Tag Archives: emerging technology

How to Thrive Using Emerging Tech

Early adopters of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are able to sift through massive amounts of data and use it to enable various capabilities. These range from making decisions about how to triage a claim using algorithms to improving a customer’s overall claims experience using more data and sources automatically pulled in from AI and ML methodologies. 

But where does the rest of the industry stand with these new capabilities? We released a study around how the top 100 U.S. carriers are benefiting from AI and ML and the challenges and opportunities for an AI-driven future. We found that 75% believe proper implementation of AI can provide carriers with a competitive advantage through better decision-making. 

While only 62% say the carrier they work for is already applying, piloting or planning AI and ML initiatives, these early adopters are already seeing significant AI and ML benefits. In terms of improving the experience for existing customers, insurers are experiencing advantages with faster claims settlements (88%), improved fraud detection (87%) and better risk scoring (85%). On the prospecting side, AI and ML are enabling early adopting insurers more customized and targeted opportunities for cross- and upselling (88%). 

Of the survey respondents representing insurers that are early adopters, most come from the 20 largest U.S. carriers, but adoption across the remaining top 100 U.S. carriers is also rapidly increasing.

While carriers are generally positive about their use of AI and ML, implementation does come with its own set of challenges surrounding staffing, data and compliance. 

The challenges around AI and ML adoption 

Insurance carriers are largely positive about the value of their AI and ML initiatives, but the study identified the challenges they will need to overcome. Staffing challenges are a major concern. According to the study, nearly half of the respondents (49%) said that AI and ML implementation has already affected their staffing plans today. Insurers need people who can understand the inputs and outputs of the applications, and who can explain them to the business. They need knowledge managers who can speak in both technical and non-technical languages and link the dialogue between parties.

See also: Stop Being Scared of Artificial Intelligence

Another major concern is the ability to access high-quality, trustworthy data. The three main issues with data that survey respondents mentioned include their ability to manage the volume and security of the data; linking and normalizing data across different data sources; and ensuring access to the data. Adopters clearly see the value of third-party data, as a majority of the adopters (82%) say their organizations have or will buy external data for their AI and ML initiatives. 

The third concern we found is around compliance and regulatory challenges with insurers’ use of AI and ML. Adopters worry that regulators and legal bodies may not understand AI and ML applications and could possibly block or limit them. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of adopters also have concerns about data privacy, security and ownership issues, anticipating increased regulatory scrutiny as more data sources are accessed and modeled.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things, 95% of personal lines insurers are moving forward with their overall technology plans and investments, with only 5% retrenching, according to Strategy Meets Action (SMA). Meanwhile, 75% of commercial lines insurers are moving forward with their overall technology plans and investments, with only 25% retrenching or pausing. 

See also: Step 1 to Your After-COVID Future

Despite these challenges, the early adopters of AI and ML are already seeing benefits. Faster claims settlement, more targeted cross-selling and upselling, improvement in fraud detection and better risk scoring are just a few advantages that insurers are leveraging. As insurance carriers look to implement emerging technology, they should find a technology partner that has a deep understanding of the data, analytics and insurance industry to help them maximize their AI and ML initiatives. In particular, they should look to find a partner with a demonstrated expertise in building models that leverage advanced analytics and that have extensive experience in managing, normalizing and analyzing increasing volumes of data. By this time next year, only those insurance carriers that are fully embracing and implementing AI and ML capabilities now will have that competitive advantage.

For additional insights and data from our study, you can turn to our white paper, The State of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the Insurance Industry.

When Emerging Tech Is No Longer Emerging

At SMA, we have been tracking what we and others have called emerging technologies for the better part of the last decade. However, the question arises, “When is an emerging technology no longer emerging?” Technologies such as drones or mobile payments are often classified as emerging tech, but these technologies are, in fact, relatively mature. And their adoption is becoming widespread. Artificial intelligence is also touted by many as an emerging technology, which is quite odd given that the term AI was coined in 1956. But maybe classifying technologies as “emerging” misses the main point anyway, which is how technology transforms industries.

Thus, rather than approach the topic from a pure technology perspective, we believe it is more important to take an insurance business perspective. This is why we at SMA now discuss a category we call transformational technologies. From this point of view, when the technology was created or how far along it is in the development cycle becomes irrelevant, although those are still interesting facts. Instead, the focus on transformational technologies places emphasis on which technologies are now having (and will have) the most impact on the insurance industry.

