If ever there was a sector ripe for major standardization of the applications landscape, then general insurance is that market.
A stroll around the shop floor at some of the sector’s largest players will reveal the ongoing use of green-screen systems and a reliance on in-house developed systems that continue to support mission-critical functions such as policy and claims administration.
While many of the systems are robust enough to keep the lights on, renewed cost and regulatory pressure are encouraging insurers to look at standardizing, integrating and modernizing their application landscape. In the last year, Zurich announced plans to standardize its UK claims function on a system from Guidewire, while Generali deployed a standard policy administration system from AgencyPort.
China’s eBaoTech is hoping to become one of main beneficiaries as insurers look to move towards standard packaged applications. The software purveyor has just announced $36m in investment from FTV Capital and Cathay Capital, and with 100 deployments across 20 countries under its belt, it has credible aspirations of becoming a serious global force.
eBaoTech’s software suite supports functions including sales and distribution, policy administration, claims management and reinsurance for both general (P&C) and life insurers. The majority of its business has come from tier-two insurers that have a less complex tangle of legacy to overcome, or companies that are looking for a new platform to support rapid growth in new markets.
eBaoTech has developed a network of services partners to support the implementation of its products, including Capgemini, CGI and Cognizant. It’s fair to say that Chinese software providers still have to work harder than their US/European counterparts to establish credibility with new clients in the West, and relationships such as these – along with the extra direct sales and marketing presence that the funding can support – will be a big help.
The ISV supplier community targeting the general insurance space is highly fragmented, due in part to the big differences in regional regulatory requirements. This has meant that insurers have often bought patchworks of systems from local ISV partners. There are well over 30 ISVs (both international and local) with substantial installations of either claims or policy administration systems at European general insurers.
Thus eBaoTech faces strong competition, particularly from Guidewire, which completed a successful IPO one year ago and is expanding from its core claims territory into the policy administration space. PAC believes that ERP giants SAP and Oracle will also take a growing interest in this market as they look to add more industry-specific functionality to their product sets.
Insurers have been cautious in their approach to standardizing on packaged applications, which is understandable given the potential risk of moving away from hundreds of well-entrenched systems often with very specific local functionality.
And while PAC doesn’t expect many insurers to push ahead with big bang global standardization programs, we believe that there will be a lot of national and regional projects coming up for the likes of eBaoTech over the next three years.