Operations

QBE’s global operations teams provide direct customer services such as policy processing and claims management and manage our information technology, data and analytics, projects and procurement. With the support of the Operations and Technology Committee of the Board, the team progressed several initiatives to improve customer experience and strengthen operational governance, performance and resilience in 2017.

2017 HIGHLIGHTS

Digital Innovation Lab


smart device on fire

Stress-tested smart devices in a burning building.


LiDar

Applied LiDAR technologies to mapping interiors.


car

Used mobile telematics to capture driving data for commercial auto parts.


drone in the wind

Explored how wind speed affects drones using onboard sensors to assist underwriting.


Digital transformation and innovation

Technological advances are having a dramatic impact on the insurance industry and our customers. To meet customer needs and stay competitive, QBE needs to be innovative and agile so we can create new products and services, deliver better customer experiences and capture new market opportunities. We are addressing this challenge with a range of initiatives.

Digital Innovation Lab
Located in Sun Prairie, in the US, the Lab team explores how digital technologies can be applied in the insurance context. In the past year the Lab team has:

  • stress-tested smart devices in a burning building;
  • applied LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technologies to mapping interiors;
  • used mobile telematics to capture driving data and generate driver scores for our commercial auto products;
  • worked on how wind speed affects drones by using onboard sensors to capture data that will assist us with drone underwriting decisions, claims processing and operation.

These experiments are helping customers to reduce risk and increase safety, and provide information that improves our product creation and pricing.

Digital delivery centres
Established in Australia and the Philippines, these centres are fast tracking the development of front-end digital solutions to improve QBE’s customer service. For example, we combine virtual agent technology with machine learning technology to help customers get answers faster. Similar technology is now helping customers to get answers to their claims status questions at a time that suits them.

QBE Ventures
We seek out partners who can provide access to differentiated technology. In 2017, we established QBE Ventures, a corporate venture fund focused on forming commercial relationships with startups that will enhance our business model, drive efficiencies and develop new growth paths.

With more than 200 technology startups focused on the global insurance industry, our vision is to establish QBE as a partner of choice in the start-up ecosystem. During 2017, QBE Ventures entered into two partnerships – RiskGenius and Cytora. Each has an investment component.

New tech partnerships that are changing our business

RiskGenius
A machine learning company that helps carriers, brokers and regulators to analyse policy and endorsement language and aids in-product development. We expect the platform to improve our speed-to-market for new products as well as deliver new insights into our policies and streamline the policy review process.

Cytora
A London-based start-up business that uses machine learning and open source data to help commercial insurers lower loss ratios, grow premiums and improve expense ratios. We plan to deploy the Cytora risk engine across QBE’s property and casualty lines in 2018. Its AI platform will combine our internal data on a specific cover with external information from a broad spectrum of sources.

Data and analytics

We use data and analytics to help us make better underwriting and claims decisions. During 2017, we continued to invest in growing QBE’s capabilities in this area.

Aided by emerging technologies and new tools, insurance data and analytics is growing increasingly sophisticated, which ultimately benefits our customers.

Using analytics to improve claims management and underwriting decisions

  • Our Australian analytics team is using text mining and machine learning to help with cost recovery from other insurers where our customers are not at fault, or to recover appropriately from our reinsurers. Better recoveries help us manage our claims liabilities and consequently the premiums we need to charge to our customers.
  • In North America, it typically takes two months or more to pay out crop insurance claims for inadequate rainfall. A prototype loss calculation engine is using national weather data so we can notify agents of likely payouts sooner. This will give QBE’s farmer customers more reassurance about claims progress, enable faster claim resolution and provide a differentiated customer experience.
  • Our analytics team are tackling fraudulent claims in Argentina by using internal and external data and developing algorithms to highlight patterns that could signify suspicious claims, helping to reduce the cost of inappropriate claims and benefiting all customers.
  • Analytics is helping us to improve risk selection and manage pricing. Our British Marine teams are using machine learning models to predict the likelihood of claims within their protection/indemnity and hull insurance product lines to make sure we manage our risk exposures effectively. Our North American speciality and commercial lines are pursing the same outcomes.

Responding to natural disasters

We are proud of QBE’s response to catastrophe events in 2017, including Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in North America and the Caribbean.

At the peak of the events, QBE North America received 500 claims lodgement calls a day during Harvey and 200 during Irma. Of the inbound calls, 98% were answered in 20 seconds or less, and we contacted 100% of policyholders within 24 hours of their claim report. During the highest volume period, more than 120 dedicated claim professionals were in the field assessing damage. On average, we inspected claims in 14 days and approved the damages estimate less than two days later.

Maria was particularly devastating for Puerto Rico and our 147 employees on the ground were among those impacted. We mobilised our North American and global teams to help:

  • Our speciality Aviation business in North America worked with a business partner and customer, MillionAir/American Jet International, to organise emergency airlift responses.
  • Our North American Operations and Latin American Operations Risk and Business Continuity teams created a communications system to locate staff and ensure their safety.
  • QBE employees in Miami volunteered to organise and distribute donated and company-purchased emergency supplies to our colleagues in Puerto Rico.

Procurement

QBE’s global Procurement function is committed to conducting our operations in a responsible and sustainable manner, in accordance with the guidelines of ISO 20400, the new global standard for sustainable procurement. We plan to fully comply with this standard by 1 January 2020.

We conduct our current procurement activities according to five core principles.

PROCUREMENT PRINCIPLES

Procurement activities are conducted transparently and fairly.

Procurement activities are conducted in accordance with all applicable laws, including those relating to anti‑bribery, corruption and modern slavery.

All procurement process participants must adhere to the policy and probity guidelines outlined by the Procurement function.

Procurement activities take into account current and potential suppliers’ ESG practices in decision‑making.

Procurement decisions are supported by ethical, impartial and objective processes and appropriate documentation.


The Procurement team aim to deliver value for money while minimising operational risk (including legal risk) when negotiating and interacting with suppliers. Reviewing supplier information security, business continuity plans and ESG practices is a standard part of the supplier selection process. For example, our new agreements with our panel of accredited smash repairers in Australia help to ensure their environmental impact is minimised, including water pollution, odours and air pollution and the handling, storing and disposing of dangerous goods and chemicals.

Following the roll out of our Procurement Principles, in 2017 we:
  • Progressed our compliance with the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 with strategic European suppliers and extended it across all of Europe by utilising our procurement technology.
  • Updated QBE’s supplier Code of Ethics to include our expectations of supplier conduct around human rights, anti-slavery, workplace diversity, environmental considerations and community engagement.
  • Adapted QBE’s Procure to Pay (P2P) systems to include advance authorisation of payments to SME suppliers that facilitate timely payment of their invoices, to ensure we treat our SME customers equitably.
  • Reviewed QBE’s Australian supply base to determine our current spend with Indigenous vendors and social enterprises, and opportunities to further support them. We also reviewed our procurement request and contractual templates to include sustainable procurement obligations.
Operational resilience

During 2017, a review of QBE’s business continuity framework and operational resilience resulted in plans to upgrade from a divisional approach to a consistent global model, under the leadership of a new Group Business Continuity Manager.

We appointed a Global Chief Information Security Officer to drive a globally-integrated cyber security operating model and support information-sharing around cyber risks. We continued to invest in enhanced cyber security technologies and processes, including end-point detection and response, and improved cloud security monitoring capabilities.

In 2018, under the leadership of our newly appointed Group Chief Operations Officer, we will continue to invest in digital and robotics technology, sharing best practice across the globe and delivering better customer experiences.