Woman checking her smart watch.

Telehealth, Smart Homes and Wearables Help Insurers and Customers Thrive

Tech advances coupled with AI can help insurers manage risk, improve underwriting and boost customer experience.

In the wake of the pandemic, people have dramatically changed how they live, communicate, work and shop. COVID-19 has also changed how they interact with critical services such as healthcare and insurance. In a time of change and uncertainty, customers are seeking reassurance and easy transitions to the “new normal.” Insurers that take advantage of the new data and customer insights this global digital shift has provided can better assess customer claims and applications, and deliver a better experience.

Telehealth and telemedicine are booming as medical professionals take their services online. One in five Americans uses a health app or fitness tracker while 69 percent have some kind of smart technology in their homes. These services track a wealth of data, for example, daily steps, sleeping patterns, activity levels, heart rates, calories consumed, UV levels, temperature preferences, when people are home and not, distance traveled in cars and more.

Revolutionary insights for insurers

Big Data offers revolutionary insight into a customer’s lifestyle, diet and general health. Access enables insurers to better understand potential risk factors and even offer preventive and proactive recommendations such as encouraging healthy habits to avoid future health issues. Potentially, an insurer could recommend the insured go to an emergency room because of acute risk of a heart attack.

Wearables and fitness-tracking technology have witnessed rapid growth in recent times. International Data Corporation reports that one in every five people in the U.S owns a wearable fitness device. It also estimates that annual shipments will exceed 250 million devices by 2021.

Given the ability of technology to provide critical data, the wearables revolution continues to spark interest in the insurance industry. Data collected from wearable devices can provide critical health and fitness information. This information is vital to the development of interactive life insurance policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones.

Insurance professional thinking about big data

Data gathered can be used to give complementary coverage or improved rates (where allowed) for both individuals and employee benefits using health and risk scores.  The technology thus holds the key between insurance firms and technology-savvy clients who value a modern, updated experience and digital engagement.

Wearables can also help insurers mitigate claims fraud and, more importantly, enable them to transmit data to warn customers of possible dangers in real-time. For instance, some IoT wearables can proactively alert diabetics on possible odd joint angles, foot ulcers and excessive pressure so they can get treatment before things worsen.

Life insurance policyholders pay their premiums on average for 20 years. With the adoption and use of fitness trackers, they may be able to lead healthier and longer lives. Lower mortality and morbidity can help insurers boost profits while improving insured health and wellness with predictive care and early diagnosis.

Similarly, internet-connected smart homes can help P&C insurers detect hazardous conditions and reduce losses for homeowners. For example, they could call the homeowner’s phone when a sump pump stops working during a rainstorm or send a text when there’s a break-in.

Managing Data Risks

Use of wearables and fitness devices comes with the risk of infringing on privacy. The insurer has access to private information whenever the customer is wearing a connected device. There’s also the risk of the information leaking to other parties. Insurers and fitness devices must handle personal data with complete confidentiality.

Another challenge is the reliability of the data collected, as the devices may not always report accurate information to the insurer. Devices may be tailored to indicate motion patterns such as walking or running but may not be able to record other activities such as cycling. The elderly may also be victimized by errors, as their exercise regimes may be less demanding.

While wearables create data safety and accuracy concerns, they can be managed with proper protocol. Insurers have always dealt with sensitive information and will need to continue to handle such data with care. For example, studies show that fitness data is evened out over time. A wearable device may not provide an accurate reading of the user’s heart rate during fast-paced or high-intensity exercises, but it can provide a comparable average throughout the workout.

Live customer insights from data sources including telehealth tools, wearables and smart home devices can help offset some of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic and improve the risk assessment process.

AI Completes the Picture

According to PwC, the following are the key areas that AI can help with digital transformation.

A personalized customer experience can:

  • Improve efficiencies and automate existing customer-facing underwriting
  • Enhance and personalize the customer experience
  • Predict what customers need
  • Personalize specific coverage


  • Automating underwriting in property, automobile, commercial, life, and group using IoT data
  • Modeling of new business and underwriting process and blocks of business


  • Robo claims adjusting and payment with fraud detection
  • Build predictive models

Insurers need AI to make the vast amount of big data from wearables and smart homes insightful and fully integrated with claims, quoting and underwriting systems. AI can also help solve the problem of inconsistent data by detecting anomalies that aren’t meaningful.  Some vendors have added AI to their insurtech systems.  There are a variety of companies offering services for property/casualty, life, health and benefits insurers.

Artificial Intelligence-powered Global IQX platform on an iMac

The AI-powered Global IQX platform

Now is the time for insurers to get ahead of this global digital transformation and leverage new data to reshape how they assess, price, and limit risk and enhance their customer’s experience.


Originally published on Insurance Innovation Reporter.

MICHAEL J. DE WAAL // Mike de Waal is president and founder of Global IQX, an Ottawa-based software provider of web-based sales and service solutions to employee benefits insurers.  He has deep experience in both software development and business management skills. Early in his career, he worked as a computer programmer and then went on to become a financial planner and a benefits consultant with giant Manulife Financial before becoming a tech entrepreneur.  He can be reached at mike@globaliqx.com.

Time to Streamline Group Benefits Quotes

Many insurers still have systems that grind away for ages before they cough up group benefits quotes. Brokers and underwriters insist on predictable, fast responses, and they are even more important today, with more people working from home because of the pandemic, straining networks.

If an insurer can’t streamline its process, clients will soon start getting quotes elsewhere. Brokers and MGAs are demanding. Time is money for them.

Complexity drives need for streamlining and AI

Streamlining group quotes is challenging to begin with. It’s more challenging when voluntary benefits with various options are added. Added complexity makes it even more important for insurers to choose a robust, responsive platform. It must let users quickly compare plans and see all options and rates for each employee division and class.

Whenever possible, census data should be used to get a more accurate rate and facilitate straight-through processing from the quote to the proposal, onboarding and enrollment. That calls for artificial intelligence. AI can correct and supplement census data obtained during quoting. It can train the census scrubber to make smart decisions regarding missing and incorrect data, saving a lot of manual work.

You can’t sacrifice accuracy for speed. The two are equally vital. A more streamlined system must also help manage risk effectively. An insurer must be able to readily update it with underwriting and regulatory changes.

Insurers need a system designed for accuracy and built for speed.

Likewise, security can’t be sacrificed. Hackers are more relentless than ever. Streamlining doesn’t mean taking the easy way out and leaving huge security gaps that put your client data at risk. Streamlining should increase security.

Quoting group insurance sometimes seems more like an art than a science. But, if you boil it down to its essential steps, there is a definitive rules-based process that can be built into a responsive algorithm. This is the best method for providing comprehensive, quality quotes, fast.

Streamlining the entire process reduces the number of touchpoints among systems, which makes for a faster, more accurate experience. This, in turn, boosts usage, which ultimately leads to writing more business in less time. It also helps cut costs.

How much time can insurers save?

Here are some examples:

  • At a medium-sized Canadian insurer, producing a typical quote for 300 lives with a menu of voluntary benefits used to take four hours. Now the same job takes just 20 minutes. That is a 92% decrease.
  • A large U.S. insurer cut quote processing times by 70% to 80%.

These and many other companies are providing more detailed, accurate and rapid service. They are selling and retaining more business.

Read more at Insurance Thought Leadership.

Getting Personal: How artificial intelligence and personalization are reshaping insurance

As the insurance industry continues to embrace insurtech, use of artificial intelligence will no longer be a novelty, but the norm. Insurers will have higher expectations for customized experiences and a higher degree of personalization.

Looking toward the next decade, insurers and brokers will have to consider how to use blockchain and artificial intelligence as a tool to transform the most important piece of all—user experience. They can do that in several ways:

Moving toward personalized insurance. Artificial intelligence makes it feasible for insurers to personalize coverages and rates. To do this they need AI and access to trustworthy, accurate data sources. Those sources, including sales databases, data from wearables and user preference data, offer companies much deeper insight and allow them to contextualize behaviors to make more rational decisions.

