Graeme Boddy, VP and CIO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Builders Mutual Insurance Company, spoke with Insurance & Technology about how he expects tablet PCs to change the insurance landscape.
Insurance & Technology: Can you tell us a little about Builder's Mutual's business model?
Graeme Boddy: Probably 60% of our business is workers' compensation, and the rest is other lines such as general liability, commercial package, commercial auto, that kind of thing. Part of what we do is insure the construction trade. The trade has improved immensely in terms of risk and the rates have gone down. There's fewer claims because there's better claims and risk management. We will go in at the request of an underwriter or contractor and see how can we improve the safety, looking at how they can do simple things such as fall protection and harnesses.
I&T: How does this process generally work right now?
GB: Our risk managers have to take notes on a camera, take notes on a piece of paper. They come back, they plug into the computer, download the pictures, write a report generally in Word with pictures attached. It's very inefficient. Things get mangled: Pictures get lost and you have to go revisit the site, for example.
I&T: How could a tablet environment streamline this process?
GB: It would be great to do that risk management on a tablet PC where you can follow a standard process built into it, take pictures with the tablet. You can post them in real time, right to the underwriter, policyholder or put it into a claim file. It is a great way of using that tech internally.
I&T: Are there other applications besides risk management?
GB: We have a pay as you go policy for workers' compensation. The contractor will tell us how many people they have working for them, and we'll adjust the rate. We send auditors out to check on this. With a mobile device, we could put down what has been declared by the policyholder, and the auditor can get the real information and generate a corrected bill in real time. The auditor could even accept a payment on the spot. Similarly, in the general liability book of business, as the book goes down and people are losing business we can do refunds almost in real time. Getting to do that point where we can remove any problems in terms of billing and get to instant service is huge.
I&T: What are some of the other advantages to this real-time approach?
GB: Think about where we've come: I don't have to store everything on the tablet. I can for a while, but at the point of inflection, they can hit the transmit button, take it off their PC and put it on the Internet. A 3G or 4G tablet can get you information from your home office almost as soon as a drive anyway.
I&T: But that all being said, the major stumbling block is a lack of devices in the marketplace that could handle these needed capabilities, correct?
GB: The iPad now is a poor relation to the iPod Touch. If you could make the new iPod Touch into an iPad I would start work on it tomorrow. It's got a front- and back-facing camera. But the phones are too small for real business. You can't get high-resolution pictures that you can really see. The small screen might be "iris-like" in Apple's claim, but the bigger the screen the more information. To be able to do business I need something that's a reasonable size.
I&T: How long do you think it will take for a product with these abilities to come to market?
GB: Two or three years maximum. People aren't just looking for a solution for a phone, they're also looking for a solution that goes to an iPad. The market is being driven that way.
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio