I was all set to sit down and start writing this last 2012 commentary about what insurers are going to prioritize in 2013 and why: more focus on the consumer, developing strategies for attracting and retaining IT talent, modernization projects, etc. However, at press time, Superstorm Sandy had just delivered a blow to the United States and the insurance industry. As I write this (a week after Sandy struck), the death toll stands at 110, nearly 1 million New Jersey and 650,000 New York City area homes and businesses are still without power, 30,000-40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated, flood claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program are expected to exceed $10 billion, exhausting the program's existing $4 billion in payment authority and insured losses are estimated at $10- 20 billion.
There is no argument that this is a historical event for the United States and for our industry. Claims adjusters are frantically running around with their tablets and insurers are camped out in their mobile CAT response units.
For months to come regulators, the media and current and potential customers, agents and employees, will keep a close eye on how insurers handle Sandy-not just whether the claims were paid out accurately and in a timely fashion, but whether insurers were readily available and their systems up and running and accessible, and as usual, whether the communication with insurers was pleasant and productive?
As you'll see in the 2013 Trends section of this issue, insurers will focus on consumer-facing initiatives. With the Sandy spotlight on insurers, it's is more important than ever. Insurers need to process these claims efficiently, have accurate data readily accessible and improve contact with consumers.
Now is the time to evaluate current processes and systems. Is cloud looking more attractive in order to access data? Is there a need for more social media activity to be accessible for policyholders? Where can telematics and geo-location be put to use in disaster recovery plans? What is the priority when it comes to mobile strategies? Addressing these questions and/or any other questions that arise as a result of catastrophes can not only improve operations but also prove to those critics with the keen eyes that insurers do business with the customer in mind and are keeping up with leading-edge technology.
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