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Surviving and Thriving – Understanding RPA’s Place in Staying Competitive in the Insurance Industry

By Pola Zafra-Davis - 18 Jun 2019
  • Intelligent Document Capture

Brightside is a Top 25 UK insurance broker that provides a wide range of personal and commercial products to customers through a number of dedicated brands.

The use of robotics increases the efficiency of the processes Brightside Insurance relies upon RPA to deliver car, home and business insurance to hundreds of thousands of customers across the UK.

While robotics is not new to financial services, many businesses (such as in life and pensions) have largely failed to make it work for them and their customers. With the assistance of DCS, Brightside were able to identify the most suitable parts of the operation for RPA.

Robotic process automation is being used for compiling document packs where the insurance documents are coming from third parties’ portals, reconciling invoices and posting credits received from debt cases. The technology will contribute to the company’s vision of creating a fully digital broker.

Here, Geoff Hardes, Operations Director at Brightside Insurance, sat down with our Business Consultant, Tracey Stotesbury to discuss why embracing digital will be the difference between surviving and thriving, or extinction.

The Context and Impact of Adopting Robotic Process Automation in Insurance

Tracey Stotesbury, DCS: As insurance brokers, what was the principle behind applying RPA? What challenges were you facing?

Geoff Hardes, Brightside Insurance: Our ongoing challenge was to ensure that we stay competitive across our services as much as possible. We wanted to ensure we give out quality service to our customers. So robotic process automation is part of our digital plan. It’s something that we implemented along with other technologies so that we remain a competitive organisation.

Our underlying principle is to use robotics where the task is repeatable, and the agent is adding little value. This left our employees to work on the more unusual or difficult scenarios where they CAN add value.

We have implemented digital marketing and sales at the front end, but we are using robotics to deliver back office activities such as documentation, printing and despatch.

Tracey: What benefits you have seen since implementing Robotic Process Automation?

Geoff: Well there were many benefits, the obvious ones that the cost and ROI, so we will certainly recover the investment we made in year 1. In year 2 we expect a positive financial benefit.

We work with two different systems, one being OGI and one being CDL. We are quite digital from a customer perspective but on the back end there are a lot of processes that are of low value to the customer.

There are remedial targets, high volume, very much rules-driven, and there were issues coping with the number of customers….and there were errors occurring.

Using robotics for non-value-added activities will make Brightside more scalable as an organisation. It also frees up time for our workers to focus on more important tasks.

Tracey: I agree that introducing more automation will not only reduce processing times, minimise errors, improve the customer experience and provide employees with more time in the workday … With that in mind, tell us about what the project mapping process uncovered.

Geoff: We certainly needed a good opportunity to implement RPA. So we picked a partner to assist us in realising our goals.

We decided to build more robots that are deployed in multiple systems in different places. This was to reduce the amount of time and effort it took to build these robots. It was more preferable than trying to automate something end-to-end only to find something blocked.

We’ve got a lot of processes that takes about 6-8 minutes. We’ve managed to reduce that duration down to 1 or 2 min and we did that in many different areas. Realistically we weren’t going to automate a full process, it’s more small parts of many processes to automate.

Tracey: Do you think that employee input was instrumental in mapping the robotic process automation use case? And how did you handle any fears of automation?

Geoff: Actually, we found that our own staff were the best source of knowledge when finding out where those processes were. They know the process best, and we’re a growing business. RPA for us wasn’t about taking staff out, it’s about being able to manage more customers.

It was always important to me that our workforce understood where we were going and why we were doing this. We educated our workforces to the strategic direction we were going to take.

I think this is essential so that they feel that they can embrace the automation as opposed to being nervous about it.

Tracy: Were there any unexpected benefits?

Geoff: RPA assisted in improving quality in some of our outfits because it’s been done in a fashion each and every time.

We have been forced to apply discipline in the way we fulfil processes. We found that many of our software were fulfilling tasks in different way and behaved in different ways within the process than we anticipated.

