By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®
Amazingly, the insurance business isn't getting left behind in the apps craze, according to two recent reports from information-technology consultancies. Apps as in applications for mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers. Insurers are embracing the technology to reach out to customers, sure. But insurance professionals also want and need the latest gadget for their own reasons.
As for customers, perhaps the more amazing thing is that property/casualty insurers are not just focused on the personal lines. There are "surprisingly interesting things"--and yes, even innovation--happening on the commercial side, said Chad Hersh, principal, insurance, at Novarica.
He pointed to several examples: the FAConnect app from Aon Benfield that allows cedents to get facultative quotes from reinsurers, Travelers' e-CARMA app for agents for claims and incident reporting and the AgentFirst app from First American Title, to name a few.
"The carriers have a tendency to try to roll out stuff to the agents first because they hear the clamoring from the agents," Hersh said.
The consultant thinks the tide will turn soon for reaching out to commercial insureds too. He can foresee mobile technology--such as the uber-trendy iPad-- used by commercial risk management teams for loss-control reporting or to help during presentations with brokers and underwriters.
Craig Beattie, an analyst with Celent, is also confident that apps dedicated to commercial insureds are "not far away"--perhaps only one or two years away. The tricks with creating apps for enterprises, he said, are security, workflow and permission issues. Yet other industries are already exploring apps for enterprises, and the major device manufacturers, like Apple and BlackBerry, are preparing their platforms with security in mind. What's more, the apps created for personal-lines consumers can be the convenient foundation for any commercial use.
"It will be just the case of, are people demanding it?" Beattie said.
Well, risk managers, do you want apps to connect directly and quickly to your underwriters and your brokers?
Producers, claims adjusters, carrier executives and other insurance professionals are already showing their appetite.
For executives, they've demanded, and received, iPads in 2010.
"They're already carrying them around," Hersh said. Indeed, a number of iPads were visible, tucked underarm, at insurance trade shows earlier this year.
According to Novarica's December 2010 report on mobile technology, co-authored by Hersh and Kimberly Markel, 25 percent of senior insurance execs already have iPads and their number could double next year.
For folks who will use the technology as "real productivity tools," though, look to producers and adjusters, he said. The app examples mentioned above largely target agents/brokers, who are adopting consumer mobile devices at a "stunning pace," according to the report. As for adjusters, tablets could have a "significant impact" on their work next year.
Celent's November 2010 report on mobile apps, co-authored by Beattie and Craig Weber, explores the efforts of personal-lines carriers to better touch consumers directly. In effect, getting independent agents out of the way, Beattie said.
For personal-lines carriers, apps development has gone from merely "getting your name in front of people" marketing to creating the "killer app"--bill payment solutions--to now even experimenting with ways to make insurance buyers better risks, like the State Farm auto-responder app that answers your phone for you while you're driving.
"It came across as one of the biggest sociology experiments I've ever seen," Beattie said about app development.
Don't expect it to stop. As the Novarica report concludes, the adoption of mobile technology is occurring at an unprecedented rate in insurance--perhaps even faster than the take-up of the Internet when it first started.
December 7, 2010
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