Best's Review


The New Normal

Insurers are finding ways to reshape digital strategies and investments in the midst of a pandemic.
  • Deb Smallwood
  • July 2020
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In what seems like the blink of an eye, the world, society and all of humanity has over the past several months been stressed and tested at every level due to the global spread of COVID-19.

Insurance has a history of successfully weathering all storms, and we are confident that insurers will weather this one too and emerge with a reshaped digital transformation strategy and plan.

As the industry moves beyond flattening the curve, a new normal is taking shape. There is uncertainty about the recovery and the impact on insurance and its ecosystem. However, it is very clear and certain that the world has flipped into a virtual vortex of digitally enabled capabilities, and there will be no turning back on the acceleration of the digitally connected world.

This pandemic has brought digital strategies and investments into sharp focus and revealed, in real time, which digital investments are delivering high value and which are not. It has also exposed our gaps and elevated capabilities that were once perceived as less important to higher levels of significance.

So, where is the property/casualty insurance industry related to digital readiness and response?

Pre-COVID-19, the industry was already in the midst of a digital transformation journey. Just about every insurer has some level of digital transformation underway. Some past and current investments are paying off, especially digital self-service sales and service capabilities, along with digital communications and payments.

P/C insurers are staying the course with their digital technology investments, according to SMA's COVID-19 Market Pulse Survey. Very few have plans to retrench or put plans on hold. But many are reshaping their priorities and, in some areas, accelerating, too. Personal lines plans appear more aggressive than commercial lines.

Disasters have a way of revealing the need for change, and the COVID-19 pandemic has had such a wide range of impact that digital plans will benefit from a reshaping.

As companies develop their digital plans for COVID-19 and other future catastrophes, they should consider the following:

Digital payments. There is a renewed urgency to transform inbound and outbound payments by moving away from physical paper checks and payments and creating digital experiences and virtual digital payment capabilities.

Digital communications. Digital interaction and delivery for most communication and content are critical and essential. This includes digital communication tools such as voice, chat, texting and document workflow management that eliminates paper and automates manual workarounds.

Digital platforms. It is essential to accelerate the digital enablement of sales and service capabilities for policyholders, agents and brokers with a modern platform and connections to core systems. These platforms enable new servicing, sales automation and straight-through processing by leveraging transformational technologies like artificial intelligence, bots, the internet of things and wearables.

Digital underwriting. Shift the priorities from new business to renewals, providing digital automatic renewals that will automate the new set of underwriting guidelines for policyholder exposure and impact. Leverage new AI tools, new sources of COVID-19 data and analytical insights for detail comparisons, coverages and exclusions.

Digital claims. Create digital experiences for most claims, from first notice of loss/first report of injury through settlement, and enable vital capabilities such as fraud detection, litigation management and recovery.

Next year may paint an entirely different picture, but for now P/C insurers are full steam ahead with their plans for digital transformation investments.

Best’s Review contributor Deb Smallwood is the CEO and founder of strategic advisory firm Strategy Meets Action. She can be reached at

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