With many insurers looking at business expansion into Africa, the opportunity exists to embrace cloud-based solutions more fully to deliver solutions for these new markets. Patrick Ashton, managing executive of Cirrus, a subsidiary of the SilverBridge Group, examines if this must be an all or nothing approach.
“In recent years, much attention has been placed on embracing the cloud and the associated benefits of virtualised solutions. Aspects like improved employee efficiency and reduced costs have certainly appealed to executives driven by tight budgets and increased competition from new entrants in the market,” he says.
Add to this the increased consumer expectation for personalised, immediately available digital solutions. This creates a challenging environment for the insurer where they need to find more innovative ways of developing solutions capable of addressing these evolving customer expectations. People want an insurance product that speaks to their specific requirements and not simply an off-the-shelf offering.
With Africa being a mobile-first continent, the logical choice is to have systems capable of utilising data from multiple digital channels and provide relevant insights in as real-time a fashion as possible. Given that on-premise software is installed locally (on the servicers and computers of a company) and access is strictly controlled, there are challenges in empowering field workers and even consumers with data that is more reflective of the environment around them.
Cloud-based systems are accessible from any device, irrespective of physical location. This enables agents in the field to capture data at a customer meeting and provide a quote on the spot. It also gives end users better service and the peace of mind that the insurance solutions offered by the agents are tailored to their specific needs based on the information they provide.
Mobility has therefore become a key business driver for any insurer who wants to expand their business within Africa. And the cloud therefore begins to play a far larger role in enabling this strategy.
Costs, stability, implementation
When compared to on-premise offerings, cloud-based systems give the insurer the ability to manage costs better (pay-per-use model), have a more secure, stable and scalable IT environment (support managed by the vendor), and can implement solutions much faster – a key factor when having to react to changing markets. It also means the insurer can remain focused on delivering to their business strategy (especially product and distribution) without the distraction of having to manage internal ICT issues.
The insurer does not necessarily have to choose one or the other. A hybrid cloud approach often provides the best of both worlds. It still provides the organisation with the comfort levels that it is in complete control of its data whilst the vendor takes care of the security and support of the systems and processes that are on the cloud.
A hybrid model essentially means that mobile services can be delivered from the cloud yet easily integrate with on-premise systems through tightly controlled security layers. Having the flexibility to gain the benefits of improved customer service, whilst maintaining control of their data, puts the insurer in a strong position to expand its operations into Africa and beyond.