Many insurers have set out on the journey of robotic process automation (RPA). In most cases, this has meant running pilots on simple business processes before scaling up to deliver more material benefits through an industrialized automation capability. New research by Accenture identified six trends that play a major role in an integrated approach, which is essential to the implementation of RPA.
1: The robots are coming
RPA is part of the spectrum of emerging artificial intelligence tools, including virtual agents, machine learning, computer vision and natural language classification. The move to artificial intelligence technologies can have many applications in insurance, for example, image classification for claims and text analytics for servicing customer inquiries.
2: Scaling the workforce
Properly implemented, automation programs enable the scalable, flexible and responsive insurance workforce that is so essential in a digital marketplace. Freed from routine process activities by their new automated co-workers, back-office staff can be redeployed into front-office roles where they can focus on complex customer demands and help generate growth.
3: Pilots prove the business case
RPA pilots have demonstrated a 40-80 percent reduction in processing times, along with improvements in quality, auditability and risk management. In other sectors of the financial services industry, companies such as Barclays and The Co-operative Group have used automated processes to generate capacity of up to 200 full-time employees across Operations.
4: Insurance process automation
Processes which are manually intensive, repetitive and require few judgement-based decisions are more suitable for automation. Insurers are finding that RPA can have a major impact in back-office functions such as applications handling, claims processing and data entry. Successful programs can free up between 20 and 30 percent of capacity at an enterprise level, while minimizing operational risk and improving the customer experience.
5: Threat and opportunity
Operations staff may perceive robots either as a new type of co-worker – smart technology empowering smart people – or as a threat to their roles. For front-office teams, they’re most likely to be viewed as a positive development, with real benefits for the customer experience and improved efficiency of administrative tasks. However, it’s in the middle- and back-office operations, where RPA has the greatest potential to automate manual activities, that there’s likely to be the most uncertainty.
6: Managing the transition
If RPA programs are counterbalanced by training that re-equips people for new roles, they are more likely to be seen in a positive light. There is no doubt that RPA will reduce the number of roles in Operations teams. Insurers, therefore, need to focus on retaining and redeploying talent to support front-office activities or new roles created through business growth.