The automotive claims process has long been strenuous, time-consuming and costly both for insurers and consumers. The moment an incident occurs, a driver is placed in a world of stress. In addition to managing the emotional strain that is a car crash, the driver now has to deal with several different parties to repair the damage. Traditionally, it takes one to three days after filing a claim to initiate contact with an insurance adjuster (it takes even more time if the adjuster needs to inspect the damage).
There is suddenly an unexpected burden consuming time and money and requiring paperwork. But advancements in artificial intelligence and telematics (such as our new Claims Studio) can revolutionize the claims system by validating claims, processing them much faster and placing safety at the forefront for drivers.
Here are three ways the insurance industry can adapt to improve the claims process:
Automotive claims have historically been a manual process, where drivers retell their side of the story following a collision. These details are then shared with insurance companies, adjusters and, at times, even courts, to resolve claims and disputes. This process leaves room for ambiguity and human error, because, as we all know, there are two sides to each story. We also have to take into consideration the shock that results from a car crash – a driver might not remember or realize immediately the need to take photos of the damages or call the insurance company to begin the claims process.
Insurers can help drivers mitigate this complicated and stressful process by implementing advanced technologies, now available, that provide accurate, unbiased crash storylines. These narratives detail key findings such as the severity of a crash, where the vehicle was hit, the driver’s speed (before, during and after a collision), the weather and more. A claims adjuster needs this information to do his or her job. When this information is incomplete or inaccurate, the process takes longer, and costs increase for the driver.
Accelerating the Claims Process
In addition to enabling insurers to settle claims more seamlessly and accurately (preventing potential fraud), these technologies aid in settling claims earlier, paving the way for better customer experiences. For example, our solution automatically populates crash insights and reporting into a web portal or directly into an insurer’s claims management system, providing insurers with many details needed to quickly process a claim. By offering claims adjusters this information within 10 minutes of an accident, insurers are empowering them to help drivers quickly resolve their issues.
Placing Safety at the Forefront
The use of artificial intelligence and telematics has brought significant benefits to insurers and consumers. Several auto insurers are already using mobile telematics to assess risk and promote safer driving behavior, but the benefits don’t start and end there. In fact, one of the most important – and life-saving – aspects of the technology is the ability to detect crashes within moments of their occurring. Technology provides real-time notifications of a vehicle crash to quickly send roadside assistance to drivers when they need it most. By providing critical details like GPS location, time and driver identification, new crash detection solutions enable insurers to save valuable time in emergency situations, offering an added level of peace of mind.
In some instances, the new technologies could also save a life. One instance is Discovery Insure, a South Africa-based insurer that uses our Crash Detector to send immediate roadside assistance and paramedics to customers following collisions and life-threatening crashes. One customer, Evelyn Sadler, received immediate attention after a taxi swerved into her vehicle, causing it to go airborne. As the distracted driving epidemic increases, causing 1.25 million people to die in road crashes each year, insurers can offer drivers technologies and solutions that can keep safety at the forefront and prevent many deaths.
The future of the automotive claims system is already here, with several insurers realizing the impact this technology has on their bottom line. I’m excited to continue to watch this space grow – and hope that additional insurance organizations will quickly follow suit.
In our hyper-connected society, it was estimated a few years ago that on a normal day another 127 devices are connected to the internet each second. Moreover, the Internet of Things (IoT) trend is accelerating. Insurers cannot stop this; they can only leverage the data that comes from connected devices, or ignore this data.
As of today, the insurance sector has exploited the data more in personal lines than in commercial lines. Insurance telematics on personal auto has been out there for more than 15 years. The Italian market has achieved more than 22% of telematics penetration on the auto insurance business; in the U.S. the penetration is still low, but in the last two years the market has evolved significantly. French insurers have built a success story on smart home insurance (télésurveillance services) over the same period; even in the U.S., experiments are progressing as players such as American Family lead the pack.
We are starting to see the emergence of commercial line applications, especially in the U.S. We have some products on auto commercial lines, such as Progressive Smart Haul, that are gaining traction, and the interest for the application on other business lines is growing.
