How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will change the insurance industry for the better

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While digital transformation has been a top priority for most businesses in South Africa and globally, current market pressures and the impact of COVID-19 has made it even more of an urgent priority.

Insurance companies are now looking towards Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help them digitally transform their business processes to stay competitive.

Leslie Willcocks, the well-known professor of technology, work and globalization at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, spoke to McKinsey & Company about RPA, and Willcocks sums it up brilliantly:

RPA takes the robot out of the human. The average knowledge worker employed on a back office process has a lot of repetitive, routine tasks that are dreary and uninteresting. RPA is a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interaction with the customer.

A lot of people hear ‘Robotic Process Automation’ and think that it’s only a tool for software engineers or tech wizards. But most RPA tools are built for non-techie knowledge workers who want to automate their repetitive, routine tasks without the steep learning curve or technical knowledge.

The business benefits of RPA are endless – especially in the highly regulated insurance industry. Not only does the company’s bottom line and its customers benefit, but also its employees.

Just one of the reasons why RPA benefits companies from a bottom line perspective, is that it allows for quick cost savings. By simplifying business operations, it increases productivity, and allows companies to re-allocate teams to higher priority work, to ultimately drive business growth. Willcocks describes the short-term financial gains of RPA: “The major benefit we found in the 16 case studies we undertook is a return on investment that varies between 30 and as much as 200 percent in the first year.”

With RPA, companies can provide better customer service, because it can conserve human effort and meet customer’s needs. For example, in conventional claims processing, employees collect information from different documents and move it into other systems. With just one click, RPA bots can move substantial amounts of claims data, so customers can get a faster response when they file a claim.

Willcocks describes RPA’s benefits to employees in terms of the number of hours given back to the business: “In every case we looked at, people welcomed the technology because they hated the tasks that the machines now do and it relieved them of the rising pressure of work. Every organsation we have studied reports that it is dealing with bigger workloads. I think there will be an exponential amount of work to match the exponential increase in data— 50 percent more each year. There is also a massive increase in audit regulation and bureaucracy. We need automation just to relieve the stress inherent in organisations.”

In our Digital Revolution, the relationship between people and technology has to change for the better going forward, and RPA is an exceptional tool to facilitate that change. “In the longer term, RPA means people will have more interesting work. For 130 years we’ve been making jobs uninteresting and deskilled. The evidence is that it’s not whole jobs that will be lost but parts of jobs, and you can reassemble work into different types of jobs. It will be disruptive but organisations should be able to absorb that level of change,” concludes Willcocks.

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