As part of the company’s automation and digitisation efforts, Zurich International Life made the decision to upgrade its document capture capabilities, starting with the deployment of ten Kodak i3400 Scanners from Kodak Alaris.
The award-winning scanners are purpose-built to deliver consistent throughput and minimise downtime. Mr Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Head of IT, Middle East at Zurich International Life estimates that in the insurance industry, the deployment of scanners can typically save 80% of the workload.
Zurich International Life is part of the Zurich Insurance Group, offering investment and protection solutions in the Middle East. The company has been operating in international markets around the globe for many years. In the Middle East, customers have trusted Zurich for almost 30 years to protect their futures and provide financial security for their families and businesses.
Talking about the need for scanners, Mr Ramesh said: “15 years back there was no integration between technology and business. But all that has changed. Technology is not just seen as a business enabler, but as a business driver. CIOs now report into CFOs. The intent is to be more agile and cater to growing demands of business so that the business is able to generate more revenue.
“The model which Zurich International Life operates in this region is primarily through banks and independent financial advisors/brokers. So when we have strategic relationships with key banks like Citibank and HSBC, the demands are pretty high. We have to be on our toes, racing against time. Automation in this industry is a game-changer and can be a huge competitive advantage, especially as customers demand faster service. Scanners are an integral part of this automation process,” he added.
Mr Ramesh reiterates the importance of scanners: “In every department there is scope for process improvement and scanning is something done by all departments today. We are in the era of ‘E-Storage’. Everyone is talking about reducing paper. Ultimately it boils down to cost. Even one employee manually doing this job is additional cost for a company.”
Explaining the document handling process in the insurance industry and Zurich International Life’s decision to automate processes, Mr Ramesh said: “Insurance is a very competitive industry and delivering top quality and fast service to our customers is key.
“Typically when we sell life insurance policies to customers, most applications contain many supporting documents. These then go through the process of screening to ensure everything is in order. The final decision will then have to be communicated to the customer. Overall, this is quite a complex and time consuming process.”
He continued: “Automation helps to reduce the timeframe. So where do you automate? Scanners are the starting point and they should integrate seamlessly with the back-end systems. The moment you receive an application form it should get scanned automatically and then be fed into the imaging and workflow system. Then it gets assessed and once accepted, a policy document will be generated. It all comes down to customer experience and how automated you are. Providing high-end service means reducing that end-to end process journey and making it more competitive.”
Mr Ramesh estimates that typically in the insurance industry, with digitisation and scanning, up to 80% of the workload for an insurance application can be saved – sometimes even half a day on one application.
With scanning, once the document comes in, it is directly scanned and sent for verification. Alternatively in a manual process, the employee has to ensure the paper application is physically sent for verification and then if it has some errors, comes back to the agent and then goes back and forth, wasting a huge amount of time. Instead once scanning takes place, it is easy to scroll through and verify that everything is in order. The turnaround time is much faster.
After evaluating several brands, the decision to go with Kodak Alaris scanners was based on the fact that Mr Ramesh and his team had good prior experience with Kodak Alaris. The company also works with consultants and system integrators who are strategic partners. The decision to go with Kodak Alaris was based on recommendations made by these IT vendor partners.
Zurich International Life also signed a yearly service and support agreement with Kodak Alaris which gave the company access to on-site service, Advanced Unit Replacement, 24x7x8 hour response and preventive maintenance.
“As a global technology provider, our primary purpose is to simplify and improve the way our customers work,” said Rick Costanzo, President & General Manager, Kodak Alaris Information Management. “For clients like Zurich International Life, adopting an end-to-end solution where hardware, software and services remove cost and complexity from the business is extremely valuable and can be the deciding factor when selecting a vendor.”