However, on the insurance commercial lines — outside of commercial auto — we are still talking about theoretical ideas and proofs of concept (POCs), and there are only a few already commercialized products. At the IoT Insurance Observatory – a think tank that in North America has aggregated almost 30 members, including six of the top 15 P&C insurance carriers, as well as the main reinsurers – I’ve directly seen this growth of the appetite of the traditional insurers for IoT applications.
The insurance sector has four different opportunities to leverage the IoT data on commercial lines:
There is the opportunity to insure new risks that are emerging due to IoT technology, but also to insure the outcomes of IoT solutions adopted by a business owner.
Another area of opportunity is to develop new ways to insure existing risks. Let’s think about real-time measurement of the key drivers for the exposure of an insurance coverage, such as the presence of people in an area for general liability or the inventory for theft insurance.
IoT data (and processes based on this data) allows improvements in the performances of the core insurance activities (underwriting, pricing, risk management and claims handling) for current insurance products,
There is the opportunity to sell IoT-based services.
The last two are the key aspects that have worked well in the usage of IoT on personal lines. Indeed, based on the Observatory research over the past few years, the most relevant international insurance IoT success stories have five common characteristics:
A product sold through current distribution channels, frequently as an option on an existing product;
A closed system with devices/app provided by the insurer;
Fees paid by the customer for services, which include the rental of the devices;
Explicit usage – a customer consents at the moment of purchase, giving the insurer access to data that will help it improve risk self-selection, loss control, consumer behaviors and pricing;
The sharing of a material value with customer through discounts, cash back and other incentives.
The marriage of IoT-based services and impacts on the core insurance activities is going to allow insurers to obtain a competitive advantage on small commercial. This is typically a segment that has not jet been penetrated by IoT services – because the first targets for IoT companies have been large and medium enterprises – and the insurance players can succeed in delivering this bundle between IoT services and insurance coverages to this segment. The synergies between those two aspects – services and impacts on the core insurance activities – are possible because the same data used to deliver services allows improvements to the technical profitability of the insurance business. IoT allows the creation of value on the insurance P&L, and this value can be shared with the client, creating a valuable bundle between insurance coverages and IoT solutions. Obviously, the bigger the difference between insurance premium and service cost, the higher the potential of the bundle.
Let’s think about how spending for commercial line coverages – even excluding commercial auto – can easily be several thousand dollars for a small enterprise.
The value creation
The sensors necessary for service delivery – let’s, for example, think about security cameras with AI on the edge – can be fundamental to detecting risky situations. This is precious information for an insurance company. First of all, this allows claim prevention and damage mitigation. This could be achieved through real-time alerts to the on-field supervisor, such as the store manager in retail shops, or to the provider of the necessary emergency services, such as the emergency plumbing service provider. The second use case, which is linked to the detection of risky situations, is reporting. The quick delivery of insights provides objective information to the claim handlers. This way, the insurance company can be ready to address the claim in a more efficient and effective manner, limiting fraud and inflated claims. The reporting of claims and near-miss incidents also allows for providing automated loss control advice to the business owner. This information can also be used to take underwriting decisions at renewal, and even to intervene on pricing.
Value creation is also possible using sensor data to manage behavioral change mechanisms. As found in experiments on personal lines – from life, to health and even to auto insurance – working on awareness creation, behavior suggestions and incentives it is possible to obtain a reduction of the expected losses of an insurance portfolio.
One last aspect to consider is the self-selection effect. The personal line experience has taught us that, at each pricing level, those who accept being monitored are better risks (lower loss ratio) than the peers who don’t accept. So, we can be pretty confident that the business owners who chose the IoT-based insurance coverage are better risks (because they have nothing to hide from their insurers) than their peers who don’t accept to be monitored.
The insurer who succeeds in these use cases will obtain the waterfall represented below, where the sum of the service fees and the effect of risk selection, loss control, risk-based pricing and behavioral change – all the elements that in my previous articles I have defined as “value creation levers” – covers the IoT costs and allows the creation of a relevant amount of extra value. This value can be shared first of all with policyholders through discounts and incentives. However, part of it should be shared also with intermediaries (agents and brokers involved in the insurance policy distribution), through extra commissions, to scale up the IoT-based portfolio.
The main challenge will not be the choice of technological aspects, as many may expect. The trickiest aspects are the design of the insurance IoT strategy, the delivery on the field and the progressive optimization based on the lessons learned.
First of all, it will be key to identify and design the services that the target customers are interested in paying for. The sensors necessary for these services will be the foundation of the insurance IoT approach, and all the additional sensors with a cost lower than the achievable benefits should be added on top. In the design of the insurance use cases, all the different functions related to the value creation levers described above must be involved, as well as all the business lines of the insurance group. The potential in each coverage and each endorsement dedicated to the segment has to be squeezed to maximize the value creation and therefore the return on the IoT investment. In the cost-benefit analysis, it is necessary to adopt a multiyear perspective, thinking toward the amortization of the hardware cost over multiple periods. These are the same challenges that have been successfully addressed by the best practices on personal lines.
Specialization of the solutions by segments will be necessary to deliver effectively. This aspect is an additional challenge that was not present in the personal lines experience, which instead has easily been addressed with a “one size fits all” approach.
Another complexity, which was not present in personal lines, is the presence of multiple actors to be involved in the adoption of the solution, in the prevention/mitigation and in the behavioral change. The business owner (or eventual employees appointed to purchase the insurance coverage), the on-field supervisor (such as a store manager) and operative employees are relevant stakeholders. The IoT insurance approach must take into account all of them to succeed.
Let’s consider the reasons for investing to overcome these barriers facing the IoT-based opportunity. There is an opportunity to win more business and to generate a more profitable commercial line portfolio. The right IoT approach will generate knowledge about clients and their risks (which will lead to opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling) and produce positive externalities for society (by contributing to the modernization of the small and medium enterprises of the country).
Recent corrective pricing aimed at combating deteriorating loss costs across the commercial auto insurance industry has put increasing pressure on fleet managers and employees insured. Driving the point, commercial auto insurance renewal rates increased 4.5% in Q1 2019, inching toward the 6% to 12% increase predicted in 2018. Luckily, the use of telematics – specifically vision-based AI solutions – has presented an opportunity for business fleets to identify unsafe driving, analyze the conditions in which they occurred and implement measures to reduce it, thereby lowering premiums and increasing safety measures.
Currently, the automotive usage-based insurance market, which gives insurance companies the ability to quote coverage costs specific to driver behavior, has 65.1 million policyholders and is expected to grow in coming years. UBI separates itself from traditional formulaic premium quoting and serves as a voluntary policy in which drivers may pay less if they provide the insurer with access to all driving behavior up front. The tighter, streamlined insurance supply chain formed through the adoption of telematics and usage-based models ultimately benefits both the insurer and the insured.
Here are four ways telematics is evolving commercial auto insurance:
1. Improving overall safety
Safety is the top line item in both insurers’ and insureds’ objectives. By collecting data on driver speed, harsh braking, rapid acceleration, driver drowsiness, etc., vision-based AI solutions allow employers to record incidents, intervene in unsafe driver conditions and train employees to practice safer habits. By agreeing to submit behavior, actions and conditions to the insurer, drivers are generally more conscious of their surroundings and position – increasing awareness and promoting a culture of safety.
While in-cab cameras and vision-based technologies may not be able to prevent an accident in real time, they do ensure measures are taken to prevent future incidents. Captured video gives employers a passenger-seat view of employee driving behaviors and enables them to correct bad driving habits and instill better ones. From the employee, to the employer, to the insurer, having access to driver behavior data creates a safety ecosystem where all parties can manage and build on driver improvement.
Unsafe drivers can put employers at risk for a 10% to 15% increase in insurance rates. Ultimately, the goal is to hire only safe drivers. However, mistakes do happen, which is why fleet managers turn to telematics software to help improve existing driver performance. Not only does real-time telematics enhance driver safety, but it also gives weight to the claim that a company’s drivers are safe, making premium cuts and discounts from commercial auto insurers more likely.
Companies using telematics to monitor driver behavior receive a 5% to 15% insurance discount on average. The concrete evidence provided when harnessing this data gives fleet managers peace of mind that each driver is maintaining a safe speed and obeying state driving laws. In the event of an accident, the data provided can help determine liability in a claims settlement, potentially protecting businesses from false claims and subsequent rate increases.
3. Adding a next-generation visual component
Telematics technology has been around for decades – not solely for automotive purposes, either. As it became more commonplace in fleet monitoring, traditional uses involved the collection and distribution of data to support claims and flag dangerous behavior. Now, the convergence of telematics data with video and AI, vision-based technology is giving fleet managers and insurers more in-depth, real-time insight for decision making.
The industry is starting to see the virtual and real world blend together with vision-based solutions that provide context about what is going on inside a vehicle at the time of an alert. Telematics technology previously existed to inform companies when a driver was being erratic or braking too hard, and before now little to no context was provided as to the condition surrounding the event. New vision-based video solutions are incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning, which in some cases leads to drivers being rewarded for defensive driving when they would have previously been penalized for seemingly dangerous behavior.
4. Developing a mutually beneficial partnership
The annual accident rate for commercial fleets is around 20%, and each accident can cost an average of $70,000. Not only is this detrimental to the driver and the company employing the driver, but it also makes insuring a great risk.
The information provided through today’s telematics technology solutions allows insurers to assess potential customers and associated risk, and fleet managers to lower insurance premiums. As next-gen telematics technology continues to evolve, fleet software companies are starting to partner directly with insurance providers to give discounts to businesses that adopt telematics software to track safety and monitor assets. If drivers are continuously being recorded and reported, auto insurers are more likely to be comfortable with providing affordable coverage, knowing they can easily spot potential liabilities.
The rise in premiums and increasing renewal rates designed to combat auto insurance market instability can only be deterred through the use of telematics technology that monitors, reports and supplies driver data directly to the insurer. Engaged companies are using this solution to drive growth, reduce risk and distance themselves from the competition. This insight, on average, encourages insurance discounts that not only benefit the company but encourage drivers and their fleet managers to improve safety practices, ultimately benefiting the insurer, as well.
In days past, whenever consumers wanted to make a major purchase—say, for a large appliance or the latest electronics—they had to leave the house and visit their local retailer. If they were concerned about the well-being of their new investment, they’d add a warranty plan once their transaction was complete. If something with their new fridge or stereo system went wrong, they’d need to pick up the phone to schedule a service visit.
Things have changed. Let’s take a look at just how much technology is influencing purchasing habits and changing the warranty experience for consumers, retailers and providers.
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Today, when consumers need to make purchases both big and small, they’re often opting to make them online. For big box retailers, incorporating additional warranty protection on their websites to accompany those purchases is no sweat; they’ve got the capability and budget to do so. But what about smaller retailers?
According to a report by CBRE Group, about 30% of e-commerce retail is sold by small and midsize companies. While many of these companies might want to offer online consumers the benefits of product protection like their big box counterparts, integrating third-party warranty protection with a retail e-commerce platform can be cumbersome. But some providers have cracked the code and developed apps that allow smaller retailers to level the playing field and easily establish and manage valuable warranty programs.
Another technology solution being explored is blockchain. For as long as anyone can remember, returns, warranties and service contracts have required proof of purchase. Blockchain capabilities can eliminate that need by decentralizing record-keeping, so all relevant parties can instantly access a digital proof of purchase, as needed. Innovative companies are already jumping on board and using blockchain to improve industry collaboration, increase customer satisfaction, boost efficiency and reduce prices.
Make the Connection
As the Internet of Things grows and consumers replace their obsolete, non-IoT devices, the true benefits of connectivity will continue to be revealed. For example, smart home technology will take the guesswork out of claims. Service providers and technicians will no longer be forced to rely on a customer’s diagnosis of the problem, because devices will accurately relay data about malfunctions or damage in real time.
Administrators will be able to better identify issues and potentially help the customer find a resolution via phone or chat, without a service visit. If a service visit is needed, the customer representative can approve repairs and estimate out-of-pocket costs in advance simply by using the data already available.
