Don't Be Distracted

Insurers should focus more on the rapidly changing world of products and services, because of emerging technologies.

Because of the arrival of autonomous vehicles, a good number of prognosticators are loudly heralding the end of auto insurance and the insurers that rely on this income stream. While there is no doubt that the auto insurance will change over time because of autonomous vehicles, the doomsday folks paint a picture of an almost certain — and right-around-the-corner — cataclysmic change, with the general population cheering wildly about not having to pay for auto insurance anymore. Disappointingly for those people, this is a highly unlikely scenario. At the most fundamental level, autonomous vehicles are expensive. Until the bulk of the population can afford autonomous cars and trucks, we will be living in a world with a foot on each side of the driving paradigm. This means that, while the autonomous vehicle might not hit the car in front of it, the vehicle behind it may very well end up in its back seat. Uninsured and underinsured coverage, comprehensive coverage, coverage for property damage and liability coverage will be needed for a long, long time. See also: Connected Vehicles Can Improve Claims   In the meantime, auto insurers will have the opportunity to work out the liability paths with the autonomous auto manufacturers. And auto insurers will have the time to adjust their product mixes and financials. Underwriters and claims personnel will adjust processes and practices. Believe me, I am not suggesting that change won’t happen. It will. And some of the changes will be painful from several perspectives. But with all the various factors potentially reining in the spread of autonomous vehicles — cost, regulators, consumer wariness — insurers will adjust. At least the insurers that believe in innovation and data and analytics will adjust — and flourish. What people are not focusing on is the rapid change in the products and services that are coming from the convergence of emerging technologies — and this is happening right now. Take a quick perusal of the topics in SMA’s Next-Gen Innovation Community, and some examples come to light:
  • To diagnose a rare genetic disorder, a physician combined an exomes analysis with a facial comparison using an app called Face2Gene, which was developed by the same programmers who taught Facebook to find your face in your friends’ photos.
  • To reduce manufacturing times and production periods, Adidas will use 3D printing or additive manufacturing methods as the core technology of its factory that produces sneakers.
  • The use of “cobots” — collaborative robots that perform tasks alongside humans — is rapidly gaining popularity, and it is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. robotics industry.
  • The global semiconductor industry is pushing to develop new chip designs, materials and manufacturing processes. One reason is the widening use of the artificial-intelligence technique known as deep learning in products — both consumer and manufacturing products.
Additional examples could consume volumes of space. But what does this convergence mean for the insurance industry? It means unknown risk and unknown liability. Unlike the autonomous vehicle world, where underwriters and claims adjusters understand the general risk and liability landscape, the convergence of emerging technology is generating significant numbers of unknowns. Relationships between the unknown risks and liabilities will be the most challenging. The insurance industry should not be as concerned about the impact of autonomous vehicles as it should be about what is happening now in the rapidly changing world of products and services because of the effects of emerging technologies. Underwriters and claims personnel must be supported by sophisticated data and analytics capabilities using AI, machine learning and cognitive computing (pick your favorite advanced tool!)  because risk and liability will not be in the same forms as are currently familiar to insurance professionals. See also: Autonomous Car Tech Reaches Mid-Market   There are a lot of reasons that insurers will not look the same in five to seven years. Core modernization, digital capabilities and, yes, autonomous vehicles will generate change. But the halls of successful insurers will not be empty. They will be filled with technical experts in product liability, D&O, E&O, cyber and medical malpractice — to name but a few product lines that will have the ability to rapidly respond to a risk and liability landscape that didn’t exist  in their wildest imaginations two to three years ago. Insurers that are not preparing themselves for this eventuality will fail.

Karen Pauli

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Karen Pauli

Karen Pauli is a former principal at SMA. She has comprehensive knowledge about how technology can drive improved results, innovation and transformation. She has worked with insurers and technology providers to reimagine processes and procedures to change business outcomes and support evolving business models.


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