Set up in 1993 with only 11 employees, Admiral Group is a Cardiff, UK-based insurance company originally only specialising in car insurance, but which now offers a variety of products, including home and travel insurance. It now has 11,000 staff in eight countries, and in its last full financial year (2020) claimed 7.7m customers and £1.31 billion in annual turnover. Impressive figures, but from an RPA point of view is another stat from its annual report: that 500,000 hours have been “given back to the business in automation savings” since the approach was adopted in 2016.
Another specific saving called out in the summary: that use of automation ensured that payment to suppliers was both completed and sped up via automation, increasing the volume of authorised auto repairs by 10% in Q2 versus Q1—and this during COVID. Now, thousands of its quotes per day and 80% of all its solutions now have a robot involved somewhere, the company confirms.
‘We thought, There must be potential in this’
The company’s chosen partner in that five-year (so far) journey has been UiPath, and the company is very clear that it feels it made the right vendor partner choice here. The ‘top tips’ from Admiral’s success with RPA implementation, are, for Harper, securing executive sponsorship; building the right team; researching the market fully to identify the ideal tech and partner; identifying great automation process candidates; and working as hard as you can on colleague engagement.
Useful—but as this engagement is one of the most established and successful UiPath use cases in the UK, what best practice and recommendations can be gleaned from it for other companies looking to get into RPA? The first lesson, maybe, comes from the very way the technology was first introduced, which was something of an experiment, according to its Head of Claims Business Support, Rob Harper (“We were looking at re-platforming the system we used to transact claims on with our policy numbers system, and we thought, There must be potential in this”).
And amusingly (or super-pragmatically?), the method for identifying the first internal repetitive business process to automate was nothing like the more formal (and indeed, UiPath tool-supported) approaches later used, according to his colleague Neil Davies, Automation Strategy Manager and first RPA project manager:
“Basically, what I did was ask a team I knew quite well what they hated doing—what was the piece of work that came in every week, every month, every day that you all absolutely hate? They all showed out the same answer in unison: so that was the first robot I built!”
Davies jokes that because he built that first robot, it “wasn’t very good”. But that wasn’t really the point: “Within a week or two, it took away that pain point from them. That example then became the ‘flywheel’ I could take around the business and show to other people, because you’ve got to be able to show what this stuff can do—when they can see a guy over there doesn’t have to do something, anymore and he’s a much happier person because of it. That’s a much easier message to convince people of the value of RPA than a vendor video.”
Prime for automating
Harper says that after that initial success, and with more coming through in its wake, the company had the impetus to start to think creatively on how more and more processes could be similarly improved:
“Pretty much all insurance businesses deal with large datasets in multiple systems, internal and external, they have to knit together. So, there’s a lot of copy and paste, a lot of repetition of information, there’s a lot of payment processing. When you really start to look at this and break it down, you can soon see how many are really prime for automating.”
But, he stresses, this five-year success at his company has never been about replacing people. “It’s about creating a balance—we didn’t want really technically-skilled claims handlers in our business spending time on supplier payments when a robot can do that really effectively and much more quickly. You need both your authentic and artificial intelligence co-existing if you want to drive better business outcomes, which is one of the key drivers for us.”