Kodak Alaris delivers fast, reliable service through best-in-class field engineers to keep operations running at peak efficiency. Skilled service engineers provide over-the-phone, remote expertise to solve problems fast and if an on-site call is necessary, one of the many strategically located field engineers will visit the site to resolve the issue. The company has the distinction of achieving the ISO 9001:2008 certification among scanner service organisations, so customers can feel confident that Kodak Alaris will deliver on its promise to meet the most stringent requirements on a global scale.
The decision by Zurich International Life to deploy Kodak Alaris scanners backed by local service and support was certainly justified two years down the line. Talking about his experience, Mr Ramesh said: “The service standards at Kodak Alaris are very high. When we buy something and it sustains for a long period of time, we ultimately spend less effort and time on it. Our experience using Kodak Alaris scanners has been great! The scanners do everything that is expected. They are very durable and have great brand value. We’ve never had any issues and hardly spend any time on it. Once you install the system and implement the solution, its ON and that’s it.
“We have been pampered when it comes to Kodak Alaris. On the service front, there has never been a downtime issue or escalation. We are happy to renew the service contract. I believe in the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said in conclusion.
About Zurich International Life
Zurich International Life is part of the Zurich Insurance Group, offering investment and protection solutions throughout the world. We’ve been operating in international markets around the globe for many years. As a major player in the provision of international financial solutions, we’ve developed our knowledge and understanding of key markets. This enables us to meet the goals of our customers and business partners with individually tailored financial solutions that are both flexible and portable. We provide individual savings, investment and protection products and have established branches in Bahrain, Hong Kong, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. For more information log onto https://www.zurichinternational.com/en/zurich-international-life
About Kodak Alaris Information Management
The ever-increasing flood of data, and how we manage it, is one of the greatest opportunities facing businesses and governments in the 21st century. Kodak Alaris works with organisations from small offices to global enterprises, bringing together the best science, technology, services and partner ecosystem so its clients can stay ahead of the curve. From our award-winning range of scanners and software to the best global customer service and support, we’re here to help businesses transform data into a powerful competitive advantage.
To learn more, please visit www.kodakalaris.co.uk/go/IMnews
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© 2016 Kodak Alaris Inc.
The Kodak trademark and trade dress are used under licence from Eastman Kodak Company.
ECB launches small climate-change unit to lead Lagarde’s green push
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is setting up a small team dedicated to climate change to spearhead its efforts to help the transition to a greener economy in the euro zone, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Monday.
Lagarde has made the environment a priority since taking the helm at the ECB, taking a number of steps to include climate considerations in the central bank’s work as the euro zone’s banking watchdog and main financial institution.
She is now creating a team of around 10 ECB employees, reporting directly to her, to set the central bank’s agenda on climate-related topics.
“The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves,” Lagarde said in a speech.
She said that climate change belonged in the ECB’s remit as it could affect inflation and obstruct the flow of credit to the economy.
The ECB said earlier on Monday it would invest some of its own funds, which total 20.8 billion euros ($25.3 billion) and include capital paid in by euro zone countries, reserves and provisions, in a green bond fund run by the Bank for International Settlement.
More significantly, ECB policymakers are also debating what role climate considerations should play in the institution’s multi-trillion euro bond-buying programme.
So far the ECB has bought corporate bonds based on their outstanding amounts but Lagarde has said the bank might have to consider a more active approach to correct the market’s failure to price in climate risk.
“Our strategy review enables us to consider more deeply how we can continue to protect our mandate in the face of (climate) risks and, at the same time, strengthen the resilience of monetary policy and our balance sheet,” Lagarde said.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
What to expect in 2021: Top trends shaping the future of transportation
By Lee Jones, Director of Sales – Grocery, QSR and Selected Accounts for Northern Europe at Ingenico, a Worldline brand
The pandemic has reinforced the need for businesses to undergo digital transformation, which is pivotal in the digital economy. In 2020, we saw the shift to online and cashless payments accelerated as a result of increased social distancing and nationwide restrictions.
