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Customers Shine Guiding Light for Tech Transformation in Insurance

Robert Bastian, CIO, Individual Solutions Group, Prudential Financial
Robert Bastian, CIO, Individual Solutions Group, Prudential Financial

Robert Bastian, CIO, Individual Solutions Group, Prudential Financial

Over the next decade, technology will profoundly transform the insurance industry—from using data and machine learning to craft customized solutions to continuous underwriting that follows consumers in real-time. The insurer of tomorrow will look more like Silicon Valley than Wall Street, with technology enabling every facet of what we do. Transformation on this scale is a monumental challenge, but one fueled by a very simple core tenet: focus on the customer.

Insurance has long been viewed as a low-engagement, disintermediated category. Product innovation has been a driving force, yet many insurers have struggled with the challenge of legacy products, legacy mindset, and legacy technology. The industry can be proud of how those products and systems have upheld the long-term promises we make to customers. But our world is changing.

Expectations about our business and how we work with customers are being defined by the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Netflix. A Salesforce study found 80% of consumers say they experience a business provides is as relevant as its products and services. Customers expect insurance carriers to deliver the same high tech and high touch service they get from retailers, through a seamless omnichannel and highly personalized experience. In short, our ability to survive—and thrive—in the future depends on how we use technology to create experiences that meet customer needs in an increasingly bespoke and on-demand world.

One could argue that keeping a promise for a lifetime is the best kind of customer service. But adopting a new mindset that understands what is now relevant to consumers will help insurers better assess what technologies to harness when, and through which processes to maximize business impact and deliver value to clients. At Prudential, for example, we've become customer-obsessed. This attitude fueled the development of PruFast Track, a new underwriting process for individual life insurance that can return approvals within days or even hours, better meeting the expectations of our customers. Our focus on customers also advanced the rollout of a new administrative platform that is speeding time-to-market for new products by up to 15 times, while leveraging a microservices architecture to improve interconnectivity with the wealth management platforms already in use by the financial professionals using our solutions.

As technologies evolve, the combined strengths of machine learning, process automation, cloud computing, and other systems will add speed, and improve efficiency and accuracy in the customer experience. At the same time, big-data analysis of consumer information, from purchasing patterns and online browsing behavior to electronic medical records and data from wearable devices, will help reveal new trends, insights, and correlations that will help us to understand better how people live their lives and how best to engage customers.

Ultimately, our industry’s transformation to a more tech-enabled insurance future will allow us to play a more significant role in the financial well-being of our customers, helping them to make better decisions and live healthier lives.

Insurers have an incredible—and game-changing— opportunity with technology. Getting this right will allow us to be more targeted and effective in serving our customers. The stakes are high in terms of the impact on consumers and trust in our industry. The firms that get it right, either individually or in partnership with new entrants, will flourish.

Life insurance is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ, and its affiliates.

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