Technology — from employee engagement to auto fleet management and machine learning — is a growing staple of the insurance industry toolbox, experts said during sessions at the Public Risk Management Association’s annual meeting in San Antonio in June.
“How do you keep staff engaged,” given both the challenges of the pandemic lockdowns and then reemerging, said Rick Brush, chief member services officer for Public Risk Innovation, Solutions, and Management, a member-directed insurance risk sharing pool known as PRISM based in Folsom, California. “We think technology is a big part of that,” Mr. Brush said.
PRISM was established in 2020 as a successor to the state’s excess insurance authority and has more than 2,000 members, including 95% of counties and 70% of cities, as well as educational organizations, special districts, housing authorities and fire districts in California.
Virtual connectivity was a huge asset during the lockdown but carried with it cybersecurity challenges, especially with large online groups such as school districts, which could have tens of thousands of students.
Implementing multifactor authentication across such a group can be extremely difficult, according to Tom Pelster, chief information officer in Folsom for PRISM.
The multifactor authentication issue is “front and center” because in some cases it can be a precondition for cyber coverage, Mr. Pelster said. “That is a huge challenge, and I think people are behind on that. I hear all the time people aren’t sure what to do with MFA,” he said.
Mr. Brush noted that the organization has moved to an online new member orientation post-pandemic and draws a larger audience. “New people coming in want to receive information in a different way,” he said, adding that new member online briefings now draw some 175-200 viewers compared with 40 to 45 at in-person meetings previously.
“There are so many efficiencies that can be gained by this. It’s the balance of being efficient but still building relationships and having the interaction,” Mr. Brush said.
Online outreach can allow an organization to reach an expanded audience for training purposes, according to Maria Williams, senior member services specialist for PRISM. Training programs presented online can often be recorded, stored and offered on demand, allowing users to engage at any time or anywhere.
Technology is seeing generally broader penetration in the insurance sector, said Brian Billings, Ballwin, Missouri-based vice president of predictive analytics for Midwest Employers Casualty Co., part of W.R. Berkley Corp.
Tools such as natural language processing, which can be used to help digest lengthy documentation and extract needed information or drive interaction with an automated representative, or chatbot, are becoming more widely used, Mr. Billings said. While such technology can still be pricey, declining costs associated with wider penetration should put many technologies within financial reach of far more organizations, he said.
The continued adoption of technology drives the generation and collection of vastly more data than ever before, which in turn helps inform the further evolution of existing and future technologies, sustaining the march toward digitization. “We’re going to see more and more of this,” Mr. Billings said.
Municipal fleet management programs are benefiting from the use of telematic programs such as sensors and other equipment that can record driver behavior and variables including speed and braking, according to Tiffany Allen, territory manager for public sector services in Monroe, North Carolina, for Travelers Cos. Inc.
The information collected by the telematics programs, which often includes video recording of drivers, can help with driver training to improve safety; it can be used to help establish or defend liability in the case of a claim; and it can be used for monitoring and maintenance purposes to improve fuel efficiency, for example, and track scheduled tuneups.
Comprehensive training is key to a successful telematics program, according to Sarah Sylvis, risk/benefits manager for the city of Franklin, Tennessee. The goals and parameters of the program should be made clear, such as what data is to be collected and how it is to be used.
Drivers and other employees must also be engaged, to ensure both that they understand how the technology works and that it can be used as a constructive tool to help them improve performance and potentially even in defending liability in the case of a claim, Ms. Sylvis said.
Telematics are increasingly being used to manage and control losses from vehicle accidents, which are the leading cause of workplace fatalities and are also the costliest work-related claims, Ms. Allen said, citing data from the National Safety Council.