Pandemic accelerated technology use in insurance industry by roughly five years

Pandemic accelerated technology use in insurance industry by roughly five years

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of technologies, as well as the development of new ones in the insurance industry, as companies turned to the option more than ever to continue to do business.  

The need for digital services — including those that improved client experiences and created companywide efficiencies — was crucial over the past 18-plus months as people sheltered at home, worked remotely and turned to digital and virtual platforms, according to local industry experts.  


Tom Hammond, vice president of corporate strategy and product management at Paychex Inc., is not surprised by the increased use of digitized services in the insurance industry, noting it has become commonplace not only in a range of industries, but in people’s personal lives, as well.  

“What do we do today that isn’t digitized?” he says.  

Hammond says COVID-19 accelerated technology adoption by three to seven years, as the need for such services grew instantly.  

“We went digital overnight and businesses across the spectrum needed to shift,” he says.  

Paychex already had a strong digital presence pre-pandemic and was able to make a smooth transition when COVID-19 hit, Hammond says. 

The development of digital products for clients that were in the works prior to the pandemic, however, were accelerated because of it, including several offerings announced in September, Hammond says.  

The products were developed in response to companies’ needs, including helping employers meet candidate and worker demand for increased flexibility, providing more competitive benefits and offering easier access to human resources data and information.  

Hammond said among the top issues for businesses are finding and retaining talent, as well as looking for technologies that automate their processes and drive efficiencies.  

With many companies are increasing wages as one way to attract top talent, as well as a number of businesses dealing with pricing challenges due to supply chain issues, firms are looking for ways to cut costs. 

Hammond says small- and medium-sized business customers are adopting technologies in their organizations to optimize efficiencies and drive a better employee experience.  

Companies were looking at such options before, but the interest grew during the pandemic and continues to do so every month since its onset, he notes.  

In response to the increased need, Paychex announced earlier this month its acquisition of Flock, a San Francisco-based benefits enrollment and administration, onboarding and human resources information system provider.  

The business helps employers efficiently manage their workforce and employees to better understand and digitally enroll in their health insurance and benefits’ plans.  

The latter is paramount today when employers are looking for talent across the country, and even around the world, and need a competitive edge, he notes.  

Employee needs are changing and benefits plans are evolving, with a focus on digital services, including mobile applications, Hammond explains, noting that the hiring and onboarding processes are now highly digitized.  

By having such technology in place, employees can review health insurance plans digitally, and then select and complete the necessary information in a secure and convenient way.  

The same digital process can be done with other employee benefits, including retirement benefits, he says.  

“It’s a really powerful tool,” Hammond says.  

While technology has taken a greater role in the industry and has met a need, it complements, not replaces, human interaction, he says.  

“Yes, we have strong technology,” Hammond says. “We couple that with personalized service, which can help you translate data into insights, so you get the most out of the technology we have today.”  


Paul Dreher, director of personal insurance at Lawley Service Inc., agrees that the pandemic accelerated technology adoption for insurance companies and many changes are likely to remain.  

Dreher says most changes were related to the firm’s workforce, as well as the delivery of client services.  

At the onset of the pandemic, some 95 percent of the workforce did their jobs remotely, he says, adding that the firm used technology that allowed for remote client interactions, as well as colleague networking.  

“It was a big change,” he says.  

Employees now follow a hybrid work schedule, working in the office three days a week and remotely on the other two days. The decision of a hybrid schedule was made by the company and included the input from two employee surveys.  

Having the hybrid schedule allows for that flexibility many employees are seeking and also provides opportunities for some face-to-face interaction. 

Remote work continues to be researched at Lawley, he says, with a cohort reviewing what other companies are doing when it comes to the topic, as well as other related issues such as maintaining and strengthening company cultures.  

Staying on top of the changing trends related to remote work is needed to continue to draw top talent to the agency during a time when competition for employees is high, Dreher notes.  

“We want to be an employer of choice,” he says.  

Conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, also played a leading role in the insurance field over this time, he says.  

While such virtual options will never replace in-person interactions, they could likely continue to be used as an option moving forward, Dreher says.  

Another change over the course of the pandemic related to technology was the increased use of electronic deliveries of insurance policies and related documents. 

That includes the use of e-signatures, which became a popular option during the pandemic in a range of industries, including insurance.  

Electronic deliveries of insurance documents, as well as e-signatures, were around pre-pandemic, but not used on a regular basis, he says. 

That demand grew, however, because of COVID-19.  

“There was increased interest, especially with the use of e-signatures,” Dreher says, noting such technology was embraced by agents as well as clients. “It was heavily tested throughout the pandemic and really created some efficiencies.”  

While technological advancements have been critical during the pandemic and will likely play a role moving forward, Dreher believes it is beneficial for employees to have in-person interactions because they can help create a cohesive work culture.  

“We are better together,” he says.  

Andrea Deckert is a Rochester-area freelance writer.