Sunshine Insurance and AI Innovation

Sunshine Insurance and AI Innovation

Sunshine Insurance Group is the seventh largest insurance company in China. One of its subsidiaries, Sunshine P&C Insurance Co., has won a number of awards under the leadership of its Chief Data Officer and the Group’s Vice-President of the Technology Center of Intelligence, Dong Li.

In late 2018, the company earned the prestigious award for its ‘claim management through technology’ project, which was granted by Insurance Association of China (IAC). “In that project, AI was implemented to classify ID cards, receipts and other documents required for claim submissions and handling, and to evaluate vehicle damage levels, all through our own Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system and a partner’s image recognition algorithms,” shares Li. Another significant award achieved by the company was the ‘intelligent auto insurance pricing platform,’ which was granted by China Information Association. “In that project, big data predictive models were developed through machine learning (ML) to reduce thousands of customers’ external data dimensions,” he explains. “The models came up with more accurate predictions of auto loss ratios, enabling differentiated pricing and avoidance of adverse selection. I am very proud of leading a group of talented people to achieve milestones of those projects that have earned significant awards and industry-wide recognition.”

Li was originally hired to lead Sunshine P&C Insurance Company’s big data applications, later being assigned to lead its IT and digital transformation. By the beginning of 2019, he was appointed to head efforts in the field of big data applications and AI execution across all subsidiaries of Sunshine Insurance Group. As Sunshine P&C Chief Data Officer, he is responsible for the testing and deployment of the latest data technologies, with a particular focus on the advancements of ML, deep learning (DL) and AI. “We have great ambition to innovate and grow our business through the use of digital transformations and data technology including Machine Learning and AI,” he says.

Li emphasises the need for a long-term technology plan, as it reduces costs, appeals to a younger generation, and meets the growing demands of customers in the digital age. He also reiterates the power of innovation in technology for streamlining the workloads of employees, something that has been accomplished at Sunshine P&C Insurance Company through the creation of an app for mobile underwriting. “The app allows employees to study new products online, underwrite policies for new customers, manage existing customers’ needs,  monitor and track the status of claims as well as send greetings on holidays or on customers’ birthdays,” he says, also pointing out that the app can be used by employees to track the productivity and performance of coworkers in order to motivate through friendly competition.

According to Li, the app connects to WeChat, easing communication between employees and customers, and enabling service transactions. “For example,” he says, “during the process of auto claims, we use WeChat as an entry point to record accident scenes, take pictures of damaged areas on vehicles and vehicle plates, audio-record descriptions of accidents, and listen to guidance messages from our claim center. The collected data is transferred to our claim center, where claim staff or AI can further process the information for subsequent actions.” In addition to this, Sunshine has an internal team dedicated to the development of image recognition products. “My team researched available open source deep learning algorithms for our own OCR system development, and ended up selecting Faster RCNN and CRNN in TensorFlow framework. Our own OCR product has beaten available products on the market, and has achieved 95-98% recognition accuracy in real world business situations.”

The streamlining of services particularly extends to the company’s telesales department, particularly when it comes to the overall wellbeing of employees, says Li. Employees in this department face mounting pressures from several angles: lack of training and assistance, low productivity and therefore a lower income. This has resulted in a high staff turnover, with many resignations coming after three months’ employment, causing the cost to sales ratio to skyrocket. “If we could use AI to enable offline training or real-time online sales assistance with telesales reps to improve their sales pitch, before or during their sales sessions, it would help improve the success rate and wellbeing of our employees in telesales,” Li says. In addition, the administrative aspect of this role may at times be arduous, as follow-up phone calls often must be timely. “Because of the content-confined and script-structured nature of the job, this type of work can be done by artificial intelligence through ASR+TTS+NLP. The applications of AI in these situations led to one big effort for the teams I am managing at Sunshine Insurance Group. We acquired ASR+TTS capabilities by partnering with an outside tech vendor, we also partnered with another NLP vendor to develop our first prototype of AI Tutoring Robot and AI Sales Assistant, already in production soon.”

Li also says that the team is honing its own NLP skills by building an internal NLP team that can develop a first-generation robot in customer services and telesales. This will aim to improve the speed and accuracy of the telesales services at a lower cost. While Sunshine P&C Insurance  is continuously becoming more self-sufficient in its AI innovations, there are vendors that are key to this transformation: iSoftStone and Knowology. “In today’s business world we need diverse partnerships to complement our strengths in technology innovation. In most digital system development, we either leveraged external technical expertise, or contracted external technical staff from vendors such as iSoftStone, or we buy technology components required to build our own NLP system from vendors such as Knowology.

“At Sunshine P&C Insurance Company, our philosophy is to have a strategic plan and solid execution. Our company is culturally rooted in innovation given its history of rapid growth since its birth. Our top leaders believe in tech transformation leading to future success.” At Sunshine P&C Insurance Company, executing change is a straightforward process. Should any challenges in communicating change arise, company leaders and executives meet on a shop floor level to ensure transparency in how the technological transformation will benefit the entirety of the company.

A bright future

As Sunshine P&C Insurance Company moves forward, Li hopes that applications of AI will only grow and notes that the international, cross-industry acceleration of technology is gaining momentum. “I hope that, within the foreseeable future, we will be able to implement next-generation AI algorithms and renovate the whole financial service industry, where transactions, services and fraud-detection can be managed in real-time and more precisely. AI will be more widely applied in replacing repeated and simple parts of jobs done previously by people, in order to improve operational efficiency and accuracy.”

Dong Li