Tag Archives: Morgan Stanley

Why Risk Management Is a Leadership Issue

From product scandals to data breaches to natural disasters, companies are dealing with constant risk. But how they prepare for those risks can make the difference between riding the roughest wave — or drowning in it. The field of risk management, once an afterthought for many companies, is getting renewed attention with a new book by two Wharton professors who want to help business leaders think more deeply about worst-case scenarios. Michael Useem, management professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management, and Howard Kunreuther, professor of operations, information and decisions as well as co-director of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, recently spoke with the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM channel 111 about their book, Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

Useem: If you think about the two terms that Howard has referenced, risk and leadership, they go together in this case. Often, we think of those as something separate. Risk — we’ve got to be analytical and disciplined, and it’s often technical. Leadership — it’s all about having a vision and setting a strategy. But we concluded, after talking with quite a few people and companies’ directors, executives and senior managers that the time has come for the conjoining of these two terms. Many companies now are self-conscious about appraising risk, measuring risk, managing risk and ensuring the company is ready to lead through a tough moment the risk has caused.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is this a recognition that has developed recently, compared with the executive mindset of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s?

Useem: Yes. I think what really got us going on the book in terms of the timing is exactly what you’ve referenced. Ten or 15 years ago, no companies had a chief risk officer. Risk was barely mentioned. The term “enterprise risk management” (ERM) was not even around. But if you look at any trend line out there, what do people worry about when they get together at watering holes for senior management? Risk now is on the agenda just about everywhere, for good reason: Because the risk that companies have faced in recent years has gone up. The catastrophic downside of big risk also has increased. More risk, more downside, more people are paying attention.

Kunreuther: One of the really interesting issues associated with the study and our interviews with senior management is that, before 9/11, there was very little emphasis by the firms on low-probability events — the black swan events. Starting with 9/11 and continuing through to today, these issues now have become more important, and black swans are now much more common than before. As a result, firms are paying attention. When we interviewed people, they were very clear with us that now that the events have occurred, they are putting it high on the agenda. As Mike has indicated, the boards and all of senior management are now paying attention to it, so it’s a big, big change.

Knowledge@Wharton: Certainly, 9/11 was an impactful event on the country, but it was followed a few years later by the Great Recession. How did that change the view of risk?

Useem: We raised the question in these in-depth interviews with people inside the company, whether on the board or in the management suite, and they consistently said that four events became a wake-up call or an alarm bell. First, 9/11 got us thinking about the unthinkable. A couple of hurricanes came through, including Sandy, which was a huge event. The recession or the near-depression back in 2008, 2009. Who thought that the Dow was going to lose 500 points in a day? Who thought Lehman was going to go under? But it all happened. And finally, the events in 2011 in Japan with the enormous tsunami after a 9.0 earthquake that left probably 25,000 people dead and set a fire in a nuclear plant.

Even if you were a company that was not touched, just look at the four points on a graph. The costs are high. Many companies are impacted. Everybody thought, let’s get on with enterprise risk management. Let’s make it an art.

See also: How to Improve ‘Model Risk Management’  

Knowledge@Wharton: How have business leaders changed their thinking about risk management because of those four events?

Kunreuther:  Leaders are now saying, “We have to put risk on the agenda. We have to think about our risk appetite,” which they hadn’t thought about before. “We have to think about our risk tolerance.”

Financial institutions played that role, and they were very clear about that right after the 2008-2009 debacle. They had to ask themselves very explicitly that question. But I think this is now much broader than that. Leaders have recognized that they also have to think longer-term. This is one of the issues. We have a framework that we’ve developed in the book that tries to combine some of the work that has come out of the literature that Daniel Kahneman has pioneered on thinking fast and slow — by indicating that intuitive thinking is the mindset that we often have. Thinking myopically. Thinking optimistically. Not wanting to change from the status quo. Leaders have now recognized that they have got to put on the table more deliberative thinking and think more long-term. That is a change, and they tie that together with risk.

One of our contributions, with respect to the book, is to try to put together a framework that really resonates with the leaders and the key people in the organization so that they can respond in a way that makes sense.

