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Century-old insurer uses low code as digital demands increase

Lloyds of London insurance and reinsurance broker Miller breaks from the past by adopting low-code software development platform

Miller Insurance is using low code as demand for software to deliver and support insurance and reinsurance products accelerates in the digital age.

Through low code, the 100-year-old company, which has about 4,500 customers globally, has accelerated and simplified software development to the point where its software development team does not need to request permission to develop.

Miller, which has customers ranging from international shipping companies to professional athletes, goes beyond selling insurance to its customers – it also develops software for them.

The company’s main software requirements includes software that enables customers to communicate risk positions to the Lloyds of London market, software that allows Miller to integrate and interact with the market, and a lot of software that ensures the company remains compliant in a heavily regulated industry.

As with any financial services business, it is traditionally highly dependent on software, increasingly so as digital technologies bring new ways of operating.

Christian Kitchen, head of technology at Miller, said a lot of technology in the insurance space is still driven by the old waterfall-type principles, which is time-consuming.

Miller has about 50 people in IT, with around 20 of them software developers. Kitchen told Computer Weekly that the company is now taking a drastically different approach.

He said Miller began a journey to using low code after a success story using its traditional software development techniques made it realise the huge benefits of speeding things up. Low code allows people with no coding experience to build applications.

“We had a great success when one of our business units came to us looking for a product to provide to some of our wholesale agents for private yacht insurance,” he said. “We build that in the traditional way with .Net and got it up in a remarkably fast three months from inception to delivery.”

But even this was too slow, given the backlog of new requests from the business and opportunities, said Kitchen. “We needed to be able to do that even faster. There is a large increase in demand for easy technology to solve problems. We need to develop in weeks rather than months.”

Kitchen started researching the market for low code and soon found there was a lot on offer. “There were even a lot of no-code and low-code suppliers specific to the insurance sector,” he said.

Miller decided to use a low-code application platform from Mendix and started its first project in September 2020. This was a major change, not just for the company, but for a seasoned tech professional like Kitchen.

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Kitchen, who has spent 25 years in tech, most of it in software development, had to change his mindset. “When we moved into the low-code space, it was a challenging switch for me to make with my bias in code,” he said.

Now the low-code journey is picking up speed, he said. The main area where Miller is using low code is to build software to aid data capture. Through this, it is automating processes such as sending policies to clients, which would normally take up to 30 minutes to complete manually.

The company will focus more on customer-facing software development using low code as it gains valuable experience with the platform.

Kitchen said that without low code, it would be drastically more expensive to create, deploy and maintain small applications like this. “But with the technology, we have been able to create targeted small-scale applications that run on a range of platforms exceptionally quickly,” he said.

“Our efforts with low code are relatively new and we have largely been focused on optimising existing customer journeys, so these types of solutions haven’t formed a substantial part of our initial client offerings. But I fully expect this to change as we develop greater capabilities with the platform.”

Beyond the operational benefits of applications being created using low code, the software development team has been liberated, he said. “The speed at which we can develop means we don’t even have to ask for permission to develop in many cases – we just get on with it.”

This freedom does not mean increasing distance between developers and the business, but actually integrating teams. “We want to take the innovation that we are good at into the business and let the business lead,” said Kitchen. “Low-code platforms are great for this because the barriers to entry are very low.”

Miller holds training sessions on the product which are also attended by non-IT staff in the business, he said, adding: “They have been able to take on rather complex concepts because the tools are accessible.”

Low code will also support a major shift on the horizon for Miller as it strives to grow what it describes as its retail business. This business, in contrast to its large wholesale business where it acts as an intermediary between an insurer and another broker, develops direct relationships with the organisations being insured.

This might, for example, include relationships with law firms to source their professional indemnity cover.

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