More than ever, life insurers are seeking to streamline
processes and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Iain Dunstan of financial services technology
specialist Bravura Solutions provides insight into the advantages
effective use of technology holds for insurers as they strive to
meet these objectives.
In periods of economic contraction consumers start to think of life
insurance more as a ‘nice to have’ stressed consultancy Celent in a
recent study titled Bad News on the Street, Insurance IT and the
This brings about a new set of challenges for insurers facing
downward pressure on premiums, reduced investment income and
decreasing customer loyalty and increasing service
In a time when consumers are buying less and, if they do buy,
becoming more discerning, addressing these challenges is the
difference between competing effectively and getting swept away in
Now, more than ever, having an effective information technology
(IT) backbone that can assist in meeting these challenges by
providing an insurer with the competitive advantage of
differentiating itself from its competitors is essential.
A key step towards establishing a competitive advantage is
recognition of employees as the driving force behind life insurance
companies. Within this context it is of the utmost importance that
they be equipped with IT systems that allow them to work quickly
and efficiently, especially during periods of downsizing.
Solutions such as flexible workflow and automated underwriting
capabilities are now essential in order to service customers at a
Easy to use systems with less manual processing equate to higher
productivity levels and turnaround times and, therefore, more
The most important factor in creating and maintaining a competitive
edge is paying close attention to service levels for policyholders
and intermediaries, as well as internal employees.
In times of industry rationalisation it is service levels that
differentiate life insurance companies. The provision of fast, easy
access to accurate information is the ultimate aim for insurers,
and the most effective method for attracting and retaining today’s
selective policy holders and brokers.
Today’s consumers expect round-the-clock access to information, and
internet-based solutions are increasingly shifting from being a
‘nice to have’ item to an essential service component.
Aside from meeting market demand, online functionality delivers a
plethora of business benefits including improved visibility,
greater brand presence and reduced call centre volume.
There are also arguments that policyholder portals improve customer
retention. The deployment of a state-of-the-art software solution,
and the development and consolidation of an online presence for
both sales and service, are thus crucial in securing a competitive
The desire to manage books of business and commissions
electronically has also put online functionality in high demand
with intermediaries; they now expect life insurers to deliver
high-end, user-friendly electronic functionality.
The deployment of agent portals is mutually beneficial for the
agent and the life insurer; as well as facilitating, and therefore
satisfying, agents, it also provides more accurate information,
Eliminate legacy systems
A highly competitive marketplace has given birth to a discerning
consumer pool with specific demands.
In this era of reduced investment income, decreasing customer
loyalty and multiple product choices, insurers are scrambling to
win clientele and outdo their competitors. Life insurers are in a
race to develop innovative products and bring those products to
Legacy IT systems are the main obstacle for rapid time to market;
complex legacy code means enhancements and additions require
significant and costly programming time and effort.
In most cases it can still take 6 to 12 months to launch a product
as a result technology limitations.
The building block or new generation approach to technology readily
supports the rapid launch of a broad range of different product
types by providing a set of flexible, table-driven, rules-based
building blocks that can be configured in many ways without the
need to change or build programme code.
Forward thinking vendors are also investing in rules engines that
allow product-related rules to be defined in an external,
The introduction of these rules engines can deliver a dramatic
reduction in the analysis, development and testing effort usually
involved with implementing new products.
By deploying cutting edge technology, it is now possible to reduce
the new product implementation time frame of a moderately complex
product to a mere 20 working days, including testing.
What to look for
Life insurance companies need to choose an IT vendor that
understands both their business and current market trends.
The ability to provide modern, superior technology that meets
market demands is key.
Particularly in the current economic conditions, employed
technology must deliver increased labour and cost efficiencies to
life insurers, and enable an improved product offering to
Vital to the life insurance solution of today are online services
for policyholders and intermediaries, automated underwriting,
comprehensive claims management, framework for integration and
services such as Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), integrated
workflow capabilities and a flexible user defined product set-up
for rapid new product development.
Untangled, flexible technology is a crucial factor in a modern
What can be achieved?
Staying at the forefront of technology can mean achieving a
multitude of business benefits.
For life insurance companies it means streamlining processes,
achieving improved speed to market and creating a more satisfied
customer base cost effectively.
Modern software systems provide long-term relief to the bottom
line, delivering cost efficiencies through increased online
interaction and through simplified enhancement and modification
Simplified enhancements and modifications also translate to
flexibility and ease of product development, improved speed to
market and therefore, increased revenue and market share.
An investment in software is also an investment in customer
service; online integration, faster cycle times and automatic
underwriting allow life insurers to provide their customers and
agents with fast, easy access to accurate, real-time
While the concept of spending money may seem unthinkable to life
insurers in the current financial climate, the old adage “spend
money to make money” has never been more appropriate.
An investment now means significant cost savings in the long run,
satisfying and continuing to grow client bases, and ultimately
weathering the recession.
Iain Dunstan is group CEO and MD of Bravura Solutions
Bravura Solutions makes its mark
Born out of a management buyout of Computer Science Corporation’s
Australian wealth management business unit in 2004, Bravura
Solutions has grown organically and via acquisitions to become a
technology vendor numbering many of the world’s largest financial
institutions among its more than 180 customers.
Bravura Solutions has a specific focus on life insurance,
superannuation, pension and investment and portfolio administration
software solutions and related strategic consulting services.
Headquartered in Sydney, the technology vendor operates 14 offices
in nine countries including Australia, China, Hong Kong, New
Zealand, Poland, South Africa and the UK, and in the insurance
industry serves customers including Aviva, Axa, China Life, ING,
Legal & General, Sun Life and Suncorp-Metway. According to
Bravura Solutions, over 18 million life insurance, superannuation
and investment accounts are administered on its software, with more
than A$1.5 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in funds under
In 2008 Bravura Solutions reported revenue of A$133.5 million, of
which A$85.1 was attributed to its operations in the UK, A$39.9
million to operations in Australia and New Zealand and A$8.5
million to other operations in Asia.