Studies show that nearly 80% of customers are happy to provide their insurers with additional data if it means they could benefit from a lower premium. Trials are being done on wearables data to help insurers accurately price individual travel, life and health insurance.

Enhancing customer experiences. The sheer volume of calls and transactions that insurers process daily is sparking movement toward AI. Chatbots and other AI-based insurtech applications are fielding more of these calls and communications. The industry is quickly moving toward customers self-managing claims. AI is providing more guidance to customers, and it has become increasingly difficult for them to differentiate between machine and human interaction.

As the industry evolves, big data and AI are combining to create new efficiencies that are transforming the customer experience. For insurance industry executives, a passing knowledge of AI isn’t enough.

It needs to be viewed as a cornerstone of company culture.

Investments to take insurers’ insurtech strategies to the next level are needed as part of their ongoing business strategy, or they’ll run the risk of lagging behind their more progressive competitors.

Data scrubbing and personalized sales. Insurers can’t serve customers well without correct individual information. It’s labor-intensive for humans to find and correct errors. With group plans, for instance, census data obtained during quoting is often incomplete. AI can analyze a census to make smart decisions regarding each insured’s missing and incorrect data. It also can boost sales by analyzing group attributes and providing customized options to maximize the attractiveness of the offer.

But AI can do more than just correct and input census data. A group insurance carrier may receive requests for proposals in many different formats, such as email text, Microsoft Word documents, and PDFs with text or embedded images. Recent advances in data extraction from unstructured digital sources include novel techniques, such as “deep biaffine attention for neural dependency parsing.” Dependency parsing is a technique for annotating sentences to make it easy for both humans and computers to understand, frequently used in algorithms for image captioning and language translation. Biaffine attention increases performance, resulting in a more reliable method for extracting quoting information from a PDF or an email. This new method improves straight-through processing and personalization in group and individual insurance. With the help of AI, the industry is finally moving from one-size-fits-all to a more personalized approach.

Check out the full article in AM Best’s Monthly Insurance Magazine

AI, Regtech, Personalization and Other Insurtech Trends that will Shape the Industry in 2020

Over the last year, we saw a greater shift towards automation and AI applications to streamline insurance, including increased usage of augmented reality to support activities ranging from warning of risks, explaining insurance plans, estimating damages and increasing brand awareness. We also saw insurers starting to explore greater use of blockchain, the tech behind cryptocurrencies, to better support operations.

With this came a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, with the expectation for more proactive and preventative measures.

As we enter the next decade, we’ll continue to see unprecedented growth in innovation in the Insurtech space, which has set up the industry for more market advancements in an increasingly complex environment.

The Canadian insurance industry has been largely inert and less agile in the past, and it’s this environment where Insurtech has made its mark. A recent LIMRA report highlights that about a third of Canadians remain uninsured – but Insurtech is quickly changing this, while institutional providers are catching on and innovating.

In Global IQX’s Eight Top Insurtech Trends for 2019, we outlined some of the developments where the industry is heading. In this increasingly innovate-or-go-belly-up environment, it’s important to get ahead of the curve and keep tabs on what’s changing. Here are six of the top Insurtech trends of 2020:

Data analytics and AI will lead innovation
Data analytics and artificial intelligence are disrupting every industry today, including insurance. In fact, most of the top Insurtech startups like PolicyAdvisor and ProNavigator rely on leveraging data to provide their customers with data-driven solutions. This comes as no surprise as Maryville University data scientists predict a burgeoning 2020 for the business analytics market: an 11.7 per cent compound annual growth rate through the year, a revenue of more than $95 billion (CAD$125 billion) in the U.S., and possibly $203 billion (CAD$267 billion) worldwide. In 2019, Global IQX implemented new AI technology to help clients streamline and automate business processes and retain and go after profitable business. These kinds of implementations are at the forefront of digital transformation that will particularly empower employee benefits sales and underwriting for insurers. This is the tip of the iceberg for industry innovation.

