What is the real impact of the Covid pandemic on the insurance sector?

The events of 2020 have touched every single one of us and the impact has been felt as much professionally as it has personally. Businesses in every sector from retail to services to hospitality have been affected to a greater or lesser extent, and each has its own story to tell.

The insurance sector is no different, and has been faced with unique challenges. Industry professionals will tell you that expecting the unexpected is what the insurance business is all about, and certainly if you had asked any major insurer this time last year whether they were geared up for a major loss event like a pandemic, they would have answered in the affirmative. But how is the reality shaping out?

Digitisation has proved key

When the nation went into lockdown and the world started working from its sofas and kitchen tables, businesses who have embraced technological innovation reaped the rewards. In the insurance sector, statistics out of India showed that sales of online health insurance in March of this year were 30 percent higher than the previous year. Businesses with a strong online presence had a bumper month, while the digital laggards could only look on helplessly as revenues dropped through the floor.

Taking healthcare online

With healthcare infrastructures under extreme pressure in parts of Europe, the importance and value of telemedicine was brought into sharp focus. Here was a way to relieve the pressure on hospitals and clinics, and at the same time protect vulnerable patients who were safest in their own homes. Across the world, insurers have been pushing innovative online products to market. A major Australian provider, for example, has partnered with a mental health platform to deliver an evidence-based app to help those suffering from anxiety.

New normal, new risks

When it became clear that Covid was going to be more than a three-week disruption of “business as usual,” the phrase “new normal” started to enter our vocabularies. For insurers, that means a new set of risks to consider, and innovative products have started to enter the market. Chubb Singapore’s Work From Home Insurance, for example, is a completely new type of policy for the region. Beazley, meanwhile, identified potential hazards inherent in the rush towards telehealth and is offering cover against the risks presented by technology-enabled wellness services.

Covid-specific claims

Insurers are seeing a growing number of claims entering their pipelines that are specifically related to Covid-19. Inevitably, this means a knock-on effect on claims volume and settlement time. At Sprout.ai, we are working on the development of a Covid-19 solution that will allow insurers to process and settle these claims faster, thereby improving the customer experience at this difficult time. This brings its own challenges, given that everyone is operating in unchartered territories. However, our proprietary Contextual AI solutions give us the power to enrich claims in real time with Covid-19 related information as it becomes available.

Early indications are that fraudulent health insurance claims have increased by around 15 percent during the pandemic, while policyholder contact time is up by more than 50 percent. The processes Sprout.ai offers can help insurers navigate these difficult waters with the best possible efficiency, helping to identify fraudulent claims without a negative impact on the service levels offered to genuine claimants.

Distributed teams

Every industry has seen an upsurge in the number of people working remotely over recent months, and the insurance sector has been no exception. Working with distributed teams can be a challenge for businesses that are accustomed to more traditional working practices. From this perspective, the intelligent claims automation platform we offer could not have come at a better time, as it helps insurers make the transition more smoothly.

Proving resilience in the toughest times

The unprecedented events of this year have proven that those within the insurance sector who are quick to react with agility cannot merely survive. They can thrive and provide real value and comfort to their clients in these most difficult times.

And according to one highly authoritative source, they have largely succeeded in doing so. Lloyds Bank recently published its fifth annual Financial Institutions Sentiment Survey, and congratulated the industry on its resilience in the face of the pandemic.

More than 70 percent of insurance leaders said they expect revenues to either remain stable or to grow over the coming 12 months. While that is lower than last year’s 89 percent, it is evidence that the industry has not been rocked by this black swan event to the extent of so many other business sectors.

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