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A Conversation With Our Symposium Sponsors - Intellect SEEC

The Alliance is highlighting its Spring Symposium Education Sponsors by exploring what they offer and how they can help our fraternal members.  Alliance CEO Joe Annotti interviews Pranav Pasricha from Intellect SEEC.

Joe Annotti: What does your company do and how and when did you come across fraternals?

Pranav Pasricha: Intellect SEEC is an Insurtech company working with American insurance companies – from the largest to the smallest – for over 25 years.

Our portfolio covers distribution, underwriting, claims and servicing. We offer out of the box software products ready to deploy on the cloud, or we build custom solutions per demand. We also offer technology outsourcing and consulting services to be the one stop shop for all IT services for smaller companies.

Joe Annotti: Based on your unique vantage point in the IT sector, what are the biggest trends shaping insurance and what will be their impact on fraternals?

Pranav Pasricha: I would have to say that two of the biggest trends shaping insurance are AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Digital Advise.

AI has suddenly become viable in recent years due to the combination of affordable cloud computing horse power and explosion of rich contextual data. While for many smaller insurers it is still a mystery, AI based solutions are used by consumers for everyday tasks – from using Google, Amazon Alexa or Siri or protection from credit card fraud by their bank. Soon, AI’s impact on insurance will be very profound as new age rating and underwriting models will fundamentally outperform the traditional ones, and many traditional processes will be eliminated. For example, in photography it took several years for the image quality of digital cameras to improve, but now film cameras and the whole ecosystem have become obsolete. Today, people expect to just click and have great quality photos instantly.  Similarly people will expect insurance to be individualized for them at a great price, offered effortlessly.

That brings us to the second trend – Digital Advise – which is also enhanced with AI. Today, Robo Advise has become prevalent in the Wealth / Asset Management sector today. This similar dynamic is similar to insurance.  Expectations of customers of all age groups are changing, and most prefer to research or browse online before they buy. Most also like the option of being able to get service anywhere, any time. On the other hand insurance advisers still have a lot of manual work with low productivity. There is a lot of paper, a lot of compliance overhead and major duplication of work between advisors and insurers. Digital Advise can enable both B2C and B2B models and create a win-win-win for the customer, adviser and insurer.

Joe Annotti: Since our fraternals are a bit distinct from other providers of insurance, what do you see as the biggest operational and technology challenges for Alliance members?

Pranav Pasricha: The needs of a fraternal company are greater than other companies, because they do everything that a regular insurer does and still maintain great membership management capabilities and add value to the community. The challenge is, many fraternals are small and, unlike larger insurers, do not have the financial, people or technical resources. However the expectations of regulators are the same and those of their customers are perhaps higher!

We believe fraternals need flexible technology that is customizable to suit their business model. They need to understand and engage with their customers more closely than regular companies.  It is critical for fraternal companies to have systems that are highly configurable, agile, low cost to run and easy to integrate.  Unfortunately, most fraternals are still using legacy core systems which severely inhibit all of these things. In my view, the biggest challenge is executing a digital strategy that provides front end and operational enablement, while dealing with the challenges of a legacy IT environment.

Joe Annotti: Can you describe how new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and the “Internet of Things” IoT will impact insurers and what can fraternals do to leverage them or prepare for them?  What are the first steps our members should take to become better informed?

Pranav Pasricha: Over the next few years, as new age technology is introduced, products, process and analytics change, there will be significant disruption in the insurance sector.

Artificial Intelligence: simply speaking is the ability for computer systems to detect patterns in data (text, images, video, streaming data, etc.) and self learn.

Big Data: represents the explosion in data today – images, videos, tweets and social posts, long text documents like legal filings and press articles. Basically what it means is that insurance companies now have a way for computer systems to access humungous amounts of data outside of their enterprise. This is a huge shift. Previously companies could only work with information that was provided to them by clients and was captured systematically in their IT systems.

Multiply these two factors and you have endless possibilities.

Imagine a new business process where the agent simply gets consent from the customer to do a big data check on them and most of the underwriting form is automatically filled, a more accurate and self suggestive needs and product recommendation is created, and a customized plan is developed. This could all have taken place by the customer or agent just having a normal English conversation with the voice assistant on their phone that everyone already has with Apple Siri or Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa! Wouldn’t this process be far easier for the agent and far more engaging for the client?

