Jenny Steyn discusses


Posted: 07 May 2019
Jenny Steyn, Head of Business Systems Services at Allianz, tells us about how she became involved in robotic process automation and the role it can play in the future.
I’m responsible for business systems, which includes robotics and testing. Robotics – or robotic process automation to give it its full title – is playing a much larger role in the way we do business and this is set to grow. The World Economic Forum predicts that automation will affect 52% of daily professional tasks by 2025.

I’ve always worked in insurance but started out in an operational management role. Around 10 years ago I became much more interested in the technology side of the business and subsequently moved into business systems. I love the complexity and the variety of this role, which covers everything from testing business applications and configuring new ways of working, to developing new technology that can be managed by the business.

Eighteen months ago, we invested in creating a robotics team within Allianz utilising Blue Prism technology. This has enabled us to roll out process automation across our business.

Robotics can be used to automate the more repetitive tasks people have to carry out, such as re-keying information from a claim form, processing invoices or amalgamating data stored in a multitude of spreadsheets. As long as it’s possible to compile a set of repeatable business rules, the process can be automated. The bot will do exactly what it’s told. 

This removes non-value-added tasks, freeing people up to do something more worthwhile; helping customers or using their technical skills on more complex activities. It’s also great for customers as it removes the risk of human error and, as the bots can run 24/7, turnaround times can be reduced as large volumes of data or process steps can be managed simultaneously.

In the 18 months since we began our robotics journey, we have automated 41 processes across the business, covering around one million transactions a year. This has enabled us to automate a variety of manual processes, which has allowed us to give more time back to the business.

Currently, we’re looking at how we continue to improve and mature our capability in this space. The level of automation tools in the market place is significant, so it is important for us to stay in tune with developments. As a result, it’s an exciting time as we continue to challenge our thinking and develop our automation roadmap.

It’s the same with any significant change. Initially there is apprehension around what this technology will do and what it will mean for individuals, and robotics is no different. Once people understand it’s just a different type of software that sits virtually on a desktop, which is designed to complement their skills and roles with the aim of making their jobs easier and more rewarding, then many of these fears disappear.

Initially, we spent a lot of time working across the business helping teams to understand which tasks would be appropriate for automation. Now, we are in the fortunate position, where we have lots of business areas actively requesting our team resources to explore automation opportunities further.

It shouldn’t do: it should really augment and complement what our teams do. Robotics is great for process driven tasks where you can easily tell the bot what you want it to do and what outcome you are expecting. Across the insurance sector, there are lots of relationship-based roles that robotics couldn’t or shouldn’t do and I don’t see this changing for many years, if at all.

As an example, making a claim can be a very emotional journey for a customer. Handing over the process driven tasks to the robot will enable an employee to provide much more support to the policyholder at a time when that human touch is vital.

In time, it’s likely that automation will result in new, more varied roles being created to support our customers.

Personal relationships with clients and insurers are at the heart of many broker businesses and I don’t see this changing. However, there are still lots of manual and paper-based processes within brokerages that could lend themselves to automation.

Automating these types of processes would give valuable hours back to the business, enabling brokers to spend more time with clients and liaising with insurers on behalf of their clients.

From a business perspective, there’s the risk of being left behind. Automation is only going to go from strength to strength, so it’s important to stay up-to-date to understand how this technology can help our business and our customers. In addition, we also need to keep things simple, especially the language that we use.

There is a lot of confusion around robotics, automation, AI and machine learning so we need to make it easy for our employees and customers to understand. The same applies in the broker community. 

Jenny also took part in an episode of our podcast series, Insurance Tomorrow, discussing robotics with other experts and our host, Nick Hewer.
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