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Technology, virtual site visits help mitigate risk amid pandemic

Posted On: Dec. 8, 2020 7:00 AM CST

remote monitoring

Technology is increasingly finding a role in risk engineering and loss control programs, with insurers introducing new features and services for policyholders and prospects to increase reach and capabilities, sources said.

While not created in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, some of the applications help meet a need or fill a void resulting from the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

Several large commercial insurers, including Axa XL, a unit of Axa SA; Chubb Ltd.; and FM Global have launched various technology-driven products focused on risk engineering over the past few months.

In late November, the North American construction group at Axa XL launched its tech library, a curated collection of technology partners for policyholders of the insurer, according to Rose Hall, vice president, head of construction innovation at Axa XL in New York.

“Our contractors are looking to us all the time for advice,” Ms. Hall said. “Lately, they’ve been asking us about tech,” including everything from imagery software to drones. “We decided to get into that space to help clients navigate” the landscape of technology vendors and providers, she said.

Just over two dozen technology companies have referral agreements with Axa XL, which has negotiated fees for its policyholders with the providers, and has researched and vetted the companies, Ms. Hall said.

Being included in Axa XL’s tech library has already led to some new contacts for Pillar Technologies Inc., a New York-based insurtech firm that makes sensors used in construction projects, according to New York-based founder and CEO Alex Schwarzkopf.

Meanwhile, Axa XL in November also launched its risk scanning platform to assist companies with site data and evaluations.

Other insurers are also incorporating technology into their risk engineering.

The Remote Visit application offered by FM Global “makes it almost like an in-person visit,” said Brion Callori, senior vice president, engineering and research at the insurer’s Johnston, Rhode Island, headquarters.

The application uses high-resolution, fixed-wing imagery from the Boulder, Colorado-based Geospatial Intelligence Center, an insurance industry-backed data and imaging organization, according to Mr. Callori. With an FM Global engineer on a laptop and using latitude and longitude for location purposes, the insurer can “walk the client around the facility to see what we have to see,” he said.

While it has proved useful this year due to COVID-19-related restrictions, the application was built as “part of a long-term solution when you have travel security issues,” he said.

“Our customers are global,” and some countries may have security concerns which impact access, Mr. Callori said.

During the pandemic, the technology has enabled FM Global to conduct baseline assessments for potential new business.

The remote application has also helped with ongoing risk mitigation efforts, Mr. Callori said. It “really has been a great aid in helping clients through on projects for risk improvement they had been in the middle of.”

Meanwhile, Chubb Ltd. is using software developed in-house to schedule remote ergonomic evaluations, said Tina Minter, senior workers compensation specialist for the insurer and part of Chubb’s risk engineering team.

Ms. Minter said workers are experiencing a “higher level of discomfort” in some cases as a result of working at home. Chubb typically performs thousands of ergonomic evaluations each year as part of its client visits, but as a result of the pandemic, “we transitioned into performing remote ergonomic assessments,” she said.

The insurer has performed some 150 remote evaluations since May. “It’s something our clients are really asking for,” Ms. Minter said.

The program has also been expanded into training sessions for policyholders with large workforces that want to conduct their own remote workforce evaluations.

Christopher Hernandez, digital programs officer for Chubb and part of the insurer’s risk engineering team, said that internet-connected devices such as monitors can also be useful to help manage exposures resulting from the pandemic, such as vacant buildings or other facilities.