What, then, are examples of transformational technologies? There are a large number of technologies that fit the bill, so perhaps it is more useful to sort them into categories. First, a major point before identifying the four key categories of transformational technologies – data is at the center of transformation and is fueling every transformational technology. Whether the data is proprietary or generally available, structured or unstructured, or gathered from traditional or new sources, it is essential to every single transformational technology.

See also: Emerging Tech Is Poised for Growth  

The four main groups of transformational technologies include:

  1. The connected world: sensors, devices, platforms and solutions that are related to buildings, vehicles, people and other physical things in the world
  2. Access, transfer and security tech: technologies such as 5G, edge, blockchain and biometrics that are vital for information in a connected world
  3. Insights and actions: the analytics and AI technologies that derive meaning and drive actions
  4. New UI technologies: tech that now includes voice, chatbots, augmented reality and more

It’s important to understand how these technologies in combination with foundational technologies address specific insurance business problems and opportunities. The following examples show the power of applying a business use case lens to identify potential solutions that leverage transformational technologies.

Claims fraud: Technology to address this age-old problem has been evolving for decades. There are now solutions that combine machine learning with existing claims administration systems, damage estimation systems and data – to take fraud detection and management to new levels of effectiveness.

Property underwriting: Aerial imagery captures digital data from drones, satellites and fixed-wing aircraft, which is then analyzed by AI/image recognition/machine learning algorithms to present insights to underwriters on property characteristics and risks. These technology systems are integrated with the foundational systems and data that underwriters use today.

See also: Insurtech’s Lowest Common Denominator  

Change is sweeping through the insurance industry, which is likely to continue full steam ahead for the next decade. The transformational technologies that are the catalysts for much of this change will continue to evolve and be applied to more and more use cases across the insurance enterprise. And whether we call them emerging, transformational or something else will make no difference: These technologies are ushering in a new way of doing and experiencing everything.

Emerging Technology in Personal Lines

Personal lines insurers are investigating emerging technologies and developing strategies and plans related to individual new technologies. Technology is advancing so rapidly that it is even difficult to define what should be considered an emerging technology. For the past several years, SMA has been tracking 13 technologies that many consider to be emerging. These include technologies such as autonomous vehicles, AI, wearables and the Internet of Things. In our recent research, five of these technologies have emerged as “power players” for personal lines insurers, based on the level of insurer activity and the potential for transformation. The specific plans by insurers for these and other technologies are detailed in the SMA report, Emerging Tech in Personal Lines: Broad Implications, Significant Activity.

See also: 2018’s Top Projects in Personal Lines  

Some big themes for emerging tech in personal lines stand out:

  • Artificial Intelligence dominates. AI is often a misunderstood and misused term. However, when specific technologies that are part of the AI family are evaluated, much activity is underway – by insurers, insurtech startups and mature tech vendors. Chatbots, robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and others are the subjects of many strategies, pilots and implementations.
  • The Autonomous Vehicle frenzy is cooling.There is still an acute awareness of the potential of autonomous vehicles to dramatically alter the private passenger auto insurance market. But there is also the realization that, despite the hype, the transition is likely to be a long one, and the big implications for insurers are probably 10 or more years out.
  • The IoT is going mainstream. Discussions continue about the transformational potential of the IoT for all lines of business. But rather than just talking about the possibilities, there is now a great deal of partnering, piloting and live implementation underway. We are still in the early stages of incorporating the IoT into strategies and insurance products and services, but their use is becoming more widespread every day.
  • UI Options are dramatically expanding. The many new ways to interact with prospects, policyholders, agents, claimants and others should now be considered in omni-channel plans. Messaging platforms, voice, chatbots and more are becoming preferred ways to communicate for certain customer segments.

See also: Insurtech and Personal Lines  

Certainly, other trends and much emerging tech activity are happening outside these main themes. Wearables, new payment technologies, drones, blockchain and other technologies are being incorporated into strategies, pilots and investment plans. The next few years promise to be quite exciting as advancing technologies spark more innovation in the industry.

Emerging Tech in Commercial Lines

Historically, technology adoption within commercial lines organizations has been met with a wall of push-back, largely related to commercial lines being wrapped in a cloak of “art versus science” thinking. Because of risk and product complexity, commercial lines organizations believed that only highly trained and seasoned humans could be involved with processes and decisions.

Additionally, due to the predominance of large, enterprise-scale projects, characterized by protracted ROI exercises and IT resource allocation exercises, past technology choices generally brought out the “yeah buts.” (What are the “yeah buts”? This is the response to enterprise technology options, to which commercial lines product and underwriting heads promptly responded – “yeah, but that doesn’t work for us.”) In many cases, this was not an inappropriate response because of risk and product complexity. But, at long last, there is a change afoot, and it lies within emerging technologies.