Useem: We asked a lot of people who are in the boardroom, if they go back 15 years, was risk, cyber risk or catastrophic risk in board deliberations? The answer typically was no. Ask the same people about today, and they say, “Of course.” We watched with horror what has happened with some of the cyber disasters at Target and elsewhere, and no board worth its pay is these days unconcerned about risk. Now, you’ve got to be careful. The board works with management, sets the vision, does not micromanage. But what boards are increasingly doing is saying to management, “Let’s see what your risk tolerance is. Let’s see what your risk appetite is. Let’s see what measures you already have in place. Nobody wants to think about the unthinkable, but let’s think about it.”

Knowledge@Wharton: The fake accounts scandal at Wells Fargo and the emissions controversy at Volkswagen are two recent examples of risk that you document in the book. Can you talk about that?

Useem: We don’t mean to pick on any company, and we don’t mean to extol the virtues of any company. But we can learn from all. Howard and I took a look at the events at Wells Fargo, which were extremely instructive. No. 1, the company put in very tough performance measures. They told employees, you’ve got to get results, otherwise you’re not going to be here in 12 months. But there was not a recognition that very tough performance indicators without guardrails against excess of performance was a toxic mix. We’ve seen what happened to Wells Fargo. They’ve paid billions in fines. The Federal Reserve has a stricture right now that Wells Fargo cannot accept one more dollar in assets until it can prove to the Fed that it has good risk measures in place.

We also document in the book the events with Volkswagen, which had the so-called defeat devices intended to report if a VW vehicle was brought in for an inspection, that the emissions were meeting U.S. standards. In fact, the software just simply was fooling the person looking at the dials. That, apparently, went all the way up to the top. We’ll see what’s finally resolved there.

Wells Fargo and Volkswagen took enormous hits in terms of reputation, brand, stock price and beyond. We also document a bit the BP problems in the Gulf…. They’re instructive.

Kunreuther: We didn’t interview anyone with respect to Volkswagen, but we did have public information, and it’s included in the book. The reason that we felt it was so important is that VW felt that this was a low-probability event that they would be detected, and they put it below their threshold level of concern. They emphasized the optimistic part of this, which was to say, “Let’s see what we can do as a way of really improving our bottom line.” What we do in the book is give a checklist to people, to companies and to individuals. We see it as a broad-based set of checklists on how they can do a better job of dealing with that.

What we really say is: Pay attention to these low-probability events. If you think not only in terms of next year but over the next 10 years, what you can see as a very low-probability event would actually be quite high over a period of time. If you begin to think long-term, which is what firms want to do, you pay attention to that.

Knowledge@Wharton: There’s such an economic impact on the company when these issues can’t be resolved quickly. Toyota, for example, has been dealing with its airbag problem for several years.

Kunreuther: You tie the issue of getting companies and directors to pay attention to the low probability, and then you say to them, “Construct a worst-case scenario.” Put on the table what could happen if it turns out you were discovered, or if there is an incident that occurs, or an accident, as Mike was saying on the BP side. What’s going to happen to the company? What will happen to its reputation, its survival, its bottom line? Our feeling is that, if you can begin to get people to think about the appetite and tolerance in the context of these low probabilities that could be quite high, then I think you have an opportunity for companies to pay attention. And they’re doing that, as Mike and I have found out in our interviews.

Knowledge@Wharton: What about when the disaster is a natural phenomenon, such as the volcanoes in Hawaii and Guatemala? Companies have to be prepared, but they can’t control what happens.

Useem: As we’ve watched the events unfold in Hawaii and Guatemala, it’s a great warning to us all that the impact of natural disasters worldwide is on the rise. There’s just no other way to describe it except a graph that’s going up, partly because people are living closer now to some of the places that historically are seismic. Hurricanes are possibly being intensified by global warming. There are more people along the Florida coast. All that being said, natural disasters are obviously in a much bigger class of disasters.

