’ve got an industry where brokers are being completely underserviced, and it’s just totally unsustainable. As a collective, tech providers need to be delivering a lot more value and support.”
It’s a situation that has been apparent for more than a decade, but Smith believes it’s been particularly underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.“It’d be an understatement to say that it’s had an effect,” he says. “But I think it’s highlighted and reinforced how much we rely on tech and, in turn, some of the shortcomings with the current tech baseline.”
Of course, these shortcomings raise questions of their own. How will the need for better tech shape the insurance industry – and specifically the broking arena – in the future? It’s a question Smith has spent a great deal of time pondering since he founded JAVLN in 2014.
“There’s no question that we’ve seen how tech can enhance the industry,” he says. “Automation is probably the most obvious one – no one needs to be filling out huge stacks of paperwork anymore. Quotes should take a fraction of the time they currently do, with data entry of the same information many times on the same risk. At JAVLN, we’ve seen how this small change using tech can drive efficiency and profitability within a brokerage.”
Smith points to how this can be extrapolated further with tools such as JAVLN’s own platform. “Yearly renewals can be hugely time-consuming for any broker,” he says. “Obviously you need to be making regular connections with your client base, but the truth is that you don’t need to be going through your entire book. Most renewals are routine, and when you start utilising automation, you can simplify your processes considerably.”
Configuration is key, Smith says – the platform allows for either complete or partial automation, depending on insurance class.
“For example, you might have a class like commercial motor that can be complex with adds, moves and changes,” he says. “So you might need to have more in-depth conversations with those clients about the sort of renewals they need. But do you need to do that with every single one of your home and contents clients? Maybe not. Automation is very valuable.”
There are other considerations, too. Smith points to EY’s recent State of the Nation insurtech report – among the many salient points, the one that stuck with him most was related to connectivity between brokers and insurers. The technology exists to connect them directly, so why is there still such a heavy reliance on tired legacy platforms for this?
“Aggregators have a really important role to play for the consumer market,” Smith says. “You’re always going to have your price comparison websites and the like. But from a broking perspective, it’s baffling that we’re still relying on such antiquated tech that is expensive in terms of consuming resources and also expensive commercially.”
JAVLN, Smith says, is eager to address these concerns. Current commercial software typically requires brokers to request one quote from one insurer at a time – a laborious process that slows down both the broker’s work and their ability to deliver timely turnarounds to clients. It’s no longer fit for purpose, Smith says, and better tech tools have been available for some time.
“In 2020, it’s just dead in the water,” he says. “You can’t expect clients to be happy with that level of service just because it’s been the default mode for so many years.”By contrast, Smith explains, JAVLN enables multiple quotes at a time – a substantially more seamless experience. “The tech’s there – our own platform is proof of that,” he says. “What we need to see now is a greater pickup among insurers and brokers alike.”
Getting up to speed
Certainly, it’s an approach that has yielded dividends for JAVLN. In early 2020, the company was selected by Amazon Web Services as the first Australasian insurance platform software provider to be represented on the global AWS Marketplace. It’s an achievement of which Smith is justifiably proud.
“Today, they’re effectively our hosting partner across multiple data centres in Australia,” he says. “We’re working together on lots of good initiatives across technology and business, and we want to be an important part of their presence in insurtech.”
These are considerations that go beyond just JAVLN’s own successes, though, Smith says. How brokers and insurance companies decide to engage with tech both now and into the future has broader implications, particularly around future hiring. New, younger talent will be looking for tech that mimics the functionality they have on the devices they use outside of the office.
“You don’t want to be stuck with the modern equivalent of a black-and-green-screen 286,” Smith says. “If you haven’t already invested in cloud-based, multi-device tech, you need to be looking at it now.”
Of course, Smith isn’t blind to the obstacles brokers face on these fronts. New tech brings new challenges, and he understands why people have concerns about making changes that might seem drastic at face value.
“Cybersecurity and regulatory changes are probably the two biggest considerations at this stage,” Smith says. “You always need to be operating above and beyond best practice. Tech needs to be protected, client data needs to be private, and regulatory changes need to be enacted straight away.”
The good news, Smith says, is that this doesn’t tend to be nearly as daunting a project as most businesses imagine it to be.
“I don’t think people should be put off by their fears around changing tech,” he says. “Let us walk you through the architecture and take you through the transition. Once you’ve seen it like that, you start to realise how it enables efficiencies in other areas of the business, too.”
Looking to 2021 and beyond, JAVLN has big plans on the horizon. The company is now in nine countries across the APAC region, and it’s beginning to set its sights on the UK – not to mention continuing to provide support for brokers and insurers as its offerings expand.
“We’re growing in multiple international markets, and obviously we want that to continue,” Smith says. “We’re in a good place. We’ve got the right tech that meets the market’s needs and wants, and the resources. Everyone’s seen companies that haven’t quite balanced that intersection quite as well as they could, so I consider us very fortunate.”