Increased customization and personalization
Providing convenience and security have long been pillars of customer values. As expectations and interactions evolve, customization is quickly becoming another critical value. Leveraging analytics, Insurtech will provide insurance leaders with the capability to create targeted ecosystems for their clients. Insurance companies are also partnering with wearables and tech companies for wellness programs and to increase the personalization of rendered services. Indeed, Insurtech and Fintech stars including  Koho and Borrowell leverage personalization in specific segments of the industry like savings, investing and borrowing.

Greater stress on cybersecurity
With the amount of data being handled and as the industry continues to digitize the economy, especially as organizations and governments increasingly move to the cloud, cybersecurity will remain top of mind. Especially in the wake of major data breaches to companies like Life Labs, which resulted in 15 million counts of personal data, risk mitigation will be a priority for Insurtech companies. Data verification technologies and predictive analytics are set to be adopted by vendors and insurers to increase cyber resilience in the Fintech sector.

Regtech and compliance
The changing regulatory environment and internal cost challenges will foster the growth of regulation technology (Regtech) in the Insurtech industry. Regulatory compliance will be pivotal next year as slews of legislation on consumer and enterprise data policies are in the queue. Indeed, Global News Canada reports that Canada’s privacy commissioner recently urged lawmakers to adopt more stringent data privacy regulations, especially in finance. This is expected to prompt a new wave of compliance duties for Insurtech companies next year – giving more space for Regtech integration.

Reorganization and federal involvement
While Insurtech is driving the growth in the insurance industry, it’s also creating a more competitive environment. University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business professor Anne Kleffner notes in a study that Canada should have federal involvement to help the insurance industry mitigate systemic risks. Disruptive technologies have always made ripples of uncertainty in markets, and insurance isn’t an exception. Calls for greater protection are expected to increase next year as the industry continues to grow.

Strategic consolidation
The rise of Insurtech continues to spur consolidation in the industry. A Clyde and Co report on the industry consolidation notes that mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in Canada has reached record levels and will continue to increase next year. Behind this is the voracious adoption of larger insurance providers of emerging technologies by acquiring promising Insurtech firms. However, M&A activities next year are expected to be more strategic and customer-focused.

By guest writer Jaja Brazil

Wearables and Fitness Devices Offer New Opportunities and Challenges for the Insurance Industry

Wearables and fitness-tracking technology have witnessed rapid growth in recent times. International Data Corporation reports that one in every five people in the U.S owns a wearable fitness device. It also estimates that annual shipments will exceed 250 million devices by 2021.

Given the ability of technology to provide critical data, the wearables revolution continues to spark interest in the insurance industry. Data collected from wearable devices can provide critical health and fitness information. This information is vital to the development of interactive life insurance policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones. The technology hence holds the key between insurance firms and technology-savvy clients who value a modern, updated experience and digital engagement.

Industry giant John Hancock recently announced that it would begin selling interactive policies. They’ll require new life insurance policyholders to use activity trackers and share their fitness data. Insureds will, in turn, enjoy discounted premiums and other benefits.

Benefits and Opportunities

Wearable and fitness technology can be advantageous to both insurers and their customers. Wearables encourage insureds to become accountable for their health and fitness, and insurance companies stand to gain healthy clients with longer lifespans.

Most life insurance policyholders pay their premiums for an average period of 20 years. With the adoption and use of the trackers, they will be able to lead healthier and longer lives. Lower mortality means higher insurer profits.

Wearables also provide companies with a simplified way of collecting underwriting information. The data simplifies the risk-assessment process by offering metrics that would have taken longer to obtain through a full medical test. The data collected also acts as an additional source of information for new product development.

In addition to discounts on premiums, clients are also given the tools to boost their quality of life and well-being. Wearable devices can help detect conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure and help insureds get treatment before things get worse. The technology can also be used to detect a client’s unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking and excessive drinking. With lifestyle conditions becoming prevalent, wearable devices will go a long way in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Risks and Challenges

The rapid growth of wearables and fitness devices comes with the risk of infringing on privacy. The insurer has access to very private information whenever the customer is wearing a device. The ever-present risk of the information leaking to other parties is also high.

