It’s good to see some innovation in the back room—although one would like to see more.

Innovations in insurance, as in many other industries, seem really to hinge on technology—as Accenture has been saying for a while, every business is a digital business. But one thing we have all seen is that many companies focus on the front end, with the back end remaining more traditional.

It’s probably apocryphal, but there’s a persistent story that in the early days at Amazon, even Jeff Bizos had to lend a hand in the packing room as unexpectedly large order volumes uncovered the process defects behind the company’s slick, digital front end.

In the end, though, companies have to take a deep breath and start to digitize their core processes, and thus open them up to innovation—as Amazon has certainly done.

One insurer making a move in the right direction is Italy’s UnipolSai, whose Firma Elettronica Avanzata (FEA) project is aimed at rolling out the issuance of electronic insurance contracts. This means that the customer can sign all the necessary documents on a tablet, and the document is then stored automatically by the company. It can be e-mailed to the customer, or printed as required.

It’s a way to streamline the laborious process of signing up a customer, and ensures that all documents are in the same electronic format. This innovation is a move toward true digital transformation—and, in that regard, keep an eye out for our upcoming paper on the steps that lead toward becoming a true digital insurer, and the types of business model that can be adopted.

And, of course, paperless contracts are environment-friendly as well!

Another process innovation also comes from an Italian carrier, Sara. The company is a leader in the Italian auto insurance market and its latest move is to provide customers with the option of paying for home, third-party liability, accident and health insurance via monthly installments automatically deducted from a bank account. This facility enables the financial burden to be spread, and makes payment trouble-free.

In conclusion, though, we should note the relative paucity of innovation in this area. This could mean that insurers as a group have not yet truly begun to undertake fundamental digital transformation of their core processes, but I suspect that there is a lot of innovation happening in the back office that simply isn’t visible because it doesn’t affect the service and distribution sides of the business. What is your view?

Next week, we’ll look at some new service models as well as innovations in the people sphere.

Find out more about the role that operational improvement has to lay in driving growth by reading the blog series by Daniele Presutti, Strategies for profitable growth in life insurance.

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