This use case is not farfetched. Much of this technology is already mature and in use in P&C insurance and banking. As soon as the threads are woven together for Life insurance and regulatory and privacy concerns are addressed, this can become the norm for our sector too.

My advice to the fraternal: first, be neither dismissive nor overwhelmed by this technology. Have an open mind, watch the developments in the sector and take an interest in the developments in this field. You do not have to be an expert to understand what is happening and how the use cases are maturing.

Second, start talking to technology firms that are working on such technologies and understand the constraints and challenges that you may face if and when you decide to implement something in your company.

Third, take baby steps in moving in this direction. Implement the things you can do today; they will start to give you both technology and operational cost savings that you can then leverage to mitigate your core systems issues.

Joe Annotti: As you know, our societies pride themselves on their customer intimacy with their members and service levels.   They have close relationships with chapter leaders and volunteers, too.  Is there a role for technology to improve things without diluting the human relationship aspect?

Pranav Pasricha: Absolutely there is. Embracing technology doesn’t mean replacing the human connection! So far technology has only given us options to connect with each other better – for example because you can video call doesn’t mean you can’t visit in person, it is just another great option. Likewise we see great potential for fraternals to leverage technology to give their members great self service options or to make their agents and advisers a lot more effective.

For example, servicing chat bots can easily serve most customer questions and transaction requests in the middle of the night when an agent isn’t around. Likewise it can make the life of an agent much easier by letting them access all the system functionality while they are driving around, so that they can close a customer’s service request there and then!

Joe Annotti: Many of our fraternals are small-to-medium sized organizations with limited resources.  They typically do not have the technology capability of budgets to match the bigger companies. How can they level the playing field in this age?   What makes their size work for them and not against them in terms of technology?

Pranav Pasricha: Intellect SEEC believes in what fraternals are doing for the community.

Technology is the game changer in financial services. It is a great disruptor, but it can also be a great equalizer. You can see so many cases where small and nimble are beating the big and slow. The only thing you really need is a willingness to embrace change and a progressive outlook.

With the advent of cloud computing, open source software and API based services, accessing third party software and services to enhance your technology offering is much easier than before and because most of such models charge on a per use basis, there is hardly any leverage that the larger companies have over smaller companies.

Intellect SEEC has itself been a proponent of this model because we truly believe that every insurer, irrespective of their size should be able to deploy contemporary technology. Our software, technology and ideals are based on providing a level playing field for all.

Joe Annotti: Tell us how your company aligns well with the overall mission of life insurers or fraternals specifically.

Pranav Pasricha: We exist with a twin purpose statement of ‘Making Insurance about the insured’ and ‘to level the playing field for all insurers with contemporary technology’. We believe that it is critical to maintain a healthy, competitive environment in the financial services sector, and that community based organizations such as the fraternals are a critical part of keeping insurance focused on the end insured.  Technology is the great equalizer today helping the small and agile outcompete the big and slow. So we leverage latest technology to build software that is easy and affordable, yet is fully functional and customizable for each company to suit its business model.

We also have a strong belief that corporations need to do good for their communities. As a part of our CSR, we have been a supporter of the mission of The American College of Financial Services to provide scholarships to active duty service members, veterans and their families for education or professional designations and degree programs offered by The American College. We also run large mentorship and educational programs for under privileged children with a belief that education is the most important gift we can give to a child to improve their future.

Joe Annotti: That’s important for our members to know.  IT issues are commonly discussed informally at our meetings – it’s on everyone’s mind as they strive to stay competitive.  I am sure you will have some great dialog with our Spring Symposium attendees.  What type of conversations are you looking to have there?

Pranav Pasricha: In my interactions with fraternal leaders I’ve seen how keen they are to innovate and better serve their members. The main problem they face is shortage of resources and budgets. During Spring Symposium, we want to show them a few ground results from our fraternal clients on how they have been able to scale based on their need, build products as per requirement, etc.

Joe Annotti: Thank you so much for spending time with us and for supporting the Spring Symposium. See you soon!

Pranav Pasricha can be reached at 
Intellect SEEC
Phone: (732) 508-4443
E-mail: pranav.pasricha@intellectdesign.com

Pranav Pasricha, CEO, Intellect SEEC

Joseph Annotti, President and CEO, American Fraternal Alliance