But before the advantages of this new technology can be enjoyed to their fullest, there are some obstacles to overcome. The complexity of connected devices can be a lot to tackle for many consumers. Without the help of a professional, new device setup and network connections can be time-consuming.
Recognizing the opportunity for increased customer satisfaction, streamlined processes and lower costs, service contract providers are stepping up their game to offer plans that not only cover repair and replacement but tech support, as well. This kind of 360-degree service plan can help simplify the consumer transition to the fully connected home experience.
Thanks to the intimate connection to products and data offered by IoT, the opportunity to customize service contracts and protection programs has never been greater. Driven by constant data collection, warranty analytics can be employed to create extended protection plans that categorize failures, identify customers who are most affected by these failures and key in on potential causes. These “intelligent” plans can help determine and customize proper coverage levels guided by each customer’s risk profile.
The opportunity to apply the data extends beyond the connected home to products on the road. Now with the help of analytics, the failures, causes and costs that affect drivers most can be identified to help create intelligent protection programs for automobiles.
Known as telematics, these systems facilitate the transmission of vehicle diagnostic data. Telematics can record a vehicle’s condition to provide quick, efficient analysis that can isolate an issue before it becomes a real problem. This technology can also simplify next steps by alerting the provider to the issue and directing the vehicle owner to the closest repair shop with relevant parts in inventory. This kind of efficiency can help consumers remedy potentially dangerous and costly situations early on, while also reducing expenses for service contract providers.
While some may long for the old days, the benefits of new technology offer a chance to look on the bright side. For providers, retailers and customers, advancements have changed the warranty protection experience for the better and will continue to do so for years to come.
I have been asked a number of times to provide my perspective on the insurance industry in the time of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. In this piece I’ll do so, but first, how did we get to 4.0? What preceded and led to this brave new world of what’s now called “IR4”?
The first industrial revolution occurred in the late 1700s, with most agreeing that the seminal event was the development of the first mechanical loom in England in 1784. More broadly, the period was defined by mechanized production facilities, usually with the help of water and steam power.
The second industrial revolution, in the late 1800s, was defined by the concept of division of labor and by mass production, with the help of electricity. Think of hog slaughtering or early automobile assembly lines.
The third industrial revolution, starting in the late 1960s, was characterized by the introduction of the electronics and IT systems that accelerated the automation of production and business processes. Think of the room-sized computers of the ’60s and ’70s.
The fourth industrial revolution is happening right now. The IR4 concept was pioneered by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum. The idea is that we are now entering the fourth major industrial era since the initial industrial revolution of the 18th century. This new world is characterized by the fusion of many technologies and the blurring of lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
This evolution to what we now call cyber-physical systems, or embedded systems, is leading very rapidly to a world dominated by systems that are controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms, and integrated with the internet and its users. This kind of connected and communicating world has enabled the development of such things as a smart power grid, remote medical monitoring and autonomous vehicles. This is the “Internet of Things”: technology becoming embedded into all facets of society, and even into our bodies.
As dramatic as this may sound, the fourth industrial revolution is even more transformative than the previous three in other ways, as well. The speed of recent breakthroughs has no historical precedent; it is exponentially faster in adoption than previous industrial revolutions. Additionally, it is disrupting almost every industry in almost every country. This scope and pace is unprecedented.
Like the revolutions that preceded it, the fourth industrial revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. At the same time, however, this revolution could yield greater inequality along the way. Access to technology varies widely, so developments like robotics have the potential to displace workers in precisely the parts of the world that need help advancing most.
The reason is that there are three separate but connected kinds of disruption going on simultaneously.
Technological disruption: artificial intelligence, blockchain, telematics, genomics, the Internet of Things.
Economic disruption: imagine: AirBnB is now the #1 hotel company, Uber is the #1 taxi company, big stores and shopping malls are fighting for their lives. Sears, the Amazon of the 20th century, recently declared bankruptcy, and many traditional bricks-and-morter retailers are threatened.
Social disruption: some parts of the world are aging rapidly, with attendant retirement savings and healthcare challenges, while other parts, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have more young people than jobs; people want to be able to use things without necessarily owning them; concepts of work are changing; income equality and gender equality are major issues.
While the concept of a Fourth Industrial Revolution is now widely discussed, I would like to describe the Fourth Insurance Revolution as I see it. Like the eras of the four industrial revolutions, there have been three previous periods in insurance industry history that are somewhat similar to the evolution of the industrial world.
The first era, which I call Insurance 1.0, began logically enough in the parts of the world that were the cradles of civilization, the Middle East and Asia.
As far back as the second and third millennia BC, traveling Chinese merchants practiced an early form of risk management by distributing their wares among numerous ships and different trade routes, to minimize losses along the way. In Babylonia, merchants receiving a loan to ship goods paid the lender an additional fee that would cancel the loan if the goods were somehow lost – credit insurance. This form of coverage is even memorialized in the Code of Hammurabi. The Greeks and Romans introduced the origins of life and health insurance when they created guilds called benevolent societies, to pay family members for funeral expenses of deceased members. These are our industry’s beginnings.
Insurance 2.0 as I see it was the introduction of the first actual insurance contracts. These were developed in Genoa, Italy, in the 14th century and related to marine insurance for goods in transit. This was a formalization of the earlier concepts employed in the Insurance 1.0 period.
Our industry matured greatly in the 17th century, into what I deem Insurance 3.0, a major leap forward.
Much of the accelerated formalization of insurance was stimulated by the Great Fire of London in 1666. This enormous conflagration destroyed nearly 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 residences, and gave rise to urgent risk management and insurance planning. Property and fire insurance as we know it was launched by Nicholas Barbon in London in 1681. Around the same time, French mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Henri de Fermat conducted loss probability studies that resulted in the first actuarial tables. Insurance became an empirically based enterprise, and became widely understood to be a prudent expenditure for businesses and families.
With that brief history of the evolution of our industry, let’s now move on to insurance in the 21st century: Insurance 4.0
In my view, most of the change in the industry since Insurance 3.0 up until the present has been incremental. Broader product lines, more distribution channels and, recently, the first elements of digitization. But what’s happening now is fundamentally different. The basic function and processes of insurance are being disrupted at an accelerating pace.
So let me now present some of the issues and implications of change in the industry, what Insurance 4.0 looks like. I’ll start by making some comments on the insurance industry of today.
Of course much of the rapid change taking place now and defining Insurance 4.0 is related to technology. The insurance industry’s raw material is data. Data not only to make underwriting and loss reserving judgments, but increasingly to manage virtually every business process in the insurance value chain. Data is valuable. But how can insurers successfully plan and manage data when, as Science Daily magazine tells us, 90% of all the data in the world has been generated in the last two years?! How do we use this avalanche of data to make sound business decisions? More data does not inevitably lead to better decisions.
One promising set of tools: Artificial intelligence and machine learning, which represent a quantum leap from the predictive modeling insurers have been using over the past decade.
Moving rapidly from applications in high-frequency, low-severity lines like auto and home insurance, AI capabilities are now employed in more complex commercial lines, and already show evidence of having real underwriting and loss reserving value.
Skeptical about whether this can work in complex cases? Let me give you an AI example. A few years ago, a computer beat the world chess champion. Well, some said, that’s fine, but it will be a long time before a computer can beat a top Go player. As many of you know, Go is a complex Asian game played on a 19-by-19 grid, with more possible configurations than the number of atoms in the known universe. Google’s Deep Mind Lab computer input all the Go games ever recorded, over a 1,000-plus year span. After playing 4.9 million games against itself in a three-day period to learn, the computer immediately beat the world’s best Go player in a live game.
What’s more thought-provoking, though, is what happened next. Putting aside the input of historical game results, Google just uploaded the basic rules of the game – no experience data. This new program, AlphaGoZero, became expert simply from learning first principles alone, without any human knowledge or experience input. Does anyone still think sophisticated underwriting or loss reserving is beyond the capability of modern computers? I don’t.
Entrepreneurs have expanded the way technology can influence the insurance value chain to create an ecosystem we call insurtech. Leveraging off fintech’s huge impact on the banking and payments world, insurtech companies, which now number more than 100,000, are innovating in every insurance company department. Investments in them have grown by leaps and bounds. Insurtech attracted about $140 million in funding in 2011, $275 million in 2013, $2.7 billion by 2015 and more than $4 billion last year.
Insurtech products and services address product development, marketing, pricing, claims and distribution, especially reducing policy acquisition costs, and have been much more focused on nonlife insurance (especially personal lines) than life and health insurance to date. Up until now, insurtech ventures have tended not to displace the incumbent insurers, but have been invested in or acquired by them to enhance their existing operations.
Much of the industry’s current expanded use of technology, including insurtech, is focused on customer interface and the customer experience. It has always been said that an industry can’t disrupt itself; that disruption always comes from the outside. Not surprisingly, then, insurance policyholders and potential customers have had their expectations of customer experience elevated by their interaction with other product and service providers. No longer do they measure their satisfaction against other insurance companies. They want the kind of experience they get from Apple, Alibaba, Amazon, Starbucks and the like. They want mobile, 24/7, personalized service. Most insurers today are simply not capable of delivering this. They lack both the innovation mindsets and the IT budgets to deliver a 21st century insurance customer experience, and they will lose share of market to those companies that do.
Another element of change in today’s insurance business is the emergence of public/private partnerships. More sovereign and sub-sovereign governments have come to realize that they are effectively the insurers of last resort when catastrophes strike.
Efforts are accelerating to narrow the protection gap between total economic losses and the portion covered by insurance.
Because the governments often end up paying directly or indirectly for disasters, and their citizens feel their brunt in terms of higher taxes or reduced services, governments now increasingly seek to partner with insurers. This is a positive development for the industry, one that presents both an enormous growth opportunity and a benefit to society.
Recent years have seen the launch of the African Risk Capacity, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Fund and the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company. All are regional public/private partnerships, and all are enabled by technology-driven parametric triggers. Others are in the works, facilities designed to address a range of perils including flood pools, terrorism pools and the like, best managed by governments and industry working together.
The “lower interest rates for longer” world we live in presents major challenges for investing the assets that support our policy liabilities. Insurers can no longer simply commit the bulk of their portfolios to investment grade corporate and government debt. Such a strategy just isn’t sufficient to pay claims and provide an adequate return on capital now.
Insurers and the asset managers who serve them have responded by changing their asset mix, to increase allocations to higher-return, not-much-higher-risk securities (let’s hope). More equities. Structured products and bundles of loans. Private equity funds. And recently, infrastructure debt, in both developed and emerging markets.
Portfolio yields are rising, but only time will tell whether these new investment allocations provide an appropriate margin of safety in more turbulent market conditions. It’s really too soon to tell if the industry’s investments have become riskier, or if insurers have simply better understood the true risks of 21st century investing.
A more subtle but truly profound change in Insurance 4.0 is the industry’s focus on talent. I’ve been in the insurance business more than 47 years, and I can say with complete confidence that insurers have never remotely spent as much time, money and thought on developing their future leadership as today. There has always been talk about this, but the action has never before matched the rhetoric.
With approximately 25% of the industry’s top management retiring in the next five years, as Baby Boomers retire in large numbers, the urgency of talent development has finally dawned on CEOs and even boards. Competing for top young talent isn’t easy. The lure of technology firms, entertainment, investment banking and other seemingly more exciting career paths is undeniable. But insurers have to try to attract at least some of the best, because our industry’s role in society is so critical, and the talent gap is large and growing.
For the first time in my career, CEOs bring up their programs for attracting, developing and retaining talent without me asking them first. More and more describe carefully thought-out programs that are so strategically important that they have high visibility with their boards. Believe me, this is a real change. These are the companies that will thrive over the long term.
All of these initiatives, in technology, in the customer experience, in public/private partnerships, in new investment approaches as well as in talent development, exemplify Insurance 4.0. Not just doing what we have always done, hoping to be somewhat better, but developing new tools to address new challenges, new opportunities and new competitors from within and without the industry.
