We are in a unique period where the convergence of aging legacy platforms, complex market dynamics, and a mature vendor landscape has made core systems transformation a top priority for insurance carriers of all sizes and profiles. PWC expects core system transformations will continue to be a top priority for insurers – regardless of size and product mix – in the coming year.

But at the same time, insurers are looking for more than just up-to-date systems. They also want digital and analytics platforms that can help them realize the full benefits of a core transformation. That’s one of three key trends that have been dominating our conversations with the industry recently. Let’s go over each of the three:

  • Digital transformation and analytics
  • Greenfield and cloud
  • Increased specialization in insurance lines

First, carriers have more ambitious visions for how digital transformation and analytics should drive growth strategies, and are no longer satisfied with simply implementing a new platform and then searching for ways to achieve benefits in the post-implementation environment. Several carriers have increased their investments in core transformation and recognize they need to add these platforms in order to realize the following additional benefits and capabilities:

  • Better data and analytics – In recent years, carriers have recognized the value of building or improving an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) in parallel with traditional core transformation initiatives. This has enabled them to plan for strategic data analysis and build necessary components into core systems. Modernizing core systems often leads to more reliable data, and when this data is coupled with strategic data analytics initiatives it facilitates improved process metrics, work queue volumes, and claims fraud detection.
  • Better customer and agent experience – Good customer and agent experiences most often occur with modern underlying core platforms, most of which now offer self-service capabilities and can even open new customer channels. Carriers are looking to advance core system capabilities by customizing an agent and policyholder portal layer that enable users to intuitively interact with the system. For example, a claims transformation can improve the claims reporting, servicing, and resolution process and fundamentally alter how a customer interacts with the carrier’s claims processing division. Additionally, billing transformation programs also typically include self-service capabilities that can improve the overall customer experience.
  • Improved underwriting efficiency – This can be a direct benefit of any core transformation simply because of the resulting modern screen flow. However, carriers can gain much more by coupling the screen flow with an operational redesign that integrates the underwriting department with the new system capabilities. (This may entail an assessment and reconfiguration of the underwriting organization.) This is of particular importance in commercial and specialty lines transformations that seek to automate repetitive manual tasks but still require experienced underwriters to fully evaluate risks.

Carriers are also looking at alternative delivery strategies, like greenfield and cloud, in their new core environments – our second trend. Such a transformation provides simplicity and gives carriers a unique opportunity to reinvent their business, IT, and organizational culture. It eliminates the need to integrate with antiquated legacy platforms, potentially leading to speedier delivery time. It also tends to require fairly simple product design, which makes it well-suited for mid-tier carriers that are looking to leverage off-the-shelf vendor products.

Some key advantages of a greenfield approach are its product and solution simplicity, increased speed to delivery, and the opportunity it provides the organization to break with the past. However, there are disadvantages if a carrier doesn’t go into this kind of implementation with eyes wide open. For instance, it will limit book of business conversion capabilities in the near term, and can create some intermediate operational challenges by adding to the overall portfolio of applications in the near term.

Cloud, meanwhile, is reaching new heights among insurers. There now are complete, integrated ecosystems that include all the technology that runs core operations, and automated refresh capabilities keep product versions up to date. Five key factors are driving increased cloud adoption by carriers:

  • Aging infrastructure – Many carriers looking to modernize their core systems are discovering that their on-premise hosting environment is insufficient to support new core system technology, as well as customers’ and agents’ real-time “always on” expectations. Cloud solutions can meet many business and IT needs, and carriers now have a viable option to deploy new core systems in the cloud instead of investing in upgrading and maintaining new IT infrastructure.
  • Expanding technology ecosystem – Many small to mid-sized carriers do not have the capital or resources to support the complexity of a large transformation, but without transformations are constrained in their ability to respond to the market. Technology companies are beginning to offer complete, integrated ecosystems that include all the technology that runs core operations. This includes standard integrations of key ancillary systems (e.g. document generation, document management) and digital front-end portals and mobile, data analytics, underwriting desktops, and predictive modeling. Better yet, automated refresh capabilities keep product versions up-to-date.
  • Need for new products and markets – Insurers need to quickly respond to changing market conditions in order to compete in a very competitive landscape. Cloud core systems provide carriers the opportunity to quickly test and learn new business ideas – such as new products or expansion into a new market – with minimal investment.
  • Need to facilitate product development and innovation – IT is beginning to shift from being a provider of all technology services to a broker or orchestrator of business services and technology innovation. Creativity requires experimentation and, by nature, many experiments fail. Core systems in the cloud can help carriers reduce the cost of the experimentation and failure cycle, enabling them to greatly increase the potential for innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Talent shortages – It is difficult for many carriers to attract enough skilled employees, not least in infrastructure hosting and core development and testing. Cloud core systems alleviate the need for a full complement of IT staff because cloud solution providers already feature many of these resources.

Finally, we expect the next wave of transformation will impact specialty line carriers, which we categorize as non-admitted (E&S), Bermuda and London market carriers. Over the past decade, the specialty market has outpaced industry growth averages and, thanks to a variety of market dynamics, we believe that this trend, our third, will continue.

However, maintaining these increased growth patterns while managing their historically low policy acquisition costs will be a challenge for many specialty and E&S companies. They are likely to respond by increasing and improving internal underwriting staff, as well as through increased use of technology to automate lower value aspects of the policy placement process. For example, specialty carriers will automate back office and clerical work through new policy administration systems, while empowering their specialist underwriters to continue risk selection and pricing.

In closing, the digitalization of the insurance industry is having a major effect on insurers core systems replacement projects. Carriers have increased their expectations of core transformations and increasingly look to transformation to include robust digital and analytics capabilities. They also will continue to look at alternative delivery options in an effort to simplify their technology environment and their implementation roadmaps. And many transformation programs are starting to include portal and data warehousing components, and off-the-shelf package solutions are well equipped to integrate those components with the core back office systems.

This piece received additional contributions from Josh Knipp, Matt Wolff and Matt Hurlbut, directors in PwC’s FS Insurance Advisory Services.