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Not Ready for Insurtech? Here’s Proven Automation You Can Use Now!

Digitizing your financial close and eliminating the highlighters and spreadsheets can drive real bottom-line savings that are hard to ignore.
By: | December 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Sure, insurtech sounds great – who doesn’t want to modernize labor-intensive and time-consuming insurance processes, from underwriting and distribution to claims and customer service? But the truth is, this naturally risk -averse industry will adopt changes only cautiously and strategically, and very few new technologies have been road-tested enough to demonstrate lasting impact.

And of course, regulators will have a significant say on what is permissible.

But while the trend unfolds, automation has been proven to cut inefficiencies and streamline workflows. The industry’s administrative functions are undeniably laden with overhead costs associated with paper-based processes that demand copious time, labor and materials.

Why not pick one essential process – reconciliation – where automation can make a significant impact on the bottom line and reduce the risk of compliance misses and mistakes.

“In the insurance industry, every fraction of a cent that can be saved in time, resources, processing and operations goes directly to the bottom line,” said Renata Sheyner, senior product manager of Frontier™ Reconciliation, the end-to-end reconciliation and certification solution offered by Fiserv.

“Additionally, the more data that insurers add to their business and analyze through relatively untested insurtech innovations, the greater the need for automated, reliable transaction-level operational and balance sheet reconciliation.”

Why Automate Reconciliation?

Renata Sheyner, Senior Product Manager

Most companies currently reconcile their books with two tools — a highlighter and a spreadsheet.

“I have seen conference rooms filled with filing cabinets to be sorted through,” Sheyner said. “Sometimes I ask potential clients, ‘How many different colored highlighters are in your desk drawer?’ Because that’s how it’s done without automation – highlighting items on printed reports, or using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of everything.”

Without automation, reconciliation at the transaction level can be a time- and labor-intensive process that leaves more room for human error. And errors increase the risk of running afoul of regulations. Reducing the risk of error in the books can save companies thousands in non-compliance fines when it’s time for an audit.

“A lot of CFOs are now personally liable for misrepresentation of financial statements. There are some pretty significant implications of non-compliance and not having your books complete,” Sheyner said. “There’s a huge benefit in incorporating all of your documentation into a system with built-in internal and external audit controls.”

In an intensely regulated industry, the importance of accuracy and transparency can’t be overstated.

Integration of data and matching transactions using an automated solution can cut the risk of error by as much as 50 percent, while allowing a more holistic and transparent view into the financial close process. An automated system with built-in audit controls can also ensure that standards dictated by Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley Act are met.

A centralized view of transactions and the overall reconciliation lifecycle also makes it easier to mitigate the risks of fraud and write-offs related to unexplained exceptions. End-to-end reconciliation automation, combined with data agnosticism, identifies and resolves more exceptions. This can lead to an overall 75 percent reduction in write-offs.

“Insurers need a data-agnostic tool that can pull in massive amounts of disparate data around claims, policyholder details, equity fund balances, payment and disbursement statuses and more, and funnel it through an automated matching system to pair the right data with the right transaction,” Sheyner said.

Frontier Reconciliation provides that very detailed transaction matching, and can match data fields on a one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many basis. Transaction-level matching with multiple fields reduces the need for manual intervention, “which allows employees to spend their time on value-added tasks like managing or investigating exceptions,” Sheyner said.

Among Frontier Reconciliation users, reducing manual tasks and implementing automated reconciliation can experience a 60 – 80 percent gain in efficiency.

The cost savings are also hard to ignore. On average, financial companies using an automated reconciliation solution save 25 percent on audits by providing electronic access to accounts and required approvals.

Taking paper out of the equation also saves the costs of buying paper and printing materials, reduces the manpower and hours needed to process records, and can speed up financial close by two to four days, on average.

“We frequently help accounting and finance teams build a strong internal business case for automated reconciliation and certification to present to senior management,” Sheyner said.

In addition to mitigating risks from non-compliance, fraud, and write-offs, an automated reconciliation process can also head off reputation risk.

“The reputational risk from restatement may not be monetary initially, but over time can certainly hurt an organization pretty severely within the market among their policyholders, peers and regulators,” Sheyner said.

Case in Point

Several large multi-line insurers in the U.S. rely on Frontier Reconciliation, including a top 10 multi-line carrier with over $43 billion in direct premiums written (DPW) who has trusted Frontier Reconciliation for the past 10 years.

“When they implemented Frontier Reconciliation a decade ago, they had a team of 40 people working on 300 reconciliations a day using Excel worksheets. Since automating the process, they’ve been able to refocus the team to eight who now manage more than 3,000 reconciliations a day,” Sheyner said. “And those other employees have been able to focus on other valuable strategic projects – ones they were hired to manage.”

Frontier Reconciliation also helps this leading Fortune 100 carrier match policyholders with premium payment data —like what type of payment was received, who received it and in what form (check, ACH, direct debit) — and track other information like claims data, coverage and payout limits, and outstanding disbursements.

“They can see in real time exactly how many outstanding payments there are and how many disbursements have been made. They can check on aging claims, which is important because the longer the claim sits open, typically the more expensive it gets,” Sheyner said. “If something is outstanding for 30 days, they can ensure processes are in place to bring those files to a close.”

Stronger compliance, reduced costs, and potentially faster claims closing … these are the insurtech promises that an automated reconciliation solution can bring to the industry today.

To learn more, visit: Frontier Reconciliation for Insurers.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Fiserv. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Fiserv, Inc. enables clients worldwide to create and deliver financial services experiences that are in step with the way people live and work today. For more than 30 years, Fiserv has been a trusted leader in financial services technology, helping clients achieve best-in-class results by driving quality and innovation in payments, processing services, risk and compliance, customer and channel management, and insights and optimization.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

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Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

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This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]