SMA has been conducting research and surveys around emerging technology since 2010 to gain insight and understanding of insurance industry adoption and spending. In the past, results have predominantly trended across the P&C industry. However, the recent 2018 results reveal clear differences between commercial lines and personal lines organizations.  Even more exciting, commercial lines product segment and transactional differences are emerging. As the phrase goes: Vive la difference!

See also: Expanding Into Commercial Lines  

So, what does all this mean? SMA’s recent report, Emerging Tech in Commercial Lines: Ramping Up Adoption, covers eight emerging technologies that hold great promise for commercial lines organizations: artificial intelligence (AI), new user interaction technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, blockchain, autonomous vehicles, new payment technologies and wearables. How are commercial lines organizations viewing these technologies? Here are some examples that show emerging technologies are being viewed uniquely by varying commercial lines segments and processes:

  • AI – This technology garners the highest percentage of implementations of all the emerging technologies by almost twice the other categories, with 26% indicating so. Investment in AI exceeds the next closest emerging technology by more than 24 percentage points. The difference: It can drive straight-through processing for small business and simple specialty lines and support complex decisions for middle market, large national/global accounts and complex specialty lines. “Art versus science” well managed!
  • New User Interaction Technologies – This is another technology that is affecting small commercial lines as this product segment goes digital. But 67% of all responders see the value in customer experience, regardless of product segment, and 50% are focused on policy servicing.
  • Blockchain – While personal lines organizations are generally assessing the applicability of blockchain, commercial lines have found use cases and pilots. 42% of survey respondents believe that policy servicing and billing are the significant value areas. Global and complex lines of business are the first target areas.

See also: Top 5 Themes in Commercial Lines  

Other emerging technology examples and spending projections can be found in SMA’s commercial lines report. But the big takeaway for me is that, happily, the “yeah buts” are disappearing across commercial lines of business and products as executives search for and find emerging technologies that can improve business outcomes. Because of the way emerging technologies are being delivered by incumbent and insurtech providers, discreet value choices can be made without having to launch enterprise-level projects. Vive la difference!!!

Emerging Tech Is Poised for Growth

In recent years, insurers have taken an active interest in a wide range of tools and technologies that fall under the “emerging” label. This label covers a spectrum: Tech approaching ubiquity, like mobile and predictive analytics, is on one end, and tech with low adoption rates, like blockchain and smart home, populates the other end. The five technologies that fall in the middle of the range are receiving a flurry of attention from insurers: artificial intelligence (AI), big data, sensors and telematics, drones and robotic process automation (RPA).

Our study of more than 100 insurer CIO participants shows that while 15% to 25% of insurers have made deployments in this middle group of technologies, equal or greater numbers of carriers are actively planning pilot programs for 2018, and these technologies are poised for rapid growth. Most pilot activity is in digital and analytics areas as insurers look to these five emerging technologies to improve risk analysis, fraud detection, service and operating efficiency.

See also: Insurtech: How to Keep Insurance Relevant  

Under the umbrella of AI, machine learning is being used to improve the performance of rating or fraud-detection algorithms. Carriers are also embracing AI to mine unstructured data from images and raw text as they move forward in their journeys to improve data analytics.

With the growth of AI and predictive analytics comes an increasing importance of big data. For about a quarter of insurers, the use of big data tools, such as Hadoop and NoSQL, is common. Less common is the use of big data sets such as weather data and raw internet consumer data. Regardless, insurers are planning explorations and pilot activity in both areas.

Tools within the space of sensors (IoT) and telematics are maturing, moving beyond simple rating discounts. These tools are especially gaining traction and adoption in property/casualty; value messages are evolving to include value-added services, providing customers with greater risk management tools.

The use of drones is enabling the capture of certain types of information for the first time. As a result, drones are quickly becoming a standard tool for both property inspections and claims. Most property/casualty insurers report a positive value, though most are working with service partner providers rather than building their own capabilities.

RPA holds high interest for insurers and is an area of active pilot programs. While not a transformative technology, RPA is a valuable short-term fix for poorly designed systems and processes that helps avoid expensive reengineering.

See also: Insurance Technology Trends in ’17, Beyond  

The important thing to keep in mind is that technology changes faster than culture and practices at most insurance companies. To fully leverage the capabilities offered by emerging technology, carriers should look at their products and processes in light of new technical, market and customer realities. Harnessing the growth of emerging technologies should lead to improved risk analysis, streamlined processes and better business results for insurance companies in 2018 and beyond.