Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Insurance Software + Top Apps in Europe

May 24, 2024

Insurance software applications

Navigating insurance software choices can be tricky for insurers. Luckily, there are only two choices here, really: you can use either off-the-shelf or custom platforms for your operations.

Ok, come to think of it—there are more choices to make since once you opt for an off-the-shelf solution, you need to pick a particular app from the multitude of available ones. Same if you go for a custom solution—you also need to choose the right provider and—a little heads-up—there are plenty of those, too. So much for two choices. But the main decision boils down to two options: off-the-shelf or custom software.

So, which one should you choose? That’s quite a pickle considering both approaches offer their own sets of advantages. But we hope this article will help you weigh your options effectively. And since we, Shaped Thoughts, are based in Europe (in Poland, to be precise), we’re going to present some trends in the European industry market.

Let’s dive right in.

Off-the-shelf vs. Custom: What Platforms Do Insurers Use in Europe?

Back in 2019, a thematic review by EIOPA shed light on the adoption of big data analytics tools in claims management, revealing a minority (25%) of insurers bought off-the-shelf solutions. This implies that a significant portion of European insurers were using custom or in-house-developed solutions rather than off-the-shelf platforms, at least back then. 

And given the rapid development of technological advancements and innovations, as well as the ever-changing needs of digital-savvy customers, we can assume this trend towards custom platforms has only increased in the past years and will continue to.

Off-the-Shelf Software Platforms

Off-the-shelf product

The growing popularity and development of custom platforms for the insurance market doesn’t mean off-the-shelf software solutions are yesterday’s news. Far from it. There are many insurers who opt for off-the-shelf applications for their operations over bespoke platforms. After all, these ready-made apps offer distinct benefits appreciated by many insurers.

That said, let’s break down what advantages and disadvantages lie behind off-the-shelf solutions.

Pros of off-the-shelf solutions

  • Lower upfront costs: Off-the-shelf solutions entail lower upfront expenses which enhances accessibility for smaller insurers with tighter budgets.
  • Fast implementation and deployment: Provides out-of-the-box features thanks to which insurers can see the results sooner.
  • Established support and regular updates: Vendors behind a ready-made platform provide assistance and maintenance as well as frequent updates to ensure smooth operation and ongoing improvement.

Cons of off-the-shelf solutions

  • Lack of customisation: Lack of tailored features may hurt your operational performance as you might end up having to adjust your processes to fit the platform, rather than adapting the software to your specific business requirements and workflows. Who calls the shots here?
  • Limited scalability and flexibility: As insurers grow, pre-built platforms might struggle to keep up, causing businesses to replace them which, in turn, leads to costly transitions to new systems. 
  • Compatibility issues: It’s likely that off-the-shelf software won’t be compatible with existing systems.
  • Unnecessary features: Ready-made solutions might contain extra features that insurers don’t need which will only drive up expenses.
  • Limited control: By choosing an off-the-shelf platform, insurers are dependent on vendors and have less control over the product roadmap.
  • Extra costs over time: Don’t let the lower upfront costs fool you. There’s a catch here—off-the-shelf solutions may entail ongoing additional expenses for customisation, subscription, maintenance, and updates, which might even add up to the point of outweighing the initial costs of custom solutions.
  • Lack of competitive edge: Off-the-shelf software is designed for broad use; hence, it may fall short of meeting the specific needs of your business. This also does a number on your ability to stand out in the market since your competitors might be using the very same platform.

Off-the-shelf Insurance Platforms Available in the European Market

There are a myriad of off-the-shelf insurance platforms out there to choose from. Below are merely several examples of ready-made software solutions popular with insurers in the European market.

CDL Strata

CDL is a software provider catering for the insurance industry within the UK.

Strata—CDL’s insurance platform, supports a range of insurance products and technologies, such as price comparison sites, online self-service options, telematics-based insurance, and connected home devices. The platform aims to enhance the insurance shopping experience to meet the needs of modern digital-savvy consumers.

Guidewire InsuranceSuite

Guidewire is a California-based company that offers insurance software and technology solutions, mostly for the P&C insurance industry worldwide. Their comprehensive cloud-based insurance platform called Guidewire InsuranceSuite integrates policy administration, billing, and claims management into an end-to-end solution for P&C insurers.

