As a whole, insurers have been reluctant to touch their reliable claims systems—let alone reaping serious competitive advantage by investing heavily in them. Nearly 80 percent of insurers, according to Towers Watson's "Property & Casualty Claim Officer Survey," are not beyond "initiative exploration of claims-related predictive analytics."

But change appears to be inevitable, and large insurers (those with more than $750 million in direct written premium) are leading the way. A less-gaudy 58 percent have yet to seriously explore predictive analytics; also, 92 percent have made a "major claims modification" within the last three years, compared to 70 percent of medium insurers and 63 percent of small.

Unfortunately, it's unclear whether small (those with less than $200 million in direct written premium) and medium insurers (those with between $200 and $750 million in direct written premium) will be able to learn from the investments going on around them, as the survey also found the top benefits insurers are receiving from investments wildly varied between size groups.

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