Another challenge is the reliability of the data collected, as the devices may not always report accurate information to the insurer. For example, devices may be tailored to indicate the motion patterns like walking or running and may not be able to record other activities such as cycling. The elderly may also be victimized by errors, as their exercise regimes may be less demanding.

Finally, Wearables and Fitness Devices Are A Force to be Reckoned With

While there are various data safety and accuracy concerns with wearables, they can be overcome with proper protocol. Insurers have always dealt with sensitive information and will need to continue to handle such data with care. As for inaccurate heart-rate and other readings, studies show that fitness data is evened out over time. For example, a wearable device may not provide an accurate reading of the user’s heart rate during fast-paced or high-intensity exercises, but it can provide a comparable average over the period of the workout.

The use of wearables and fitness devices as data collection tools in the insurance technology sector is increasingly gaining popularity. Their role in shaping industry trends can no longer be understated. As software and reliability keep improving, insurance companies will further embrace wearables as the future.


AI and Robotic Process Automation Can Automate Insurer Grunt Work—and Do Much More

Top Five Trends for the Industry

Insurance companies are only beginning to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). AI refers to computer systems that can mimic human capabilities by learning and solving problems. RPA is an emerging form of business process automation technology based on using software robots or AI “workers.”

Here is a look at the top five AI/RPA trends in the insurance industry.

1. Machine Learning for Fraud Detection and Risk Assessment  

Humans learn from experience and thus can predict outcomes. Insurers are beginning to use AI algorithms with big (and small) data to accurately predict outcomes.

Machine learning, or AI, is being used to improve customer service, guide the development of new products, detect risks and cross-promote products. It is helping insurance companies to improve their efficiency by facilitating damage assessment, identifying billing anomalies, boosting fraud detection, and identifying lapsed policies.

2. Chatbots Offer Personalized Customer Care  

Chatbots use AI to work as autonomous, internal customer-service agents that respond to customer queries. They keep a log of most frequently asked customer questions.

Chatbots can efficiently handle many routine requests, such as changing the policyholder’s address or adding a beneficiary. By handling grunt work, they can free up skilled human advisors to offer the kind of guidance they do best.

But there’s more. Using AI, chatbots can talk with customers to identify their needs and recommend the most appropriate coverages to them. They can even cross-promote products based on the customer’s needs. Then, the customer is turned over to a human advisor to answer any questions and complete enrollment.

3. AI Uses Data to Better Predict and Mitigate Risk  

Insurers depend on their ability to predict and manage risk. The more information they have access to, the better their ability to assess risk.

AI enables the collection of both structured and unstructured data. Besides the insurer’s own data on insureds, structured data includes information collected through sensors wearable devices and other IoT devices. Unstructured data is collected from public spheres such as social media pages and search engines. This data can then be used to create insights that not only help insurance companies protect their bottom lines, but also give them a true competitive edge.

Employee benefits is a particularly promising area. AI is now being applied to streamline pre-approval workflow. For instance, before an insurance-company employee replies to a customer, the response can be passed through smart compliance system that reviews it and makes any necessary adjustments before it goes out.

4. Automating Routine Processes

Other processes that are now being automated using RPA include copying and pasting data to spreadsheets, logging into applications, transferring data from one database to another, and opening emails and processing them.

5. Claim Processing  

AI and RPA are now being used to automate claim processing, especially in property-casualty insurance and employee benefits insurance. The system notifies assigns adjusters, integrates the disparate claim information, and facilitates claims payments. For instance, ClearPay is an InsurTech product that insurance companies, agents and brokers can use to integrate the settlement process and monitor claim payments in real-time.

AI and RPA are only beginning to transform how business is done in the insurance industry. We can expect to see burgeoning usage in operations, customer service, risk assessment and mitigation, and regulatory compliance.

Mike de Waal is president and founder of Ottawa-based Global IQX (www.globaliqx.com), a leading software provider of web-based sales and service solutions to employee benefits insurers. He has deep experience in both software development and business management skills. Early in his career, he worked as a computer programmer and then went on to become a financial planner and a benefits consultant before becoming a tech entrepreneur. He can be reached at mike@globaliqx.com.