[Since] we wrote this book for people to be able to think through their own catastrophic risk management, we offered [examples] from the experience of other large companies, mainly in the U.S. We have a couple of German companies that we focused on: Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa and so on. We suggest that the vigilant manager, the watchful director, ought to be mindful of 10 separate points. One is, be alert to near-misses. What we mean by that is, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If I’m an energy producer, watch what happened to BP in the Gulf. Let’s learn from what they went through.

The A-case for me is Morgan Stanley, which had been in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when 9/11 hit. Because of the events eight years earlier — in 1993, a bomb had gone off in the basement of the World Trade Center — the risk officer at Morgan Stanley said, “Who knows what else might happen? That was a near-miss.”

Rick Rescorla, [vice president for corporate security,] insisted that Morgan Stanley every year practice a massive drill of evacuating the tower. When 9/11 occurred, the North Tower was hit first. Morgan Stanley is in the South Tower. Rescorla said, “Let’s get out of here,” and he managed to evacuate almost all 4,000 people. He was one individual who did not get out. He went back in to check. He is a hero for Morgan Stanley and many other people, but the bigger point taken from that is: Learn from the world around us, because these developments are intensifying. The threats are bigger. The downside is more costly.

See also: 3 Challenges in Risk Management  

Kunreuther: Near-misses are important in any aspect. But the other point that I think is important for today is another part of the checklist: Appreciate global connectedness and interdependencies. That point really became clear with Fukushima and with the Thailand floods. We asked each company what was the most adverse event that they faced? They had the complete freedom to say anything they wanted. The death of a CEO could have been one. Kidnapping was another. But as Mike indicated earlier, Fukushima was a critical one, and so were the Thailand floods. These were companies in the S&P 500, but they were concerned about how they were getting their parts, so supply chains were very important. They recognized after Fukushima that they were relying on a single supply chain that they couldn’t rely on for a time.

Knowledge@Wharton: How can a company prepare for the unexpected death of a CEO?

Useem: From looking at the companies that are pretty far into it, all we’re calling for is getting those risks figured out, then having in place a set of steps to anticipate. It’s like insurance. The best insurance is the one that never pays off because the disaster has not happened. The best risk management system is the one that’s not invoked.

In the book, we get into the events surrounding a fatal Lufthansa crash. Within minutes, they were in action. Within minutes, they had called the chancellor of Germany. Within minutes, they had people heading to the scene, not because that’s what they do but because they had thought about the unimaginable, and they had in place a system to react quickly. You have to deal with an enormous amount of uncertainty when disaster strikes. Premise No. 1: Be ready to act. Premise No. 2: Be ready to work with enormous uncertainty, but don’t let that pull you back from the task ahead.

Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017

The beginning of a new year is usually the time to predict key trends for the year to come, and so it goes with the insurtech sector as well. Most lists focus on the latest sexy technologies and applications. But, after a year, we find these have hardly gained any traction and so cannot really be considered “trends” in our view. To call something a key trend, new and innovative is not enough. It requires adoption at scale. We, therefore, decided to take a different approach, resulting in quite a different kind of list.

Being consultants for several blue chip insurers, speaking at conferences and attending boardroom meetings, we meet insurance executives on a daily basis. Consequently we have a fairly good idea about what’s at the top of their agenda as well as the pace in which change will take place, and in turn what insurtech solutions are most likely to fit into those plans. These insights resulted in our Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017, illustrated by some awesome insurtechs that joined us at the previous DIA event.

Trend 1. Massive cost savers in claims, operations and customer acquisition

Already a major trend, of course, but one that will gain even more importance in 2017. Quite a few insurers face combined ratios that are close to 100, or even exceed that number. Digitizing current processes is absolutely necessary, for operational excellence and to cut costs. Digital transformation of insurance carriers started in 2015, really took off in 2016 and will be mainstream by 2017 and beyond. Virtually every insurer, big or small, that takes itself seriously will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently in every major part of the costs column: in claims expenses, costs of operations and customer acquisition costs. Technology purchases and investments by insurance carriers will further explode in these areas, as will the number and growth of insurtechs that cater to that need.

With OutShared’s CynoClaim solution more than 60% of all claims can be managed automatically, resulting in lower costs as well as increased customer satisfaction. Results of the first implementations: as much as 50% decrease in costs, 40% increase in customer satisfaction. The solution takes six to nine months to implement, whether it is from scratch or a migration of established operations to the platform, which is quite spectacular in the insurance industry. Check this out.

See also: How Insurtechs Will Affect Agents in 2017

Trend 2. A new face on digital transformation: engagement innovation

At the end of the day, digitized processes and a lower cost base are table stakes. It is simply not enough to stay in sync with fast changing customer behavior, new market dynamics and increasing competitiveness. No insurer ever succeeded in turning operational excellence into a competitive advantage that is sustainable over the long term. More and more carriers realize that engagement innovation is the next level of digital transformation. From a customer point of view, this is not about a new lipstick or a nose job but about a real makeover. Engagement innovation not only includes customer experience, but customer-centric products, new added value services and new business models, as well. Insurtechs that really innovate customer engagement for incumbents have a great 2017 ahead.

Amodo connects insurance companies with the new generation of customers. With Amodo’s connected customer suite, insurers leverage on digital channels and connected devices such as smartphones, connected cars and wearables to acquire and engage new customers. Amodo collects data from smartphones and a number of different connected consumer devices to build holistic customer profiles, providing better insights into customer risk exposure and customer product needs. Following the analysis, risk prevention programs, individual pricing as well as personalized and “on the spot” insurance products can be placed on the market, increasing the customer’s loyalty and lifetime value.

Trend 3. Next-level data analytics capabilities and AI, to really unlock the potential of IoT

Many insurance carriers have started IoT initiatives in the last few years. In particular, in car insurance it is already becoming mainstream, with Italy leading the pack. Home insurance is lagging, and health and life insurance is even more behind. All pilots and experiments have taught insurers that they lack the right data management capabilities to cope with all these new data streams — not just to deal with the volume and new data sets, but more importantly to turn this data into new insights, and to turn these insights into relevant and distinctive value propositions and customer engagement. Insurtechs that operate in the advanced analytics space, machine learning and artificial intelligence hold the keys to unlock the potential of IoT.

2016 DIAmond Award winner BigML has built a machine-learning platform that democratizes advanced analytics for companies of all sizes. You don’t have to be a PhD to use its collection of scalable and proven algorithms thanks to an intuitive web interface and end-to-end automation. Check this out.

Trend 4. Addressing the privacy concerns

To many consumers, big data equals big brother, and insurers that think of using personal data are not immediately trusted. Quite understandable. Most data initiatives of insurers are about sophisticated pricing and risk reduction really. Cost savers for the insurer. However, the added value of current initiatives for customers is limited. A chance on a lower premium, that’s it. To really reap the benefits of connected devices and the data that comes with it, insurers need to tackle these data privacy concerns. On the one hand, insurers need to give more than they take. Much more added value, relative to the personal data used. On the other hand, insurers need to empower customers to manage their own data. Because at the end of the day, it is their data. Expect fast growth of insurtechs that help insurers to cope with privacy issues.

Traity (another 2016 DIAmond Award winner) enables consumers to own their own reputation. Traity uses all sorts of new data sources, such as Facebook, AirBnB and Linkedin, to help customers to prove their trustworthiness. Munich Re’s legal protection brand DAS has partnered with Traity to offer new kinds of services. Check this out.

See also: 10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017  

Trend 5. Contextual pull platforms

Markets have shifted from push to pull. But so far most insurers have made hardly any adjustments to their customer engagement strategies and required capabilities. In 2017, we will see the shift to pull platforms, as part of the shift to engagement innovation. Whereas push is about force-feeding products to the customer, pull is about understanding and solving the need behind the insurance solution and being present in that context. Risk considerations made by customers usually don’t take place at the office of an insurance broker. Insurers need to be present in the context of daily life, specific life events and decisions, and offer new services on top of the traditional products. Insurtechs that provide a platform or give access to these broader contexts and ecosystems help insurers to become much more a part of customers’ lives, be part of the ecosystem in that context and add much more value to customers.

