Protection 

Big insurers branded 'too much like moles'

Big insurers branded 'too much like moles'

Insurance companies have spent too long maximising their profits and avoiding deploying automation to enhance the customer experience, the head of WPA has claimed.

Julian Stainton, chief executive of private medical insurance (PMI) insurer WPA, said although automation and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) could drastically cut down the waiting time when making a claim, too few companies are embracing this technological trend.

Mr Stainton said: "Legacy systems are the bane of all financial services businesses. We are in a period of constant revolution but large financial firms seem to suffer from 'corporatitis'. 

"The attitude towards tech innovation is 'It's okay, but there's nothing wrong with the tech we have'. It seems many big commercial insurance companies still run on green screens and mini mainframes. They're simply sweating the assets to maximise the profits."

Mr Stainton, whose company has been using AI in the  claims process for nearly a year, drastically cutting down processing times, added any idea of "revolution and change from within" is "nearly always resisted in corporate environments, because the bosses suck their lemon drops and say 'we've always done it this way, so why change?

"It's not conscious but people think machine learning might sweep away a lot of jobs. Turkeys do not have a good record when it comes to the celebration of Christmas. 

"Just so, there is a corporate and social inertia when it comes to the insurance industry, which is resistant to machine learning and AI."

According to Mr Stainton, while WPA has been using automation, this will never replace the human element of empathy, understanding and providing a listening ear, which he said is crucial when dealing with clients making a claim.

However, technology helps give people what they need, when they need it, he added.

"For too long insurers have been like moles, burrowing underground without seeing what the clients' expectations of service are."

The reason WPA automated the claims process is was that people expect an immediate answer and need providers to be clear over what is, and what is not, covered.

Mr Stainton said: "There are between 600,000 to 900,000 different potential factors to build into a claim now: medical conditions and their increasing complexity, data protection, or the number of GPs and consultants.

"Medicine has become staggeringly complicated so we cannot just say 'yes' immediately, as this means we have committed to an indefinite liability."

But instead of putting a claimant through a "long-winded" process of telephone calls, he said the experienced staff can use the AI system to help speed up the claim.

"This juggles all the variables and, within about four to six minutes, the machine has found out the name of the GP, the client can validate it, and a few questions later, the staff member can authorise a claim with quality, accuracy and certainty."

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