Eight Top Insurtech Trends for 2019

The insurance industry used to be a tech laggard. No more. Though there’s still much work to be done, most insurers are now better positioned to capitalize on their investment in technology.

Here are eight key technology trends that continue to shape the industry.

1. Greater stress on cybersecurity

An Ernst & Young security survey revealed that 59% of respondents had encountered a significant cybersecurity incident in their organization. Because insurers store so much sensitive personal and business data, they’re a prime target.

Cybersecurity strategy should be focused on proactive measures rather than reactive strategies. Cyber-crooks are relentless and inventive. Security has to be a top priority for insurers of all types and sizes.

2. Filling a gap in employee benefits automation

While group proposals and policy administration are both well automated, between the two comes group onboarding, which has not been automated.

But solutions are being developed and implemented. Onboarding solutions will be built on automated data capture and importing. Data integrity is crucial. Employee information must be correct and complete when entered.

The solution must also offer robust data security and comply with privacy regulations to securely to gather and store employee information. Flexibility is also mandatory because integrating onboarding closely with both proposal and policy systems is essential to efficient workflow.

3. Cloud computing grows

Cloud computing will continue to be adopted widely by insurers and insurtech providers as it is cost-effective, speedy, and flexible. Cloud providers will continue to improve their technology to deliver sophisticated capabilities.

The security risks associated with housing data off-site via a third-party, however, can present challenges. While cloud storage companies are expected to protect data, ultimately insurance IT departments are responsible for their cybersecurity. That requires constant vigilance, hiring skilled people and spending enough money.

4. Internet of things and Big Data become more important

IoT continues to become more useful. Insurers can use real-time data to meet and enhance business objectives. This can boost efficiency and revenue and promote better customer service.

As the Big Data revolution continues to expand, IoT adoption in the insurance industry is expected to grow. It will enable collection of data in real time, resulting in lower premiums for insureds willing to participate. There will be ongoing adoption of connected devices for loss prevention and pricing in property-casualty, life and health insurance.

5. Analytics advance

Analytics can transform Big Data into actionable insights. As analytics and data science advance, insurers can better extract value from the huge amounts of data that now exist. Insurers can then leverage on the sophisticated information analytics to gain a competitive edge in the market.

For insurtech providers, there is a huge opportunity in the coming years to develop advanced analytical technologies that can make sense of unstructured data such as real-time video, social posts and live blogging.

6. Artificial intelligence: the future is here

In 2018, more insurance and insurtech companies found effective ways to integrate AI. In 2019, companies will complement a significant part of their structured data decision-making with AI data analysis and decision-making.

Robotic process automation will begin to gain a wider application facilitating automation of repetitive processes across the entire IT infrastructure. Robotics and AI can offer improved productivity, shortened cycle times and better compliance and accuracy.

7. Augmented reality blooms

Augmented reality is starting to have a presence in insurance. An article by software development company Jasoren identifies several AR use cases, such as using it to warn of risks, explain insurance plans, estimate damages and increase brand awareness. Alternate forms of AR such as virtual reality, mixed reality, and extended reality are shaping AR how it is being used.

8. Blockchain evolves 

The technology behind cryptocurrencies will be adopted for more promising applications. They include “smart” contracts, and secure decentralized data collection, processing and dissemination. While I do not expect to see a full-scale implementation of blockchain technology any time soon, many insurers, and insurtech companies are in the process of launching projects and initiatives to test its applicability and effectiveness for insurance, especially claims.

Digital Survival Tools for the Savvy Insurance Agent and Broker

Losing business to insurtech or even DSB’s (digital savvy brokers) ?

Whether the majority of your business is online or in-office, it is crucial for you to have the right tools to help you capitalize on the insurance market and get ahead of competition in a changing landscape.

It does not matter what type of insurance you are selling, employee benefits, life insurance, group insurance, voluntary benefits or property and casualty. While your role may not be directly affected by things like legacy system transformation, robotics and big data, there will be ripple-out effects. Besides obtaining new clients, presenting renewals and marketing, changes in regulation and advances in technology are all things that agents will have to contend with.

Here are three elements that savvy agents and brokers will want to consider.

Multi-generational marketing

Global populations are now categorized (albeit loosely) into four categories: Baby Boomers, Generations X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Although Baby Boomers are still the largest population, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts Millennials will outnumber Boomers by 2019.

These differentiated markets make targeting sales much more difficult than it has been before. Fortunately, there are online tools that can support you. The trick here is diversifying your presence. Ensure that you have a presence on multiple channels so that you are able to meet your customers where they are.

Update your agency website with a live chat feature and ensure it is easy to contact you online. Examine whether it makes sense to use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you do, you’ll need a strong content strategy that provides real value to pull in visiting prospects.

Don’t just surf the web, observe the web. Set up Google alerts and analytics and Hootsuite streams to follow partners and competitors. Watching for trends will keep you ahead of the game.

Administration tools

A strong agency management system can provide you with everything you need to support your customer lifecycle. When looking for the right one for you, think about CRM and marketing automation. Determine what will make it easier for you to track leads, nurture prospects, close deals and obtain commissions.

Once you’ve sold a policy, a high-quality microphone and webcam will enhance consistent communication with customers remotely on Skype, WebEx, Google Plus Hangouts or even Facebook.

Get comfortable with automation 

As you get comfortable with a new and diversified way of connecting with your customers, you’ll want to consider that insurance carriers are doing the same thing. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 report revealed 82% of insurance carriers agreed that their organizations must innovate at an increasingly rapid pace just to stay competitive.

In a world where customers are shopping around for options and prices all the time, retention itself becomes a valuable commodity. Help carriers help you by learning what tools their new systems have to offer so you tap into all the resources available.

Do your insurance companies offer broker portals? Do they offer online quoting capability for immediate results. Can you generate a proposal or immediately sell a policy? Can you offer that functionality on your own website? The carriers that invest in your success by improving sales, underwriting and admin functions for quicker turnarounds and smooth renewals are doing themselves a favor, too.

Think strategy

As you determine the best way to move forward, sit down with others on your team, start a Google doc and plan your strategy for the year ahead. As Yogi Berra wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

What free tools will you use? Which ones will you invest money in? How will you track progress to determine ROI? The best agents and brokers will be nimble enough to exploit the tools available to them and prepare for new ones as they arrive. The sooner you start, the more likely you’ll find yourself ahead of the digital curve.

What tools are working for you?

Insurtech firm gives insurance industry giants the nimbleness they need

Insurtech. The term may not spark the same recognition as fintech, blockchain or cryptocurrency. But for Ottawa’s Global IQX, it’s a global business that will only get bigger.

Global IQX President and Founder Michael de Waal admits it’s often a tough sell to convince people that the insurance business is cool. What his team does to make the industry work better, however, most certainly is.

“We have added three Fortune 500 insurance companies to our roster of happy clients in the past couple of years, with a significantly smaller team than our clients who usually have thousands,” he said. “Our laser focus and our intellectual property allows us to configure and deploy in a matter of months a production-proven system that would take them longer to build, and at greater cost.”

Since 1999, Global IQX has helped some of the world’s largest insurance companies modernize and streamline their processes with end-to-end software for underwriting and sales automation.

Consider a typical national insurer that provides group benefits to employers. It may have hundreds of clients. These clients range from small businesses with a handful of staff, to multinational corporations with complex employee benefit plans that are unique by division and class.

Now think about managing all that – uploading employee information, designing and rating the benefit products, enrolling new employees and then generating all the necessary paperwork, including contract documents, employee information booklets and certificates.

“Our team creates innovative software that empower insurers to handle sales and underwriting activities faster, better and more efficiently, to save time, save money and provide better service, to their clients and their clients’ employees,” de Waal said.

Don’t just take the boss’s word for it

Jeff Weaver, Director of Global IQX’s U.S. Underwriting and Actuarial Services in Portland, OR, experienced this first hand in his previous role as a Global IQX client.

“Global IQX’s platform increased that insurer’s proposal capabilities by 600 per cent,” he said. “Global IQX has carved an interesting niche, known for its leading technology and unmatched customer service. It now has five times the customers of its nearest competitor and continues to grow.”

