The recent 2022 Qorus-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards are a powerful, practical illustration of the trends shaping the insurance industry. Sustainability and workforce transformation are becoming central to insurers for retaining relevance in a changing market. Insurers need to embed sustainability into their strategy and value proposition, and they have to embrace workforce transformation in the light of factors such as a tight labour market, skill shortages, rising human-machine interactions and hybrid work arrangements. Both are also becoming key considerations for people when selecting their insurance carrier of choice and/or a place where to forge a career.
Social, sustainable and responsible
Accenture’s 2021 Insurance Global Consumer Study illustrated that sustainability in all forms has become increasingly important for consumers, with 67 percent of millennial and younger generations saying that sustainable products and services are appealing. This interest stands to have a double benefit to insurers, who can build sustainable risk management model, while at the same time demonstrating to younger consumers that sustainability is a shared value.
In a previous series on sustainability, I discussed how we now engage with a wider definition of sustainability within insurance. Sustainability not only relates to protecting the planet, but protecting our future through positive socio-economic practices, caring for underserved and vulnerable communities.
Integrated, proactive sustainability will not be possible without implementing the right technology. As our latest research Uniting Technology and Sustainability discusses, technology is a key enabler for developing holistically sustainable businesses and for that sustainability and technology strategies need to become tightly aligned. In fact, in Accenture’s Perception to Reality: Closing Stakeholders Consensus Gaps to Shape Sustainable Organizations we illustrated that 43% of executives mention accessing the right technology at the right cost as a key barrier to developing sustainability goals.
In this year’s awards, we saw how insurers are overcoming these challenges by connecting sustainability to their purpose and vision and using technologies such as AI to track their own ESG requirements or build innovative products that add value to customers, as well as to society and the wider environment.
Category winner – PZU (Poland)
This was certainly the case with this year’s winner of the Social, Sustainable & Responsible 2022. PZU won the category for its AI Skin Cancer Prevention tool, which empowers customers to access skin cancer pre-screening quickly and easily through an AI-enabled mobile app.
Marcin Kurczab – Head of Innovation Lab at PZU explains how the tool came to be: “When implementing the project, we identified the challenge of low awareness of skin cancer risk among the employees of our corporate clients. For this reason, we offered them a simple and quick solution that automatically reminds them to perform regular self-examinations.”
Over 3,000 people registered in the app in the first months of the pilot programme, with five skin cancer cases identified by the app and being confirmed by dermatological assessment so far. PZU received positive feedback from users, who shared that the tool made skin cancer prevention easier and more accessible.
Kurczab adds, “Two people told us about their medical consultations, during which doctors were impressed by the effectiveness of the app, which proves its reliability. That’s our mission as an insurer – we have the unique capability to protect and support people in living better and longer. It takes only takes a minute for PZU customers to check their skin condition at home and, if there is a concern, to escalate this by seeing a doctor. Diagnosis at such an early stage increases the chance of a successful recovery.”
PZU saw an increase in customer sentiment as a result of the tool, noticing a statistically significant difference in the evaluation of PZU’s innovativeness (+13 p.p. in comparison with the control group) and the perception of the company as modern (+10 p.p. in comparison with the control group) in their annual marketing survey.
“It is commonly known that healthcare services are overloaded, and patients often have to wait a long time for a doctor’s appointment and treatment. New technologies such as AI have a huge potential for revolutionizing healthcare by addressing its main pain points. AI-based tools can address a wide range of challenges by checking symptoms, optimizing healthcare processes, conducting triage but also predicting risk of a given disease (like cancers) or enabling early detection of such illnesses which will result in lower mortality rates. Modern AI tools can act as a support of doctors during examination (there are already applications with medical certification that are prescribed by doctors just like medications or other forms of rehabilitation) or enable self-examination options as part of prevention – just like our project. AI does not feel fatigue, it is better in avoiding biases, and can see what is not always noticed by humans. These features may make AI an inseparable element of medical diagnosis in the future.”
Talent is the lifeblood of the insurance industry. It is only with the right resources and knowledge that insurance carriers will be able to transform and realise their vision.
However, talent and skills shortages are a rising concern within the insurance industry. Skill gaps resulting from the introduction of new technologies and increasing digitization of operations, coupled with an ageing workforce and massive retirement looming are particularly worrying. For example, talent management (succession, planning, recruiting, retention, and training) was highlighted as growing issue by underwriters in The Institutes-Accenture’s 2021 underwriting survey.
A key emerging challenge and opportunity for insurers is the rise of the remote workforce. On the one hand, the remote workforce opens up new opportunities for efficiencies. In Accenture’s 2021 Technology Vision for Insurance 88% of insurance executives shared the belief that the remote workforce opens up the market for difficult-to-find talent and expands the competition for talent among organizations. On the other hand, optimizing the resources that ensure a healthy and productive workforce, regardless of physical location, can be challenging. Working remotely also makes a cohesive and collaborative workplace culture more difficult.
Category winner – Zurich Insurance Company
Zurich addressed the particular challenges that have come about through the hybrid workforce, with an all-in-one mobile application for Zurich employees that simplifies the day-to-day experience whether they are at home or in the office.
Oscar Escudero Sanchez, Head of Digital Delivery, Zurich Insurance Company discusses how the team approached the creation of the app, “Zurich has about 56,000 employees globally and they deserve the best and easiest tools to help navigate their work life. We initially launched the app in several Zurich business units with a focus on workspace booking but have come very far since and are going global this year. With One Zurich, we are turning our old model of functional-based digital experiences on its head. Where we previously had different platforms for, let’s say, HR or IT support, now our employees have it all in one place.”
Liz Oswald, Head of Technology Transformation, Zurich Insurance Company adds, “One Zurich aims to provide our employees with a holistic digital experience. We regularly engage our employees through multiple channels such as focus groups, interviews, polls and in-app feedback forms to understand their wants, needs and preferences, and use these inputs to define and prioritize a backlog of app features and user-experience flows. Once these are in production, we observe their usage and follow up with employees to understand what is working well for them or what they would like to see improved – and then we take these changes and enhancements into our backlog.”
This approach aligns to a hybrid way of working. Escudero Sanchez explains, “Zurich has embraced the new post-pandemic way of working, including offering expanded flex and remote working options to employees. This model creates many opportunities for both the company and employees on how to stay connected in a hybrid working world. At a tactical level, the One Zurich app supports employees in managing their on-site days with user-friendly, visual tools that allow to see when their colleagues are planning to come into the office, book nearby workspaces and manage their reservations. More broadly, One Zurich serves as a channel for engaging employees with relevant updates and actions when they matter most and to help them feel connected no matter which workplace model they choose.”
Workforce transformation does not happen in a vacuum, but as part of a deeper strategic commitment. Oswald concludes, “At Zurich, our ambition is to be one of the most responsible and impactful businesses in the world. We know that a key element of achieving this will be providing our customers, agents, and brokers with modern, streamlined and intuitive tools and user flows that engage and delight them, and that are tailored to their individual needs. But it’s not enough to focus on innovating for our external audiences – it all has to start at the core! Our employees make Zurich. With One Zurich, we are providing an example for our employees by transforming their own experience and sharing our findings to inform our organization’s broader digitalization journey.”
As these two winners show, a holistic commitment to sustainability and workforce transformation from the inside can have a widespread, powerful impact.
See the full 2022 Qorus Accenture Innovation in Insurance list.
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