The international insurance industry has predominantly been resistant to digitalisation and has traditionally preferred paper-based documentation and on face-to-face interaction due to the values and personal nature associated with insurance. Yet, digitalisation of the insurance sector within Southern Africa remains largely underutilised with the industry still relying on traditional business models, brokers and agents for distribution.
As early as 2017, Forbes highlighted digital transformation trends that the insurance industry had to consider transcending to the digital environment. This included self-service dashboards, easier and faster claims processes, comparison and purchase options, an interconnected experience whereby all agents will have access to the same information and Insurance as a Service (IaaS) allowing expensive items to be insured only when they are in use and keeping goods safe as needed, as opposed to forcing long-term policies on clients for items they rarely use.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the demand for digitalisation of a number of industries, the insurance industry bearing no exception.
Almost overnight, the insurance industry had to ensure its employees were proficient in working effectively from home, eliminating paper-based processes and in-person meetings. In light of the increased demand for insurance contracts to be adopted and altered, the possibility of human error cannot be excluded.
Similarly, for Southern Africa to successfully and sustainably transition to a digital environment with customers remains a challenge due to two major constraints: clients and customers are significantly accustomed to face-to-face engagements and in-person interaction leading to it remaining difficult to build sufficient trust with most consumers through digital interaction. At the same time, regulation in many Southern African countries prohibits electronic signatures and electronic contracting. Despite electronic signatures being recognised within South Africa, it still remains lacking pertaining to last wills and testaments.
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Internationally, systems are being developed whereby the insurance industry is able to implement voice recognition, auto transcribing and digital signature technologies assisting in claims to be assessed and processed remotely. In terms of risk assessments, smartphone technology made available to assist assessors in conducting virtual tours despite not having to physically visit into a property in order to evaluate or ascertain a claim.
A plethora of new skills and roles are emerging that are in demand to ensure that the digital insurance industry functions sustainably. Among the skills include the following: teams who are able to learn new skills and be positioned into slightly different roles alongside Fourth Industrial Revolution technology that will assist them make better decisions, focus on higher-value tasks, building relationships and make decisions based not on data alone, but on empathy and compassion. If the insurance industry can achieve this, it will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger, more streamlined, and ultimately resilient for the future.