Managing an international insurance program is complex.
Multinational insurers must understand the exposures faced by their customers around the globe, and issue policies that offer certainty of coverage and are in full compliance with local regulations. Close attention must also be paid to the management of cash and the claims handling process.
With so many moving parts, building a cohesive and successful international program often requires a custom made structure, but this can create challenges for insurers when it comes to making a consistent and efficient process involving multiple parties all over the world.
This in turn can cause customer service to crumble.
Sure enough, global companies are generally dissatisfied with the servicing of their international programs — ranging from levels of efficiency, communication and transparency that constitute the customer experience.
“Companies want to know in real-time when their policies are issued, if premiums have been paid, if a policy is triggered by a loss, when the claim has been paid, and where the money is. There are hundreds of complex interactions taking place within international programs, and lead insurers have traditionally not been great at keeping insureds in the loop,” said Sylvain Bouteillé, Co-Head Primary Lead Initiative, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions saw an opportunity to do it better.
“The international market is a natural fit for us,” said Samrat Dua, Chief Information & Digital Officer, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “We’re already an international company with clients all over the world, and given Swiss Re Group’s position as a reinsurer, we also had relationships with local primary carriers around the world as well.”
But most importantly, they are innovative.
Fixing a problem that has persisted for years requires digging into the underlying cause. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions did just that. They researched international programs and, more importantly, consulted customers and brokers about their needs and pain points. From these conversations they began to build their comprehensive program from policy wording to policy issuance and claims handling with service quality in mind. They quickly saw the opportunity for innovative technology. In order to be efficient in execution, state of the art technology would have to be at the center of all their processes and systems.
The next course of action was how to build a network to issue policies anywhere in the world. Corporate Solutions made the strategic decision to create their own, which allowed them an increased level of flexibility, reliability and independence.
An option would have been to rely on an already established multinational insurer and utilize its existing network to place their own policies. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions initially took this approach in order to start writing business, expedite their group learning curve and rapidly expand their capabilities — but the plan was always to operate independently.
So, in 2015, they began building their own network of partners from the ground up. Today, the network includes 140 countries with a mix of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offices and insurance partners.
“We started without any preconceived idea of who we would be working with in each country. We went in to identify the insurers who were reliable, financially solid, and who shared our claims management philosophy.” Bouteillé said.
Investment in expertise helped as well. “We realized we were still new to this business model, so we hired a dedicated team of 25 people who have deep expertise in international programs,” Dua said.
Building a network organically took considerable investment of talent, time and resources, but it enabled sustainable growth and signaled a dedication to becoming a force in the international market for the long haul.
With the network team, internal processes and products in place, the only problem left to solve was the issue of service. What would it take to alleviate the friction inherent in managing a complex insurance structure and create a seamless experience for clients?
“We took a deep dive into understanding the root cause of the problem. We discovered that issues arose from the way information flowed both within the insurance company and from the insurer to the customers and brokers,” Bouteillé said.
“There are so many parties involved. You have our offices and network partners. You have broker partners, and they have their own networks. There’s the customer and their subsidiaries. Third party risk management services. Even for an average program, we realized that there are hundreds of operational interactions that happen within a year, and any one of these interactions can go wrong and create a poor service experience,” Dua said.
The primary reason interactions go wrong is because each party utilizes their own technology and communication platform, which results in data segregation, incomplete information, confusion, delays, and a lack of transparency into the entire process. Incumbent carriers are hard-pressed to solve the technology problem because they are confined by the limits of their legacy IT systems. Even the solutions offered by technology vendors were often insufficient to handle the demands of multiple parties.
Entering a new market, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions was not saddled with a legacy system, and instead had the flexibility to design something new — a freedom they took advantage of.
“Obviously what already exists in the market has considerable pain points. So, we made a conscious decision not to utilize existing platforms. We designed a new platform that removes friction from the flow of information both internally and externally,” Dua said.
Corporate Solutions’ platform acts as a “knowledge database” where disparate data sources are brought together in one system, including licensing, compliance and tax information, as well as the client’s exposure and loss history. Having all of the data living in one place makes it easier for underwriters to provide quotes.
“We can be much faster than our competition because we don’t have to spend time hunting down data” Bouteillé said. “If a business has a master policy in the U.S. but needs a local policy in Germany, our platform provides the workflow to exchange information in a seamless and standardized way.”
A smart workflow also facilitates handoff of information among internal functions including operations, underwriting, claims, and risk engineering across the globe.
Innovation in technology was not limited to underwriting, it also included the interaction with customers and brokers. For this purpose, Corporate Solutions developed PULSE, an online platform allowing brokers and customers to manage their insurance program from one secure place with real-time information.
A unified platform brings a level of transparency. If a company wants to know the status of their policy application in Malaysia, track their claim payment in France, and view risk mitigation recommendations for a facility in Italy, they can view all updates and relevant information in one place and in real time. They can also assess risks of individual locations or entire portfolios worldwide courtesy of Swiss Re’s proprietary tool, CatNet®.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ platform currently supports more than 100 programs worldwide, and will continue to grow sustainably in terms of both size and sophistication of products offered.
“We are doing a lot of work to develop wording for locally placed policies that is better than the local standard and more closely mirrors language in the master policy,” Bouteillé said. “Compliance and contract certainty will always be top priorities as we expand. After all, compliance is a primary reason multinational companies choose to buy a controlled global program in the first place.”
The key to building fully compliant programs while also delivering excellent customer service is a slow and steady approach.
“This is a long-term strategy,” Dua said, “and we want to do it right and grow at a pace which enables us to fully attend to the needs of our clients. The approach we have taken towards innovating, building technology, and establishing the right services — I think it puts us on the right path to be better than the competition in the near future.”
To learn more, visit https://corporatesolutions.swissre.com/services/international_business/.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.