VitalHealth Software, founded among others by Mayo Clinic, has developed e-health solutions, in particular for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Features include all sorts of remote services for patients, insurers and care providers collaborating in health networks, access to protocol-driven disease management support. All seamlessly integrated with electronic health records. VitalHealth Software is used by insurers that are looking to improve care as well as reduce costs. Among other OSDE, the largest health insurer in Argentina and Chunyu Yisheng Mobile Health, a fast-growing Chinese eHealth pioneer with around 100 million registered users that is closely linked to People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC).

Trend 6. The marketplace model will find its way to insurance

Marketplaces: We already see the model emerging in banking, and insurance will follow fast. Virtually every insurer offers a suite of its own products. Everything is developed in-house. More and more carriers realize that you simply cannot be the best at everything, and that resources are too scarce to keep up with every new development or cater to each specific segment. In the marketplace model, the insurers basically give their customers access to third parties with the best products, the most pleasant customer experience and the lowest costs. The marketplace business model cuts both ways. Customers get continuous access to the best products and services in the market. And costs can be kept at a minimum through connecting (or disconnecting) parties almost in real time to key in on new customer wishes and anticipate other market developments. In 2017, we will witness all sorts of partnerships between insurtechs and incumbents that fit the marketplace model.

AXA teamed up with the much-praised 2016 DIAmond Award winner Trōv to target U.K. millennials. Trōv offers customized home insurances by allowing coverage of individual key items rather than a one-size-fits-all coverage set with average amounts. Check this out.

Trend 7. Open architecture

A new ecosystem emerges, with parties that capture data (think connected devices suppliers) and parties that develop new value propositions based on the data. Insurers will have to cooperate even more than they are currently doing with other companies that are part of the ecosystem. When an insurer wants to seize these opportunities in a structural way, it is no longer only about efficiently and effectively organizing business processes, but it is also about easy ways to facilitate interactions between possibly very different users who are dealing with each other in one way or another. Again, banking is ahead of insurance. For our new book, “Reinventing Customer Engagement: The next level of digital transformation for banks and insurers,” we spoke to many executives in banking, as well. German Fidor Bank has set up an open API architecture called fidorOS, enabling fintechs to develop financial services themselves on top of an existing legacy system. Citi says that “any financial institution that doesn’t want to rapidly lose market share needs to start working in a more open architecture structure.”

The Backbase omnichannel platform is based on open architecture principles. It leverages existing policy administration systems capabilities and adds a modern customer experience layer on top, creating direct-to-consumer portals and giving the opportunity to integrate best-of-breed apps as well as improving agent and employee portals. Swiss Re, Hiscox and Legal & General are some of the insurers that use the Backbase platform. Check this out.

Trend 8. Blockchain will come out of the experimentation stage

When Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Banco Santander decided to leave the R3 Blockchain Group many thought this was proof that blockchain technology apparently was not as promising as initially expected. The contrary is true. It is not uncommon to join a consortium to speed up the learning curve, and then drop out and use the newly acquired knowledge to build your own plans and gain some competitive advantage, especially with a technology as powerful as blockchain. We believe a similar scenario will not take place in the B3i initiative launched by AEGON, Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re and Zurich. Thinking cooperation and ecosystems are just much more in the veins of the insurance industry. Plus there are plenty of use cases that cut both ways: improve operational excellence and cost efficiency as well as customer engagement. That is good news for the insurtech forerunners in blockchain technology.

Everledger tackles the diamond industry’s expensive fraud and theft problem. The company provides an immutable ledger for diamond ownership and related transaction history verification for insurance companies, and uses blockchain technology to continuously track objects. Everledger has partnered with all institutions across the diamond value chain, including insurers, law enforcement agencies and diamond certification houses across the world. Through Everledger’s API, each of them can access and supply data around the status of a stone, including police reports and insurance claims. Check this out.

A worker inspects a 5.46 carat diamond before certification at the HRD Antwerp Institute of Gemmology, December 3, 2012. HRD Antwerp analyses diamonds with specially designed machinery, as even for experts it is impossible to visually tell the difference between a synthetic stone and a naturally grown one. Picture taken December 3, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM – Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) – RTR3B8HW

See also: 5 Predictions for the IoT in 2017  

Trend 9. Use of algorithms for front-liner empowerment

Algorithms that are displacing human advisers generate headlines. Robo advice will for sure affect the labor market’s landscape. For a costs perspective, this may seem attractive. But from a customer engagement perspective this may be different. To relate to their customers, financial institutions need to build in emotion. Humans inject emotion, empathy, passion and creativity and can deviate from procedure, if needed. Banks and insurers need to create a similar connection digitally. With so many people working at financial institutions, there is also an opportunity to create the best of both worlds. We see the first insurers that deploy robo advice to empower human front-liners. This is resulting in better conversations, higher conversion and, finally, greater solutions for customers.

AdviceRobo provides insurers with preventive solutions combining data from structured and unstructured sources and machine learning to score and predict risk behavior of consumers — for instance, predictions on default, bad debt, prepayments and customer churn. Predictions are actionable, because they’re on an individual customer level and support front-liners while speaking to customers.

Trend 10. Symbiotic relationship with insurtechs

Relationships between insurers and insurtechs will become much more intense. All the examples included in the previous nine trends make this quite clear. Insurers will also look for ways to learn much more from the insurtechs they are investing in — whether it is about specific capabilities or concrete instruments they can use in the incumbent organization, or whether it is about the culture at insurtechs and the way of working. We see an increasing number of insurers that are now using lean startup methodologies and that have created in-house accelerators and incubators to accelerate innovation in the mothership.

The Aviva Digital Garages in London and Singapore are perfect examples. They are not idea labs, but the place where Aviva runs its digital businesses, varying from MyAviva to some of the startups Aviva Ventures invests in – all under one roof to build an ecosystem and create synergies on multiple levels.

This Top 10 of Insurtech trends that we will witness in 2017 sets the stage for the Digital Insurance Agenda. It reinforces the need to connect insurance executives with insurtech leaders, which is basically our mission. It helps us to create an agenda for DIA 2017 Amsterdam that is in sync with what insurers need and what the latest technologies can provide. Check Digital Insurance Agenda for more info.

The Latest Charts on Internet Statistics

Mary Meeker gave her always-anticipated, annual presentation on the state of the Internet this week, and I thought I should share with you. Here is the link to her massive, 213-slide presentation: http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends.

You will certainly see numbers or even whole slides proliferate in coming days and weeks, but I encourage you to at least skim through this. Meeker, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, has become an institution in Silicon Valley because of this presentation, which serves as a reference point for many innovators.

You won’t find huge surprises — unless I’ve missed something — but I thought a few things were worth noting:

— The main one for me is maturing of voice recognition, which she covers starting on slide 112. Just when you thought you were starting to figure out how to move to mobile, Silicon Valley starts to move to another disruptive technology for you to cope with….

See also: Solution to Brain Drain in Insurance?

Meeker has a chart showing that voice recognition is now about 90% accurate even in a noisy environment with speakers who have a variety of accents. That is up from 70% just six years ago. She shows essentially straight-line improvement since 1970 and says that, once voice recognition hits 99% accuracy, the human interface with computers will quickly move to voice, with all kinds of implications.

Now, she hasn’t always been accurate. Back in the late 1990s, when she was a securities analyst at Morgan Stanley, she was one of the main characters pumping air into what turned out to be a bubble of valuations for Internet start-ups. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that her chart will continue to show straight-line growth for voice recognition. It’s a lot easier, typically, to get from 70% to 90% than it is get those last few percentage points of improvement for any technology.

I’m also a bit jaded because I’ve been hearing about voice recognition for a good 25 years, at least since I saw a demonstration at a conference I attended during my days as a technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal. A gentleman was supposedly chosen at random from the audience and, despite a heavy Russian accent, had his speech recognized almost perfectly when he spoke into a microphone. Yet here we are 25 years later, and uses of voice recognition are almost always part of phone trees where the choices of response are quite limited — and where the system doesn’t seem to hear you when you demand a live person, no matter how you loud or distinct you are when you say the word “representative.”

Still, anyone who has used an Amazon Echo or similar device knows how great it can be to be able to just call out a question about the weather or what the score is in a baseball game. And the change caused by voice recognition will be disruptive enough that any thinking about new user interfaces should at least contain some experimenting with voice recognition. You need to figure out how close it is now to being useful for your purposes and to stay on top of developments in coming years. I don’t think it’ll be 25 years before I write again about voice recognition, and, when I do, I’ll probably dictate to my computer.

— Starting on slide 137, she does a nice job laying out the latest stats on the connected car. Nothing startling, if you’ve been following along, but lots of good material.

— Beginning on slide 185, she offers some trend lines about the Internet that include some names you won’t know and might want to note — I certainly didn’t know some of them, and I follow this stuff pretty closely.  She singles out Slack, a communication system that is becoming popular in some circles, especially the younger types. She also mentions Looker, an interesting data platform, plus Mapbox, Datadog, Ionic Security and so on.

— The last 10 slides or so contain some good stats about cyber security.

See also: Best Practices in Cyber Security  

There is plenty of other good material, including about opportunities in China and India, but I wanted to single out the sections that touch most closely on the themes we’ve been hitting about innovation at Insurance Thought Leadership.

How to Picture the Future of Driverless

Picture this:

The year is 2025. A call comes to the police station—someone has broken into a local home. A drone is deployed to the address and arrives within five minutes. The drone feeds video to the station and to the closest autonomous (driverless) police vehicle. The drone guides the police car to the location. The officer in the car (we’ll assume he’s human, for now!) isn’t actually driving; he’s an occupant, watching the drone’s video feed. He can see the suspect fleeing, and he researches other crimes in the neighborhood along with potential suspects. The drone estimates the perp’s height and weight, and the officer can see his clothing and a possible gun in his belt. The police officer communicates with other officers in the area to coordinate the capture. As the suspect runs, his description and location is fed constantly to all nearby police vehicles, and he is surrounded within 15 minutes of the initial call.

This is far from fiction. The international consulting firm Frost and Sullivan predicts that 180,000 driverless cars will hit the U.S. market in 2020. That’s less than 1% of today’s annual new car market, but that’s just the beginning!

Just about every major car manufacturer (as well as Google, of course) is developing autonomous vehicles, and the competition is getting  more intense as the demand for collision avoidance features grows. Just as drones are spreading (if not yet regulated), driverless cars will become widely accepted. Americans love to drive, but there are too many undeniable advantages to autonomous cars.

The first one is safety. According to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  (IIHS), 94% of all car accidents are caused by human error. Nearly two million crashes could be avoided if human error were eliminated. That’s not to say that driverless vehicles won’t crash, but, as the technology improves, crash rates will drop like a rock. In 2025, if our roads are still packed with commuters, the occupants of many vehicles will be reading, answering emails, video conferencing and browsing the web. In other words, they’ll be working. A recent Morgan Stanley report predicted that driverless cars could add $5.6 trillion (yes, with a ‘T’) to the global economy because of the combination of a steep reduction in accidents and the dramatic increase in productivity. It is estimated that in 2035 autonomous cars will account for 25% of all cars.

Back to the police force. As driverless cars evolve, routine traffic monitoring will drop, high-speed chases will slowly decline (with drone help) and smaller police forces will focus on more serious crime. Cameras will capture everything—both from the ground and the sky. Officers will become highly trained in electronic law enforcement. Efficiency will rule!

Of course, these are just predicted outcomes. This policing panacea isn’t all roses; it will not eliminate the need for community relationships, direct contact with neighborhoods and personal contact in law enforcement. Furthermore, while vehicle collisions will fall, the cost and maintenance of autonomous cars will remain extremely expensive in the near future. Currently, it costs about $150,000 to equip a driverless car. But that cost will drop to $7,000 by 2030 and to $3,000 by 2035.

Nothing’s perfect. Every emerging concept or technology brings unexpected challenges and unintended consequences. But it appears that autonomous automobiles will emerge soon, and it’s likely that some day we’ll say they are “here to stay.”

For today, I guess I’ll have to drive myself home. What a chore.

tech

Where Are the InsurTech Start-Ups?

As a technology investor, I spend my days scouring Europe in search of the next big thing.

London’s FinTech scene has been a profitable hunting ground of late. With the U.K. FinTech industry generating $20 billion in revenue annually, it is not surprising that $5.4 billion has been invested in British FinTech companies since 2010.

A daily journey on the Tube is a testament to how rich the FinTech scene has become, with the capital’s underground trains now wallpapered with ads for Crowdcube, Transferwise, Nutmeg and other innovative companies. And London has played host to FinTech Week, celebrating the contribution these firms are making to the capital’s evolving financial services industry.

But where are the insurance tech entrepreneurs?

It is frequently—and accurately—argued that it is London’s birthright to play host to the poster-children of FinTech because of the capital’s impressive legacy and world-leading position in banking.

Read more: London FinTech investment in 2015 has already surpassed last year’s total.

The same can be said of insurance: The concept of modern insurance was solidified in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in the 1680s. Yet there isn’t a day celebrating InsurTech— let alone a week of conferences, events and after-parties.

This is even though the insurance industry, with trillions of dollars of annual insurance premiums globally, is comparable in size to the rest of the financial services industry put together. Digital insurance should be an obvious target for technological disruption, especially as traditional insurers have struggled to adapt to the digital age en masse.

Recent research by Morgan Stanley found that consumer satisfaction with online experiences in the insurance industry is well below average, with only real estate and telcos finishing lower in the 16-industry league table. The big insurance brands have very little contact with their end consumer because of intermediaries such as offline broker networks, and, as a result, brand advocacy is often low. Put it this way: When was the last time you raved to your neighbor about your insurance provider?

Technology has the potential to drive worthwhile change in insurance. There are already a few success stories, but only a few. Insurance comparison engines such as Moneysupermarket, Compare the Market and Check24 have fundamentally altered how consumers discover their insurance providers. Black Box Insurance, based on telematics data, has become a mainstream product for young drivers, fueling the growth of companies such as InsureTheBox and Marmalade.

Read more:  These are the most influential people in FinTech

These are all fantastic firms, but there is not a long list beyond these examples.

So, why don’t we see more of this type of innovation? Insurance does have far higher barriers to entry than many other industries. To simply get an insurance company off the ground, it requires a colossal amount of cash to cover any potential claims. Additionally, regulation is tough, with good reason. The European Commission’s Solvency II Directive sets a high standard for the capital requirements for insurers to hit to be classed as an eligible provider.

This type of money is hard for a start-up to find. Having said this, very similar challenges are being overcome in retail banking, with challenger banks such as Metro and Atom obtaining banking licenses and putting regulatory capital in place. The successes that many have encountered in FinTech should buoy potential InsurTech entrepreneurs, as should the appetite of venture capitalists to invest in the insurance sector.

I don’t just speak for myself; insurance has excited many colleagues from other funds, especially as the industry is starting to give us some success stories. Slowly but surely, companies such as The Floow, BoughtByMany and QuanTemplate are demonstrating that technology can disrupt the insurance industry. London’s centuries-old legacy in insurance has created a talent pool that is, arguably, the best in the world. Combine this with the strong tech talent in the capital and you can see that the raw ingredients required to build extremely interesting companies are readily available. Additionally, certain large incumbent insurers are beginning to show interest in nurturing the capital’s potential InsurTech community. AXA is a particularly good example, having recently launched Kamet, a €100 million accelerator program aimed specifically at InsurTech entrepreneurs.

The combination of VC appetite, available talent and support from existing players demonstrates that London is a powder keg of untapped potential. The only missing ingredients, at the moment, are the world-beating entrepreneurs willing to put their ideas to the test.

FinTech has shown that London can lead the world in industries that are steeped in tradition and ripe for change. It’s time for InsurTech to step out of the wings.