The biggest challenge on all businesses into 2021 will be how they continue to adapt and react to the ever changing new normal we are all experiencing. In this context, what should we expect this year and beyond, in terms of developments across key sectors, including transport, parking and electric vehicle (EV) charging?
Mobility as a service (MaaS) and the future of transportation
Social distancing and lockdown measures have brought about a real change in public habits when it comes to transportation. In the last three months alone, we have seen commuter journeys across the globe reduce by at least 70%, while longer-distance travel has fallen by up to 90%. With it, cash withdrawals for payment has drastically reduced by 60%.
Technological advancements, alongside open payments, have unlocked new possibilities across multiple industries and will continue to have a strong impact. Furthermore, travellers are expecting more as part of their basic service. Tap and pay is one of the biggest evolutions in consumer payments. Bringing ease and simplicity to everyday tasks, consumers have welcomed this development to the transport journey. In-app payments are also on the rise, offering customers the ability to plan ahead and remain assured that they have everything they need, in one place, for every leg of their journey. Many local transport networks now have their own apps with integrated timetables, payments, and ticket download capabilities. These capabilities are being enabled by smaller more portable terminals for transport staff, and self-scanning ticketing devices are streamlining the process even further.
Ultimately, the end goal for many transport providers is MaaS – providing an easy and frictionless all-encompassing transport system that guides consumers through the whole journey, no matter what mode of travel they choose. Additionally, payment will remain the key orchestrator that will drive further developments in the transportation and MaaS ecosystems in 2021. What remains critical is balancing the need for a fast and convenient payment with safety and data privacy in order to deliver superior customer experiences.
The EV charging market and the accelerating pace of change
The EV charging market is moving quickly and represents a large opportunity for payments in the future. EVs are gradually becoming more popular, with registrations for EVs overtaking those of their diesel counterparts for the first time in European history this year. What’s more, forecasts indicate that by 2030, there will be almost 42 million public charging points deployed worldwide, as compared with 520,000 registered in 2019.
Our experience and expertise in this industry have enabled us to better understand but also address the challenges and complexities of fuel and EV payments. The current alternating current (AC) based chargers are set to be replaced by their direct charging (DC) counterparts, but merchants must still be able to guarantee payment for the charging provider. Power always needs to be converted from AC to DC when charging an electric vehicle, the technical difference between AC charging and DC charging is whether the power gets converted outside or inside the vehicle.
By offering innovative payment solutions to this market segment, we enable service operators to incorporate payments smoothly into their omnichannel customer experience that also allows businesses to easily develop acceptance and provide a unique omnichannel strategy for EV charging payments. From proximity to online payments, it will support businesses by offering a unique hardware solution optimized for PSD2 and SCA. It will manage both near field communication (NFC) cards and payments from cards/smartphones, as well as a single interface to manage all payments, after sales support and receipt with both ePortal and eReceipts.
Cashless options for parking payments
The ‘new normal’ is now partly defined by a shift in consumer preference for cashless, contactless and mobile or embedded payments. These are now the preferred payment choices when it comes to completing the check-in and check-out process. They are a time-saver and a more seamless way to pay.
Drivers are more self-reliant and empowered than ever before, having adopted technologies that work to make their life increasingly efficient. COVID-19 has given rise to both ePayment and omnichannel solutions gaining in popularity. This has been due to ticketless access control based on license plate recognition or the tap-in/tap-out experience, as well as embedded payments or mobile solutions for street parking.
These smart solutions help consider parking services more broadly as a part of overall mobility or shopping experience. Therefore, operators must rapidly adapt and scale new operational practices; accept electronic payment, update new contactless limits, introduce additional payments means, refund the user or even to reflect changing customer expectations to keep pace.
2021: the journey ahead
This year, we expect to see an even greater shift towards a cashless society across these key sectors, making the buying experience quicker and more convenient overall.
As a result, merchants and operators must make the consumer experience their top priority as trends shift towards simplicity and convenience, ensuring online and mobile payments processes are as secure as possible.
Opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms in 2021
By Paul McCreadie, Partner at ECI Partners, the leading growth-focused mid-market private equity firm
Despite 2020 being an enormously disruptive year for businesses, our latest Growth Index research reveals that almost three quarters (74%) of mid-market financial services companies remained resilient throughout the pandemic.
This is positive news, especially when taking into account the economic disruption that financial services firms have had to go through since the crisis began. No doubt 2021 will also hold its own challenges – as well as opportunities – for firms in this sector.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest short-term concern for financial firms for the year ahead involved changing pandemic guidance, with 42% citing this as a top concern. With the UK currently experiencing a third lockdown many financial services businesses will have already had to adapt to rapidly changing guidance, even since being surveyed.
Businesses will also be considering the need to invest in working from home operations, and there may be uncertainty over re-opening offices on a permanent basis. According to the research 30% of financial services firms are planning to adopt remote working on a permanent basis, so decisions need to be made now about whether they invest more in enabling staff to do this, or in their current office premises.
Due to Brexit, UK financial services firms are no longer able to passport their services into Europe, which may cause problems, particularly in the next 12 months as the Brexit deal is ironed out and the agreement is put into practice. Despite this, Brexit was only cited by 24% of financial firms as a short-term concern. While it’s comforting to see that UK financial firms aren’t hugely concerned about Brexit at this juncture, it is going to be vital for the ongoing success of the industry that the UK is able to get straightforward access to Europe and operate there without issue, otherwise we may see these concern levels rise.
Looking ahead to longer-term concerns for financial services businesses, the top concern was global economic downturn, of which 40% of firms cited this as a worry when looking beyond 2021.
Investing and adopting tech
Traditionally, the financial services sector has been slow to adopt digital transformation. Issues with legacy systems, coupled with often large amounts of data and a reluctance to undertake potentially risky change processes, have meant many firms are behind the curve when it comes to technology adoption. It’s therefore promising to see that so much has changed over the last year, with 45% of financial services firms having invested in AI and machine learning technology – making it the top sector to have invested in this space over the last 12 months.
One business that exemplifies the benefits of investing in machine learning is Avantia, the technology-enabled insurance provider behind HomeProtect. The business has undergone a large tech transformation in the last few years, investing in an underlying machine learning platform and an in-house data science team, which provides them with capabilities to return a quote to over 98% of applicants in under one second. This tech investment has allowed them to become more scalable, provide a more stable platform, improve customer service and consequently, grow significantly.
This demonstrates how this kind of tech can help businesses to leverage tech in order to offer a better customer experience, and retain and grow market share through winning new customers. This resilience should combat some of the concerns that firms will face in the next year.
Additionally, half (51%) of financial services firms have invested in cybersecurity tech over the last year, which allows them to protect the platforms on which they operate and ensure ongoing provision of solutions to their customers.
Clearly, there is a benefit of international revenues and profits on business resilience. In practice, this meant that businesses that weren’t internationally diversified in 2020 struggled more during the pandemic. In fact, the businesses considered to be the least resilient through the 2020 crisis were three times more likely to only operate domestically.
Perhaps an attribute towards financial services firms’ resilience in 2020, therefore, was the fact that 53% already had a presence in Europe throughout 2020 and 38% had a presence in North America. This internationalisation gave them an advantage that allowed them to weather the many storms of 2020.
Looking at how to capitalise on this throughout the rest of 2021, half (51%) of are planning overseas growth in Europe over the next 12 months, and 43% in North America. Further plans to expand internationally is not only a good sign for growth, but should further increase resilience within the sector.
While there are many concerns, the fact that financial services businesses are investing in technology like AI and machine learning, as well as still planning to grow internationally, means that they are providing themselves with the best chances of dealing with any upcoming challenges effectively.
In order to maintain their growth and resilience throughout the next 12 months, it’s imperative that they continue to put their customers first, invest in technology and remain on the front foot of digital change.
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