A daily sense of accomplishment inspires Deyang Liu, who works as a development manager at Global IQX’s Ottawa office.

“Everyone has a role to play and is motivated to do their best,” he said. “They are genuinely invested in a successful outcome for each one of our clients. This is a fun and tight-knit work environment. My fellow employees inspire me every day with their commitment.”

Global IQX is looking for more people

As a growing company, Global IQX is looking for new staff who are interested in a challenge and being part of an innovative team.

Derek Benda, a software engineer who moved from Toronto to work at Global IQX’s Ottawa HQ, summed it up best: “We work hard together to produce leading tech and deliver for our clients on-time – after that, we play foosball. It’s about life balance. Work, play, fun.”

This article originally appeared in the Ottawa Business Journal.

Four Ways Connectivity Is Revolutionizing Insurance

Businesses are more connected to consumers than ever before.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to support more than 20 billion devices by 2020, according to Gartner. This is a market that comprises 60% of consumers worldwide, creating huge opportunities for industries to connect and engage with their customers.

Connecting with consumers hasn’t always been easy. Contact typically took place at points of sale, claims and renewal periods. Now, with the use of wearables, smart homes and telematics, insurers are connecting with customers on an ongoing basis and providing valuable feedback – and prices – based on activity levels.

The business of insurance is complex in nature with core factors such as risk evaluation, long-term contracts and unpredictable settlements. However, the benefits of InsurTech and the unlimited availability of new sources of data that can be exploited in real time have fundamentally altered how consumers interact with their insurance providers.

IoT devices are helping consumers and insurers get smarter with each passing day as these technologies bring promising results in helping insurers reshape how they assess, price, limit risks and enhance customer experience.

Connectivity and Opportunities  

Numerous technologies have shown how improved connectivity can generate new opportunities in the insurance industry beyond personalized premium rates. If implemented properly, IoT applications could possibly boost the industry’s customarily low growth rates. It may help insurers break free from traditional product marketing and competition primarily based on price to shift towards customer service and coverage differentiation.

Several technology trends that are increasing connectivity in insurance include:

Extended Reality (XR) – XR technologies are altering the way consumers connect with society, information and each other. Extended reality is achieved through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which aim to “relocate” people in time and space. Eighty-five percent of insurance executives in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 survey believe it is important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with employees and customers.

Wearable Sensors – Reports indicate that the average consumer now owns 3.64 wearable devices. These technologies can mitigate claims fraud and also transmit real-time data to warn the insured of possible dangers. For example, socks and shoes with IoT apps can alert diabetics on possible odd joint angles, foot ulcers and excessive pressure, thus helping in avoiding costly disability and medical claims and even worst-case scenarios such as life-changing amputations.

Commercial Infrastructure and Smart Home Sensors – These sensors can be embedded in commercial and private buildings to help in monitoring, detecting, and preventing or mitigating safety breaches such as toxic fumes, pipe leakage, fire, smoke and mould. This in turn increases the possibility of saving insurers from large claims and homeowners from substantial inconveniences such as lost property or valuables. Savings can be passed to insureds that use these sensors.

Usage-based Insurance (UBI) Model – Cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and telematics link drivers and automobiles in entirely new ways. Traditionally, auto insurance has relied on broad demographic features such as gender, credit score and the driver’s age to set premiums. Now, through IoT devices, insurers can not only offer reward-based premiums but can provide a connected car experience to customers with feedback on weather, traffic conditions or driving habits.

Strategy will play an important role in connectivity as insurance carriers transform legacy core systems into digital platforms that support deeper connectivity with their customers. This strategy must address a carrier’s ability to handle, process and analyze the new types of data that will emerge from the use of these technologies. Artificial intelligence will also have a big impact.

According to a recent study, 80% of insurance customers are happier and more content when they can connect with their insurance providers through various channels such as phone, emails, smartphone apps and online. Through the use of the IoT and connected devices, insurers will improve customer experience by shifting from reaction after an event has occurred to proactively preventing losses digitally.