Technology is changing the marketplace for group life, annuities and voluntary benefits even as price keeps insurers on the lookout for cost reductions and improved efficiencies.
That’s according to a report on business and technology trends from Novarica, which finds competition is intensifying as insurers look for ways to better employ technology, contain costs and boost efficiency throughout the process as they seek to attract, retain and serve clients while still operating profitably.
Tech is the big mover and shaker, from self-service capabilities for agents, plan sponsors and customers to educational and planning tools.
In addition, carriers’ systems need to be updated to deal with faster product development and accommodate price and product changes. Mobile technology is also playing a role, from social media to communicate with customers and even, to a limited degree, to investigate claims (although compliance and reporting requirements limit what can be done).
And while there are plenty of new technology platforms, they could even mask the need to update outmoded systems, since, the report says, “The solutions frequently have their origins in what are now legacy client/server and Web-based technologies that are poorly supported and for which the documentation may be limited.”
When combined with new functionality requirements driven by external requirements, it added, such as likely changes to the ACA in years to come, carriers are looking at a future that will require considerable investment in technology to replace systems that will not be able to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.
Another reason systems will have to change is the emerging need to personalize, rather than collectivize, how participants are treated. While previous systems operated around a participant census, voluntary benefits are increasingly highlighting the need to be able to build the group from the individual participant level — the inverse of legacy systems. This too will require modernization.
Then there’s the question of cost, as “[p]lan sponsors continue to be very price conscious, which puts pressure on insurers to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of claims, document creation and management, and to some extent financial systems.”
Yet another factor in the changing climate is the emergence of private exchanges as a new distribution channel for voluntary products. While enrollment, the report said, “is modest to date,” changes to the Affordable Care Act could bring about substantial changes in the future.