How AF Group is bringing insurance’s digital revolution to workers’ comp and more

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In late 2018, AF Group, the parent of worker’s compensation and commercial lines insurer Accident Fund, brought on Abel Travis as VP of underwriting and product development. Travis came from The Hanover, where he was a leader in implementing digital initiatives for the company.

At AF Group, Travis has undertaken an extensive innovation agenda. Not wanting agents to be left out of the digital transformation of insurance, he convened an Agency Innovation Council to discuss new data-driven underwriting plans and what digital tools the company will be using to help facilitate decisions and expand into new markets.

“Because it’s a highly regulatory-driven line of business, the [workers’ comp] product is a hard one to innovate,” Travis explains. “What we can innovate is the way we provide the services for policyholders as well as make it easier to do business with us.”

Partnerships are key to Travis’s vision for the company. That includes partnering with several insurtechs, but also with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with which AF Group will be exploring blockchain technology; and Michigan State University’s SpartaHack group, where ideation sessions will be held.

After laying the groundwork last year, several ideas are set to come to fruition in 2019, Travis says, thanks to partnerships with insurtechs. A wearable-technology initiative with Makusafe, which will “provide us with the ability to use wearable devices so we can give them to some manufacturing and construction policyholders,” is rolling out in the second quarter, Travis says. “In the event there’s a function in the process that may drive higher injury, we can leverage the data to inform them of that.”

Wearable technology has exciting applications for worker’s comp, and allows the insurer to act as more of a partner to clients in order to reduce loss costs. But there’s a balance to strike, Travis says.

“I wouldn’t ask them to stop a mission-critical process, but there may be services we can pair with the wearables to help retool how that output of that work is being done and completed,” he explains. “ If the information is proven. The data that we’re putting in front of them should drive a change in behavior.’

In addition, Talage, which operates an insurance aggregator, is helping AF Group build a digital customer-acquisition platform to roll out with agencies. Travis is careful to note that the carrier’s plan is not to go direct, but to focus on agent enablement.

“We came to them with this idea, in fact we assessed a bunch of vendors,” Travis explains. “This should streamline the way we intake policies from customers and agents.”

Finally, RiskPossible has been selected to work on the back-end of a third-party data initiative that will help cut down on supplemental underwriting questions, to continuously monitor data for changes. On the front end, AF Group is running pilots with Terrene Labs, DataCubes, Carpe Data and Experian to pre-fill the initial questions that are asked.

“In some instances, we may have a supplemental app thats 15 pages long,” Travis explains. “A lot of that is publicly available but it may take a long time to answer the questions.” Pushing that task to analytics companies should create better customer and agent experiences, he continues.

AF Group wants to use its developing digital prowess to expand into more lines of business. The company launched commercial auto in 10 states last year and hopes to double that -- or more -- this year. Differentiating in the market using digital is a key component of that strategy.

“In the trucking segment, we’re starting to require truckers to have telematic devices that can help ID the drivers and speed, for example,” Travis says. “Not a lot of the organizations that provide trucking coverage are doing those things.”

The digital distribution capabilities will help AF Group offer bundled services including management and general liability, errors and omissions and more, he says.

“We are going to spend our time on revenue generation for the enterprise, as well as expense and process optimization,” Travis says.

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Insurtech Wearable technology Analytics Digital distribution