Root Platform

Root Platform is an end-to-end digital insurance platform designed to help insurance providers swiftly build, launch, and manage modern, API-driven insurance products and digital engagement channels. It provides a low-code environment for prototyping and launching programmable products, along with a full policy management system covering all aspects of the policy lifecycle, be it quote generation, administration, premium collection, claims processing, and reporting.

AdInsure

AdInsure is a configurable, open, and scalable insurance platform developed by Adacta. It integrates emerging technologies, streamlining insurers’ workflows and adapting to industry changes. The platform offers predefined processes that work out-of-the-box to support insurers’ operations from day one. 

msg.PIA

msg.PIA (Primary Insurance Application) is an insurance solution from msg Group that supports both P&C and life insurers, as well as portfolio-managing brokers and captive insurers. The platform provides a standardised, process-oriented interface, enabling flexible portfolio administration management. It’s designed to be integrated with external systems and portals and is SAP-based for stability, scalability, and regulatory compliance.

Custom Software Platforms

Custom software

One down, one to go. Having discussed ready-made platforms, let’s dive into the other option that you have for your insurance operations—custom software. If you’re looking for a solution that aligns perfectly with your needs, this is it. And as no solution is flawless, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. Just a few, though. Here are the key points we’ve jotted down about this approach.

Pros of custom solutions

  • Tailored to unique needs: Custom applications are designed from scratch to address an insurer’s specific needs, challenges and workflows.
  • Competitive edge: With unique features and functionality, bespoke solutions provide insurers with a competitive advantage as the software can be regularly adapted to dynamic business needs, which adds to flexibility and scalability altogether.
  • Full control: Custom platforms provide insurers with full control and ownership over the software. 
  • Seamless integration with existing systems: Unlike off-the-shelf platforms, custom solutions are crafted to be fully compatible with the systems you already have in place, which in turn, improves efficiency and data flow.

Cons of custom solutions

  • Higher upfront costs: Opting for a custom insurance platform entails an increased initial development investment compared to off-the-shelf solutions.
  • Long implementation and deployment: As opposed to ready-made applications, bespoke platforms may take more time to be put into action, since besides the development itself, there’s also planning and testing (hence the higher costs mentioned above)
  • Need for ongoing maintenance: Ensuring smooth functionality of a custom platform calls for continuous support and maintenance. This means allocating resources and personnel to handle issues and updates, and ensure compatibility, which can be both time-consuming and costly for insurers.

Off-the-shelf or Custom? Which Is Right for You?

Business decision

So, which platform will be better for your business? Off-the-shelf or custom one? The truth is this decision solely depends on your business needs. And since each company is unique, what might work for others, might not necessarily work for you.

How to know what to choose, then? The best way to pick the right solution for your insurance business is to thoroughly consider all the pros and cons the two approaches entail. While off-the-shelf solutions are convenient and offer immediate benefits, custom platforms might have the upper hand in the long run. By opting for a bespoke solution, you can ensure that your unique needs are met on point. This approach becomes especially valuable if you anticipate your business needs evolving in a particular direction. By investing in custom software from the get-go, you can proactively address future requirements and spare yourself the hassle of transitioning to new systems later on. 

Yet, this doesn’t have to be the case with your business. Maybe off-the-shelf insurance solutions will do the job just fine. Maybe there’s a platform out there that already offers the very things you need, and you won’t have to worry about considering custom software at all.

Off-the-shelf vs. Custom Solutions: Conclusions

When deciding on an insurance platform, the choice between off-the-shelf and custom solutions can have a big impact on your operations and future success.

While ready-made applications might offer a faster and more cost-effective solution (among other points we discussed), custom platforms entail greater flexibility and a way better alignment with your needs. Yes, it means higher initial costs, but in the long run, it’s totally worth it for your strategic advantage.

And with us having your back, that advantage is yours. Europe or not, doesn’t really matter to us. At Shaped Thoughts, we develop best-in-class custom software solutions that perfectly align with your business no matter where you’re based. There are no geographical limitations to our services. If you need a reliable custom software development provider for your insurance company, let us be one. Contact us today and let’s make that impact together.

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