Technology – from employee engagement to fleet management and machine learning – is an increasingly important staple in the insurance industry’s toolkit, experts say in sessions at the Public Risk Management Association’s annual meeting in San Antonio in June.
“How do you keep staff engaged,” given both the challenges of pandemic shutdowns and their re-emergence, said Rick Brush, director of member services for innovation, solutions and public risk management, a member-driven insurance risk-sharing pool known as PRISM based in Folsom, California. “We think technology is a big part of that,” Mr. Brush said.
PRISM was established in 2020 as the successor to the state excess insurance authority and has over 2,000 members, including 95% counties and 70% cities, as well as educational organizations, special districts, housing authorities and fire districts in California.
Virtual connectivity was a huge asset during the lockdown, but it came with cybersecurity challenges, especially with large online groups like school districts, which could have tens of thousands of students.
Implementing multi-factor authentication in such a group can be extremely difficult, according to Tom Pelster, chief information officer at Folsom for PRISM.
The issue of multi-factor authentication is “at the forefront” because in some cases it can be a prerequisite for cyber cover, Pelster said. “It’s a huge challenge, and I think people are behind on that. I hear all the time that people don’t know what to do with AMF,” he said.
Mr. Brush noted that the organization moved to an online new member orientation after the pandemic and is attracting a wider audience. “New people coming in want to receive information in a different way,” he said, adding that online briefings for new members now draw some 175-200 viewers, compared to 40-45 at in-person meetings. previously.
“There are so many efficiencies that can be gained through this. It’s the balance between efficiency and relationship building and interaction,” Mr. Brush said.
Online outreach can allow an organization to reach a wider audience for training purposes, according to Maria Williams, senior member services specialist for PRISM. Training programs presented online can often be recorded, stored and delivered on demand, allowing users to engage anytime and anywhere.
The technology is seeing generally wider penetration in the insurance industry, said Brian Billings, Ballwin, Missouri-based vice president of predictive analytics for Midwest Employers Casualty Co., part of WR Berkley Corp.
Tools such as natural language processing, which can be used to digest lengthy documentation and extract needed information or drive interaction with an automated representative, or chatbot, are increasingly being used, Billings said. While such technology may still be expensive, the falling costs associated with wider penetration should bring many technologies within the financial reach of many more organizations, he said.
The continued adoption of technology results in the generation and collection of far more data than ever before, which in turn helps to inform the future evolution of existing and future technologies, supporting the march towards digitization. “We’re going to see more and more of that,” Billings said.
Municipal fleet management programs benefit from the use of telematics programs such as sensors and other equipment capable of recording driver behavior and variables such as speed and braking, according to Tiffany Allen, territory manager. for public sector services in Monroe, North Carolina, for Travelers Cos Inc.
The information collected by telematics programs, which often include video recording of drivers, can contribute to driver training to improve safety; it can be used to help establish or defend liability in the event of a claim; and it can be used for monitoring and maintenance purposes to improve fuel efficiency, for example, and track scheduled tune-ups.
Thorough training is key to a successful telematics program, according to Sarah Sylvis, risk and benefit manager for the city of Franklin, Tennessee. Program objectives and parameters should be clearly defined, such as what data should be collected and how it should be used.
Drivers and other employees should also be involved, to ensure both that they understand how the technology works and that it can be used as a constructive tool to help them improve their performance and potentially even to defend their liability in the event of a claim, Ms Sylvis said.
Telematics is increasingly being used to manage and control losses from vehicle accidents, which are the leading cause of workplace fatalities and are also the costliest work-related claims, Ms Allen said, citing data from the National Security Council.
Online resources add an extra dimension to meetings
Video conferencing and online connectivity may lack the direct human interaction of onsite meetings, but offer users an array of tools designed to improve communications, sources say.
“You can make meetings more visual and incorporate data and charts,” said Rick Brush, director of member services for innovation, solutions and public risk management, an insurance risk sharing pool member-driven known as PRISM, based in Folsom, CA. .
“We can use online meetings software to do a lot more from a graphical perspective,” Brush said.
Other online meetings also benefit from the ability for attendees to attend training sessions in breakout rooms as part of the activity, Brush said.
Tom Pelster, chief information officer for PRISM, said systems such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco’s Webex “work really hard to try to improve engagement.” Zoom, for example, recently introduced a whiteboard feature, he said. “These are collaborative things that should improve engagement,” he said.
Most of these web software tools have a free version. “Don’t be afraid to explore the features of these software,” said Pelster.