When you start process mapping in very minute detail to how something is fulfilled you find out that there are 10 versions of truth.

Legacy Systems and Internal Considerations for Implementing Robotic Process Automation

Tracey: Quite often in the insurance sector you are dealing with legacy systems. Did you experience any robotics implementation challenges in your internal environments?

Geoff: Certain implementations went fine. We found that launching robots through OGI or Proclaim or backwater systems went fine. We went through a learning exercise on the speed at which we can build and deploy a robot. We saw that increase rapidly. Partly because I think you reuse parts of the coding in the process mapping that you built up. For example, the first part of a robot would be to log into your system, so you would use that in your next robot and so on and so on.

We did experience challenges when deploying in a virtual environment, it’s an image rather than the actual system itself. Or an image of a system. But 9 or 10 months ago we struggled with that.

There are new releases, so they might have addressed that new technology. But as part of Proclaim, Echelon, OGI systems account systems we had a reasonably smooth implementation.

Tracey: What do you think new RPA adopters should be careful of?

Geoff: The one thing that I would call out that was a learning point for us was understanding that robots do not integrate with systems out-of-the-box.

When we implemented other changes onto our platforms on OGI or CDL, sometimes if we don’t take into consideration the fact that we had robots, it would knock the robots off!

It’s not a major problem but we did need to build into our change control process something that would check whether there was going to be an impact on the robots or not. The way we started out with the control, our reports were coming out on the same day so that we can fix the problems.

The Future of Insurance Automation and Tips for Choosing RPA Partners

Tracey: What do you think will be the long-term impact of Robotic process automation at Brightside Insurance?

Geoff: That’s the million dollar question for us really. The fact that we will progress, when we first launched robotics we produced 1 robot every 3-4 weeks, now we are producing a robot on a 48 hour basis. So the speed has increased and we would continue down that route.

As a business we would look that much more towards artificial intelligence to understand what people in social media think about insurance and see opportunities. We will offer them a quotation, and ask if they’re not happy with their current insurance provider. So it would be good route to the market for us. We could also go in other directions and look at the more elective Siri-type technology where we ask the customer queries by self-learning AI.

Tracey: What are your recommendations for seeking out technology partners? Can you tell us you find working with DCS.

Geoff: I’d say in general that the service which is available from the organisation from which they are engaging with is very important. In the first few months you would need assistance since self-learning on something new.

For me it’s important that you feel that you can do business with that partner. Because things could go wrong and sometimes you just need people to get involved to get things resolved.

From our point of view we are happy with our current provider (Data Capture Solutions). I’m sure people would do their own research when choosing theirs.

Tracey: What do you believe is the most important consideration for those wishing to adopt RPA?

Geoff: I’d say to ensure that the technology is proven in the field that someone was looking at.

We are already discovering that robotics has reduced both cost and error rates, and by taking out the human variable we have significantly improved our response time.

Key Interview Takeaways on RPA Implemention

At the end of our discussion with Geoff, it becomes clear that creating an effective RPA strategy required 1) knowing their processes’ impact on customer experience and 2) communicating with current employees and using measured expectations.

Rather than choosing to overhaul a full process, Brightside decided on a strategy using small segmented tasks. As a result, overall processes that once took 6-8 minutes were reduced to 1 or 2 min in multiple arenas.

While unexpected technical challenges can appear in internal environments, learning the causes can still bring even greater improvements to workflows. As Geoff later noted, keeping the response times of the right partner can make a large difference in maintaining a smooth-running project.

For Brightside, the successes that RPA brought has led to confidence in adopting other forward-thinking digital strategies, such as AI and voice-recognition. With these tips and insights your organisation can also make great digital leaps.

To find out more and to discuss your RPA strategy, here are some helpful links:

Robotic Process Automation Showcase Page

DCS Insurance Solutions Showcase Page

If you would like to speak with one of our RPA consultants, you can contact us using the following link: Contact DCS

Or give us a call on +44 (0) 1753 616720