Could there be an insurance world without paper?

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Could there be an insurance world without paper?

In today’s insurance world, Olivier Lafontaine (pictured) views document management systems as glaringly out of date. Someday, he said, they need to go away.

“I hope in the future we can stop having to deal with documents [and] document management systems. These are pieces of technology that, to me, are things of the past,” said Lafontaine, chief product officer for Equisoft. “In the future you can just deliver information in different formats and different channels.”

Founded in 1994, Equisoft is privately held and produces end-to-end systems for insurance companies and wealth management operations. This includes sales tools, analysis and systems for underwriting new business. The company’s technology also enables quoting and illustration and policy administration claims.

“We don’t do things that are industry agnostic [but] try to be the one stop shop for everything in an insurance company,” Lafontaine explained.

The company focuses largely on life insurance though it handles property/casualty and health insurance clients as well. Based in Montreal, Canada, the company does the bulk of its business in the United States and Canada, though it has clients in 25 different countries including Australia and South Africa, and a number in Europe.

Lafontaine has served in his current role as Equisoft’s chief technology executive for more than three years, but he has been with the company for 16-plus, initially as a consultant. More than 900 people work for Equisoft, of which 200 technologists are under his purview, including developers, testing engineers and related experts.

Inspiration

As Equisoft’s top tech guru, Lafontaine said he sees his role primarily focused on inspiration.

“My job is to give inspiration to our engineers. That’s a large part of it … giving them something to look for in the future, some vision of what we may be able to do from a business perspective but also from a technology perspective,” Lafontaine said. “I set the stage by putting [forward] a series of challenges and problems that we need to fix, and I help the engineering team and they usually succeed and successfully resolve those challenges with innovation and technology.”

Lafontaine explained that he puts forward the vision in “big rocks” and then the engineering team fleshes things out, and then they collectively come up with concrete ideas together.

“This is not something I can do myself, but I try to give them some high-level direction where they can imagine solutions to those problems,” Lafontaine said. “Based on their solutions, I can refine the vision in that direction, so we do that collaboratively.”

Slow but determined

As a technology executive, Lafontaine said he has learned that life insurance moves even slower than the property/casualty insurance industry does, which can make change a long process.

“For example, it is not possible today for a person to go and buy life insurance online. Most importantly, it is not possible, if you already have insurance – it is difficult to buy … additional options on your policy,” Lafontaine said.

According to Lafontaine, Equisoft is in a position to solve those problems because it has systems that handle “all teams” in the insurance industry that address things such as advisor and broker fees and insurers themselves.

“Our engineers should be able to come up with solutions … and dig into the details of APIs and things like that – mechanisms for integration that would facilitate solutions to make this a more uniform [and modern] experience,” Lafontaine said.

He added that success is always a reasonable goal.

“Everything is possible,” Lafontaine said, “if you have the right people, and the right resources at the right time.”

Digital layer, no paper

Equisoft’s most important piece of technology right now, in Lafontaine’s opinion, is the company’s “digital service layer” that it is building, which includes a portal/platform that can be easily compatible with legacy and other systems.

Such a system could be deployed for customers and useable with minimal changes, almost out-of-the-box and then enable a modern user experience for clients.

“We feel that there’s a really big need for that,” he said. “For me, that’s the most important thing and it’s hard to do, because [customers] want it to be very customized and at the same time they want it to be almost immediate and cost-effective.”

Lafontaine calls this “a very difficult challenge” and Equisoft’s “most important initiative.”

Regardless, the end-result won’t likely be paper dependent, if Lafontaine’s thoughts on paper are considered in the final product.

“In my mind that’s something that should go away,” he said. Paper “is still important and it’s an industry that changes slowly … but it’s important to move away from that medium.”

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