Mobile consumer applications have now become commonplace in the personal lines insurance business, and the top technology initiatives among personal lines insurers include agent and customer portal enhancement, business intelligence and core system upgrades or replacements.

Those are some of the key findings of a new study from research firm Novarica. The report is part of a series on key business and technology trends in specific line-of-business segments in the U.S. insurance industry. They’re based on the expertise of Novarica’s staff, conversations with members of the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council and a review of secondary published sources.

In a highly competitive market with intense profitability pressures, personal lines carriers are focusing on growth strategies, expense reduction and improving underwriting results, the report notes.

In the area of mobile apps, telematics is the new battleground, Novarica says. Most of the top personal lines carriers now offer apps, and accident checklists, agent locators and claims submission capabilities considered “table stakes”. The recent cancellation of several Progressive usage-based insurance patents might spur broader adoption of telematics among large and midsized carriers, the report notes.

Also see: For Insurers, the Mobile Revolution is More than Just Smartphones

Many carriers are also launching initiatives involving agent and customer portal enhancement, BI and core system upgrades or outright replacements. “Agent and customer portals continue to be viewed as key elements of acquiring and retaining customers,” the report says.

BI and analytics are viewed as key competitive capabilities for personal line carriers, with many carriers applying predictive models to the underwriting process through application of business rules.

Core systems investments continue to be vital for improving time to market and product flexibility. Many carriers are replacing systems to support new product development and improve the consistency and quality of underwriting decisions.

Another key finding of the report is that billing, customer relationship management (CRM), distribution management and specialized components are lower priority technology initiatives for carriers.

“While billing is an important component of customer service, and personal lines insurers use CRM solutions more heavily than carriers focused on other lines of business, technology initiatives in these areas are more about enhancements than transformational change,” the report says.

Personal lines continues to be “hyper-competitive”, the study says, and technology is playing an ever-larger role in insurers’ ability to attract, retain and profitably serve their clients.

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