By FintechOS - October 15, 2021
Small banks, big challenges: How can community banks better serve customers?
Key Takeaways: Community banks must start to offer digital products
There’s a lot of buzz in the insurance industry right now, as a new wave of software platforms offers firms improved options for developing and iterating their digital products and user journeys. However, being a fast adopter in this area means making smart choices from among a widening range of options, which can be hard to evaluate. In this article we introduce a number of key decision-making criteria for digital transformation and change leaders in insurance looking to accelerate their firm’s innovation.
Insurers are in the midst of a digital revolution on multiple fronts. There’s the rush to offer self-service, allowing consumers to manage their accounts online and navigate policy options by themselves. Personalization is going mainstream: insurers are harnessing data to offer each customer offers which are increasingly tailored to their unique needs and preferences. To achieve this, firms need more from their analytics, which in turn is reliant on clean information flow across the enterprise.
In each area of digital innovation, no-code and low-code software – hereafter NC/LC – is becoming prominent. Instead of exclusively being dependent on highly specialized software engineers, product teams in insurance firms can start to use intuitive visual interfaces to make their own changes to products and customer journeys. NC/LC interfaces can even alter how data flows through the enterprise.
Changes can be executed – at least in prototype form – immediately. Gone are the days when any required tweak required a software project, with all the associated delays, costs, and dependencies. NC/LC allows a greater variety of stakeholders to participate directly in digital developments, improving both speed of delivery and value of what’s being delivered.
The question for leaders looking to gain such advantages is: which technology and partners are the right ones? With an ever-growing galaxy of software providers, and more of these starting to make available NC/LC aspects of their tools, how best to identify the market leaders?
The hallmarks of a premium partner
The first identifier of a potential NC/LC provider is their sector of origin. Financial services is a uniquely complex and demanding sector. Real-world software development and deployments are radically different to those found in the retail and entertainment industries.
For example, a CI/CD model, whereby the code-base and even production applications might be updated multiple times per week or even per day, could make sense for an entertainment website or news platform, but is likely to be approached more cautiously in critical financial services. This can make a difference to many aspects of a LC/NC platform, for example around testing and integration capabilities and inclusion of non-technical stakeholders in review and release of updates. The most suitable LC/NC software systems for insurance will be built by firms who specialize in financial services.
Insurers will want to work with an experienced, mature technical partner: if they have a track record in fintech, it will accelerate time to value. Ask for case studies – these should specify the details of the work undertaken, and allows useful comparison versus the insurer’s own current plans, such as looking at timeframes and what kind of stakeholders were involved in which aspect of NC/LC development.
Breadth of offering is an advantage. Insurers require a lot of software to function. Buying from the same provider is more than convenient: it guarantees interoperability of modules, and helps data flow across operations. FintechOS, for example, offers NC/LC for insurance policy administration and servicing, quote & bind customer journeys, claims automation, and channel engagement. Insurers can create products and journeys within a highly vertically integrated platform. The alternative is to mix and match modules from a variety of providers – which introduces complexity in integration and increases the cost of making future changes to the system.
However, no platform is going to exist in isolation: interoperability with existing back office systems and third-parties is essential. A provider must be able to demonstrate connectivity both in data exchange and more full-featured use of APIs such as surfacing product or customer data into an existing app or portal. FintechOS, for example, offers out-of-the-box integration with more than 150 external data sources and industry-specific business systems.
It is also worth asking where the NC/LC platform is supposed to have the biggest impact. Front end applications – including the app – are essential and highly visible parts of a digital roadmap, but are likely to uncover dependencies on underlying systems, the more ambitious the insurer. NC/LC tooling may also be needed to work on the middle and back end of the stack. Another commonly overlooked area of digitalization is to design and iterate staff and broker-facing systems as well as end user apps and portals: again, can the NC/LC provider enable your digital teams to work on this as part of the same package?
