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Global business insurer saves 50,000 hours through RPA

QBE started its robotic process automation journey in 2017 and has already saved 50,000 hours, enabling staff to focus on customer care

 Since it began its robotic process automation (RPA) journey in 2017, global insurer QBE has saved 50,000 work hours, equivalent to 25 full-time workers, through the automation of 30,000 customer claims tasks per week.

The Australia-headquartered business insurance company, which has 12,000 staff, started using RPA in its European business after identifying it as a major trend and then tasking its lean process engineers to find its place in the business.

Amit Dixit, head of operation excellence for Europe at QBE, says: “We read a lot about robotic process automation and it was coming up in conversations. Working with my executives, I was asked to explore the capability, so we started looking at RPA as a technology.”

The team initially identified some use cases, says Dixit, adding: “Before we started automation, I had a team of lean process engineers who were there originally to look at our core processes to see how we can eliminate waste and take out non-value-added [processes] so we could genuinely focus on our customers.”

This lent itself to the use of RPA technology, and a focused team was established. “We built our team organically. We got an understanding of what automation is, then recruited individuals from outside, a couple of graduates and some internal people with limited experience on automation,” says Dixit. “We had the right mix of people and created an internal teams that sits in operations to create and service the bots.”

Moving forward with Pegasystems

QBE is using RPA software from Pegasystems. The insurer’s journey to using RPA began in its claims and credit control departments where staff processed each case manually, which involved sorting through thousands of case-related emails, data and tasks every day.

It has around 80 automations in its estate so far, used regularly by approximately 180 people and is serviced by five automation engineers.

“We pay out over $2bn in claims a year, so you can imagine the amount of traffic that goes through the entire value chain,” says Dixit. “In addition, we collect in excess of $2.5bn of cash, which needs to be allocated to policies.”

These volumes of transactions create huge workloads of repetitive tasks, which staff were lumbered with. This meant the introduction of automation was welcomed rather than feared by staff, says Dixit. “Nobody enjoys doing repetitive work, so staff were engaged with automation. As we are a growth organisation on a journey, there was no fear of automation.

“Our people remain the most important asset of our team. Pegasystems fosters an environment where subject matter experts can remove administrative tasks from their workload and use that time to take care of stakeholder engagement, such as talking to brokers about how we can work better together. As a result, our team members are happier and more fulfilled.

“There is huge potential to do more with robotics. We are always looking to do things more efficiently and effectively to deliver the best result for the customer, our brokers and our employees.”

But the project was about keeping customers happy through better services, according to Dixi,t and there has been success with figures showing customer complaints have halved.

Dixit says that despite Pegasystems not being a name that is directly associated with automation, an established relationship made it the right choice. “Almost all the tools on the market do the jobs, but we had a good relationship with Pegasystems so we thought, ‘Why not use them?’”

Automation benefits shine during pandemic

It decision in 2017 to move forward with automation really paid off in 2020. Because QBE began its automation journey earlier, it was well positioned when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. While many companies rushed to automate when operations shut down, QBE used the slowdown in business to expand its existing automation portfolio.

“When the pandemic came in, there were a lot of automated process, but because things slowed down, we could look at other things we could automate,” says Dixit.

Dixit hopes that the majority of organisations have started their RPA journeys, adding: “If they haven’t, they should. They need to start by identifying use cases and the tech come later.”

He says that a good understanding of the value chain is critical when you automate, and bot maintenance should not be underestimated.

“As your bot estate grows, do not underestimate the maintenance and service challenges. You not only need to keep an eye on what you are going to automate, but how you can maintain the service in the future,” he adds.

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