Suncorp deploys Watson AI in claims processing


Australia largest general insurance group Suncorp has announced it has successfully integrated a Watson-based liability verification engine to support its online claims process.

Utilising IBM Watson’s Natural Language Classifier, the system analyses customer descriptions of motor vehicle accidents to determine liability. The technology has been rolled out across Suncorp’s main subsidiaries, including AAMI, Suncorp, GIO and Bingle, but is currently limited to processing online claims only.

Since its initial launch in July 2017, Suncorp said it has tripled the proportion of customers fast-tracked through the AI-backed system. The insurer claims the system can lodge, pay any excess (if required) and book repairs within five minutes.

Gary Dransfield, Suncorp chief executive, insurance, said the technology serves not only to “augment our claim consultant’s knowledge and expertise,” but also instil “greater confidence in our liability decisions.”

“By integrating Watson, not only is our claims process streamlined, but we have further improved the consistency of our liability decisions while establishing a reliable reference point based on a very large history of claims and industry guidelines,” he said.

In its initial test phase prior to its full rollout, Suncorp claimed Watson was able to accurately determine liability in around 90 per cent of cases. 

As a failsafe, if the system is unable to determine liability with full confidence – by not meeting a minimum predetermined confidence rating – claims will be automatically routed to a human adviser for final assessment.

Suncorp trained Watson on the complexities associated with determining liability in motor vehicle accidents using nearly 15,000 de-personalised claim scenarios and the resulting liability determination, in line with guidelines from the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA). The company said its unique adaptation can process conversational statements, including Australian colloquialisms and slang, to effectively determine liability.

Developed in IBM’s DeepQA project by a research team, Watson is an AI-backed ‘cognitive computing’ system designed to answer questions posed to it in natural language. Suncorp’s online claims platform utilises Watson’s Natural Language Classifier to analyse text submitted by claimants, applying business rules and recognised keywords from which it makes a determination. The system then attaches a “confidence level” to the decision, based on what the system knows of similar decisions that have occurred in the past.