Security, naturally, must be uncompromising. Cloud native architecture permits data to be encrypted at rest and in transit as it flows between microservices and external destinations. This is more secure than solely depending on traditional perimeter defenses. A NC/LC provider should prove staff are certified in various fields, such as C|EH, CISSP, CISA, CISM, CRISC, CBCI and ISO27001 LA. Adopting a third-party digital insurance platform must extend benefits to IT and cybersecurity stakeholders, as well as the direct users of the NC/LC system. Auditing and monitoring capabilities are areas worth investigating early.
What about your strategy?
Insurers need to select a NC/LC provider to match their current and future technical appetite. The question of how much hand coding will be done is critical. Small organisations likely lack internal software development capacity, and therefore need to see as much as possible of their required functionality accessible via NC/LC tooling. Larger financial services companies rarely adopt technology without reserving the ability to work hands-on to customize and if necessary re-engineer parts of their software stack. NC/LC does not necessarily preclude this so it is worth looking into the options a platform offers specialists who prefer to drop into code-editing to get things done.
Deployment options play a role in this question too. Organizations without a legacy of in-house IT infrastructure may find it easier to let their provider deal with hosting of a SaaS NC/LC platform and minimize additional work. On the other hand an insurer with decades of legacy technology will require significant integration and will likely want a leading role in the running of production systems. Determining technical capabilities required by developer and IT stakeholders, as well as the day-to-day NC/LC users, is therefore paramount.
Technical stakeholders will be familiar with another key strategic issue in selecting technology platforms: vendor lock-in. A NC/LC platform can quickly become a highly depended-on part of the insurer’s digital estate. If a new provider is financially unstable, or pivots strategy, the insurer may discover they are reliant on software that stagnates and a third-party that is neither available to push forward or to help reduce the technical debt. The solution is to work with a provider which is viable in the long-term, both as a business and in terms of product innovation strategy, and which adheres to open data standards. This means, in any future change of systems including a complete change of provider, neither the system nor the provider stand in the way.
Finding the right partner for the future
Requirements change. The fields of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are alive with creative fintechs, tackling fraud, onboarding, and cybersecurity. Therefore a SaaS provider must stay at the cutting edge. When vetting potential providers the insurer needs to assess the readiness of the NC/LC platform to absorb future technologies. What is the insurer’s roadmap for AI and ML? How will applications need to interface via APIs with third-party fintechs? Anticipating at least the near-future possibilities, in partnership with a forward-thinking fintech partner, will help insurers judge what NC/LC platform is fit for their future.
The idea of an innovation alliance is key to technology vendor selection. NC/LC is more than a software license: it should about setting up an interactive relationship between two innovators. The right software partner will strive for customer success and continue to deliver innovation in the right areas.
Overall, a NC/LC platform needs to deliver on its proposition: to enable all members of staff to gain more control over their part of the digital stack and apply the right resources to the right challenges. While a NC/LC platform is not about letting a firm cut staff jobs, it is about reducing unnecessary and low-value IT and business process work in favor of focusing specialists on smarter value creation. When choosing a NC/LC system, consider the aims of the different constituencies: where do the users themselves want to gain efficiencies and upskill their work? The answers may be varied depending on talking to product teams, CX experts, data analysts, and sysadmins: will the NC/LC system deliver what they need, and where is the business priority?
Ultimately, the impact should be felt by the customer of the insurance firm. When their needs and feedback can be understood and acted on by product teams more rapidly, the results are noticed. Over time, the relationship grows ever closer between the company and customers, with compounding gains – improvements are iterated on, and new digital differentiators discovered.
So in the end, no-code/low-code digital innovation is about improving customers’ lives: if you want a simple way to judge technology vendors, simply ask them how they help you in that mission.
This article is part of a series of articles and webinars dedicated to the insurance industry. FintechOS has talked to leading companies from incumbents and startups to accelerators and consultants, to get to the heart of the questions: What does transformation look like? And what is driving it?
MAIN PHOTO Credit: Unsplash
For more findings on insurance:
➡️ Watch the recording of FintechOS’s dedicated webinar: No Code / Low Code Insurance Software: What’s all the Buzz?
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By FintechOS - October 15, 2021
Key Takeaways: Community banks must start to offer digital products
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