ISO Emerging Issues Perspectives
By Jared Dearth
FACING VIRTUAL CHALLENGES
Six questions brokers and agents should consider with underwriting-based remote collaboration
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on many ways that virtual technology can enable remote collaboration. This is especially true for insurance agents and brokers, who work so closely with their customers.
While technology has many advantages, it can also create challenges. Just ask anyone who’s struggled to start a video conference call with someone who’s never used a webcam. Or consider the security issues with video conference calls that have become a major concern this year.
Video conferencing technology can be a game-changer. The ability for an underwriter to guide an agent through a virtual inspection in real-time can help ensure that the right images are taken … .
Similar challenges can affect agents and brokers using virtual technology to help home owners and businesses secure insurance coverage that requires an inspection of the property. It might seem easy enough just to send some pictures that your customers have taken. But there are potential challenges with using mobile technology in underwriting. Consider the following six questions:
- How do you know the pictures of the property are current? People have been taking and saving their digital photographs for years, making it easy to submit older and perhaps outdated pictures. For instance, images of a home driveway could have been taken right after it was repaved years ago, and photos of a restaurant may have been shot right before its grand opening. How do you verify that the pictures of a property reflect its current state?
- Are you seamlessly obtaining all the images that insurers need? Property images are valuable only if they capture what the insurer needs to see to satisfy its underwriting guidelines. Important details in homes and commercial buildings can be easy to miss, if you’re not looking in the right places or providing a complete picture of the property. How can you collaborate with your customers to give them the clear direction they need to capture the necessary information?
- How can you efficiently communicate with everyone involved in the process without email overload? Many people rely on email for its convenience. But managing communication through email can sometimes be challenging and prone to complication. Just one overlooked email or forgotten response can delay obtaining critical coverage for a client. For instance, you could email a business owner for details about projected use of a commercial property and easily find yourself in a series of time-consuming exchanges before you get the answers you need. Is your communication as efficient as it could be?
- Are you capturing upgrades and additions to the property? Are you able to easily spot unknown risk? Most risks tend to change over time. But the ability to easily spot and capture that detail can often be difficult. At any point in the policyholder lifecycle, that lack of current visual verification of risk can lead to not securing your customers the coverage they need or having a carrier cancel or non-renew their coverage. Either of these outcomes could leave you in a less than desirable position with your client. How can you ensure that you’re providing visual verification of important changes inside your customers’ homes and businesses at both quote and renewal?
- How well are you keeping track of your progress? Multiple stakeholders often are involved in the property inspection process. These include agent or broker, property owner, policyholder, risk manager, loss control rep, third-party vendor, carrier staff, and more. But they may require different information at different times in the process. How can you check that everyone has the information they need to complete their tasks and know the latest status of the process? Everyone needs a way to stay updated on what images and information has been shared with the insurer and policyholder in real-time.
- How can you be confident your data is secure in a world of remote collaboration? Data security is top of mind when it comes to your customers. A security breach can result in damaging fines and fees. Most important, you could lose the trust of your customers. You should feel confident in the security of information as it flows between all stakeholders in the policy.
Technology to help bridge the gap
While the problems of remote business operations can be frustrating, technology is available today that can make these problems easy to overcome. Here are a few examples:
- Real-time video collaboration. Video conferencing technology can be a game-changer. The ability for an underwriter to guide an agent through a virtual inspection in real-time can help ensure that the right images are taken, and that those images accurately represent the current state of the property. A platform that comes top of mind allows you to send a link through SMS text or email, which will connect to the mobile device and see through its camera—all without needing to install a mobile app. The engagement can be recorded and automatically added to the policy file.
- Data security. Before implementing remote collaboration technology, be sure to verify the protocols in place to help secure your and your customer’s data. The use of technology such as data encryption, vulnerability scanning, firewall rule sets, audit logging and Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) should be in place and certifications such as SOC 2 should be available.
- Time-stamping and location sharing. Sometimes, a real-time inspection isn’t possible, and a home or business owner may want to take video and photos themselves. But how do insurers know when and where these were taken? How do insurers know they are original content (meaning they weren’t captured previously and modified)? Using solutions that time-stamp documents to know when the video or photos were taken and comparing location-based data of the video and photos against the property address can help determine whether the imagery is of the property being insured. Platforms that offer image forensics provide additional layers of protection against fraud.
- Centralized collaboration. Tracking the progress of engagement across the team—or in some instances across organizations—can be a major challenge. Fortunate-ly, centralized and flexible platform scan be used to store and share communications, videos and images, and coordinate calendars for stakeholders involved with an account. These platforms can make it easy to see what has been communicated and at what step you are in the process. And this is not just critical for engagements with the policyholder, but for creating internal efficiencies for the insurer. Leveraging data captured virtually during an underwriting inspection can create efficiencies if and when a claim is filed. These same tools can provide updated information during the claims process—for instance, proof of repairs identified through virtual inspection tools can help identify valuation changes that may require revisiting the policy limits.
Evolving technology needs
Technologies can help improve remote collaboration with insurers and policyholders. And as we’ve seen with COVID-19, emerging technologies have helped many of us adapt to a new way of working by facilitating collaborative ways to connect with each other. But to remain useful in underwriting, it’s critical that the tools you use are continuously upgraded by professionals with deep experience in innovation and insurance.
Jared Dearth is vice president of business-to-consumer solutions at Verisk. To learn more about how Verisk can help address the challenges of remote collaboration, email Jared at Jared.Dearth@verisk.com.