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Technology to the Rescue: Streamlining Flood Insurance Applications and Claims Processing Around Natural Disasters

By Tim Love, CIO, Wright Flood

Tim Love, CIO, Wright Flood

Nobody wanted to see the series of natural disasters that hit the United States this year. But twin storms striking some of the country’s most vulnerable flood states has highlighted technology’s power to revolutionize the flood insurance industry.

"Clients will appreciate being able to check the status of a claim via text – particularly during prolonged power outages"

Apps, mobile communications, and even satellite imagery before and after hurricanes like Harvey and Irma are streamlining the insurance application process, speeding the handling of claims and improving the overall outlook for the industry. When technology simplifies the document management workflow for insurers and claimants alike, this greater efficiency improves the big picture for flood insurance, helping expand awareness of flood risk beyond the coastal and low-lying areas. In turn, this enhanced understanding of the protections provided by flood insurance could result in a greater number of property owners across the United States securing flood coverage.

Look to the Cloud to Create Calm before the Storm

Advances in technology are expediting the insurance application process for homeowners and business owners alike, reducing the time required to get flood policies written. We’ve seen first-hand how the Wright Flood proprietary claims software can speed claims settlement and information gathering for our policyholders. But across the industry the impact of digital advancements has been immense. According to Harvard Business Review, moving more insurance transactions to a digital space can reduce costs by 65 percent, cut turnaround time by 90 percent and increase conversion rates by more than 20 percent.

Digitized flood mapping of FEMA flood zones helps to locate a property on the flood map for each prospective policyholder. Progresses in land mapping can, in some cases, eliminate the need for property owners to submit traditional documentation as well. These advances and other digital data collection tools have also enabled private flood insurance policies to be written in a more targeted way, based on individual risks and needs. Plus, with cloud storage of key client data, agents can speed application processes from anywhere they have a secure internet connection. As a result, when a natural disaster strikes, agents can spend less time on research and gathering of documentation and more time in the field helping clients recover and file their claims.

Moreover, as the number of millennial homeowners and business owners increases, these “digital natives” will expect technology that streamlines the application and approval process. In fact, most will naturally navigate toward insurers and agents that offer the most user-friendly and efficient options, which will provide a competitive market advantage to early adopters of the technology.

In addition to aiding in gaining a larger share of the current flood market, companies that invest in this technology help to expand the market itself. How? By making the complex flood rating process much more user-friendly for the agent and streamlining the information gathering process to match the underwriting needs of the carrier—whether they are applying for a policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or for private flood insurance. In other words, an easier process directly relates to more offers of flood insurance being made, and ultimately, more coverage issued to customers across the United States.

Text “FLOOD” for Speedy Recovery: Expediting Claims after Natural Disasters

As anyone who experienced the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands will attest, the heightened anxiety anticipating a natural disaster transforms into a set of immediate priorities as people scramble to assess the damage and start the recovery process.

A loss of electrical power and internet access can stymie recovery efforts, including timely filing of flood insurance claims. But companies that offer agents and clients a range of communication options post-storm will increase the likelihood that essential information for initiating claims will get through.

Take texting, for example. Although calling loved ones over cellular networks right after a major storm can be challenging, text messages are more likely to get through. Flood insurers that connect clients with agents via text messaging can jump-start the claims filing process. Clients will appreciate being able to check the status of a claim via text – particularly during prolonged power outages – and claims submitted early using mobile technology are more likely to be paid expeditiously.

Our claimants at Wright Flood have embraced texting technology that allows them to initiate a claim, connect with an adjuster, and follow their claim through to the end. They have become equally comfortable with mobile applications like ImageKeeper, which in the cases where we are able to deploy it enable policy holders and adjusters to submit images via their smart phones, further streamlining claims processing.

Reality Check: VR and Simulation Promises a Brighter Future for the Industry

As a veteran of the flood insurance industry, I understand the challenges of expanding flood insurance coverage into areas outside of higher risk coastline and low-lying regions. But I have also witnessed how innovative technologies and the understanding they deliver can help property owners see the potential disaster more vividly, comprehend their flood risk and take measures to protect against it.

Virtual reality and simulation technology can more easily model various potential outcomes from flood events associated with a natural disaster. Experts can then use the models to increase the accuracy of their risk assessments and update them over time as natural conditions shift due to climate change and other factors. Additionally, during hurricanes Harvey and Irma, augmented reality simulations were used by news agencies and weather reporting services to show the destructive forces that storm surge and heavy flooding can have on homes and communities both in flood zones and outside of them. As more homeowners are able to visualize the effects of flooding on their homes, fewer may be willing to roll the dice and forego coverage.

The value technology provides and will continue to offer into the future should not be underestimated. The bottom line is, expanded technology in flood insurance equals more informed and equipped owners, a larger pool of insured properties and easier financial recovery from natural disasters.

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