I want to extend a warm welcome to my fellow commissioners and regulators as we gather in Austin. Over the past two decades, Texas’s capital city has become a major hub for the tech industry. This makes Austin an ideal place to discuss how technology is shaping the insurance industry – and the need for regulators to stay abreast of developments.
Insurance companies have been eager users of advanced technology for predictive analytics, data mining, and sophisticated financial analysis. Unfortunately, regulators all too often find themselves struggling to keep up – driving a Yugo while the industry is driving a Tesla.
I’ve seen this firsthand since becoming insurance commissioner two years ago. I took office just weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast. In the two months after the storm, my agency saw a 50% increase in licensing applications, which led to backlogs and long call hold times.
Our solution: Modernize. We moved nearly all agent and adjuster licensing applications and renewals online. Not only can we process electronic applications faster and cheaper than paper ones, this change also freed our staff to work on more complex issues and improve our customer service. Over the past two years, we’ve reduced processing times for license applications from more than a month to less than a week. Ultimately, we improved our efficiency enough that we were able to reduce our licensing exam fees.
We’ve made similar improvements across the agency:
- We increased our use of automation to process complaints and balance billing mediation requests more quickly.
- We upgraded our technology to give our staff access to modern tools for data analysis, legal research, and project planning.
- We moved to modern web-based systems for job applications, open records requests, and similar processes.
We’re always looking for new ways to use technology to improve our operations. We’re particularly interested in the potential benefits of artificial intelligence. Insurance companies file more than 35,000 insurance policies with my agency each year. This creates a workload challenge for our staff who review those policies. Artificial intelligence has the potential to quickly perform this labor-intensive review almost instantly, enabling our staff to spend more time on complex and higher-value issues.
The challenges we’re facing aren’t unique to Texas. Almost all states are seeing growth in their markets and must modernize to remain effective. We need cutting-edge technology and efficient processes to keep pace with a rapidly evolving industry. Events like this NAIC meeting are a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and ultimately improve efficiency and consumer protection in every state.
I’m excited about the discussions that we’ll have in Austin this week and the solutions we can develop collaboratively to enhance the future of state regulation.
Very truly yours,
Kent C. Sullivan
Texas Insurance Commissioner