This is because insurers are the financial first responders in this risky world. We rebuild communities and homes after disasters, we provide financial stability when families lose loved ones and we invest to build economies around the world, and in Insurance 4.0 we do it faster and better.
As numerous and daunting as the changes of today are for the insurance industry, there will be more and greater challenges in the industry of tomorrow.
The accelerating pace of change in our world not only demands new products, but presents entirely new forms of risk, as well. I referred earlier to the three generic kinds of disruption we are witnessing. Each of them carries new risk exposure the likes of which our industry has not dealt with before.
Technology disruption, for example, presents a host of new risks related to our connected world. Insurers are struggling to find their place as autonomous vehicles loom large in our future. What does this mean for the motor insurance business, the industry’s largest line of coverage? Will auto manufacturers simply bypass the insurance industry and go directly to the capital markets for their enormous coverage needs? Will commercial drones inspecting property damage claims improve workflow and reduce reliance on human error?
How will blockchain reduce expenses? The InsureWave project developed by EY, Maersk, Willis and GuardTime promises to slash marine insurance expense ratios by approximately 10 points! Other blockchain applications are in the works, and industry consortia like The Institutes’ Risk Block Alliance are finding new processes to save and make money every day now.
Finally, cyber risk represents the world’s first truly global peril, including a cascading potential due to our connectedness. Clearly, there is premium growth potential in cyber, but the early promoters of long-term-care insurance might remind us that revenue growth potential does not necessarily portend long-term profit. Current cyber combined ratios are running around 60%. True loss experience, though, will take years or decades to be fully understood.
Economic disruption also presents new challenges and opportunities for insurers going forward. Who will be the insureds of the future? How does a company insure Uber or AirBnB, let alone the people who use them and the facilities they work with? How does the collapse of traditional industry customers like retailers, coal companies and other industries that dominated the 20th century affect insurers? And by the way, is the industry prepared to cut 25% to 50% of its non-customer-facing jobs over the next decade as a “benefit” of AI and robotics? Some of the internal workforce can become part of the “hybrid system,” the human overlords who write and work alongside the smart systems to make their ultimate decisions, but not many.
Social disruption is also a source of new risks. For nonlife insurers, reputation risk and privacy risk have enormous potential exposures, and little existing loss data to make rates. It’s much too soon to tell if providing coverage for these exposures will be viable or not.
What are the insurance implications of the sharing economy, where more people want the ability to use things without owning them? Usage based insurance is gaining popularity, but also has the potential to significantly reduce premium volume. What about the “gig economy,” where many people hold several part-time jobs and no full-time job (meaning no benefits)?
And how will life and health insurers cope with a rapidly aging developed world? Retirement savings is a looming crisis. And even if we manage to avoid pandemics (consider: If the Spanish Flu of 1918 occurred today, it could kill 400 million people), what are the implications of a hotter and more polluted planet for healthcare? Will wearable devices driving the Internet of Things provide a cornucopia of information to enable better health outcomes?
And what of the big issue: climate change? Both the World Economic Forum and Lloyd’s of London define climate change as a top socio-economic risk to our society. Climate risk is now considered a core strategic issue by governments, businesses, even the military. Certainly for the insurance industry, adaptation and mitigation, the need to make future provisions for inevitable damage, and send pricing signals to insureds of the true cost of risk, is a defining issue of our time.
In a broad way, Insurance 4.0 means the industry is becoming part of an ecosystem of connected and communicating sectors that are symbiotic, not as “B to B,” business to business, or “B to C,” business to consumer, but “E to E”: everything to everybody, where the information exchange benefits all participants, but is not equally understood by all parties. The information flow is asymmetrical. We can all agree that reducing risk in our world is a good thing for society, but, if risk is materially reduced, will the size and relevance of our industry then shrink?
A few words are also in order about the political capital the insurance industry possesses. I have written herein mostly about the risk management side of our business, and indeed it is the very reason we are in business. But even in a time of increasing public/private partnerships seeking to mitigate and remediate natural disasters, politicians and policy makers primarily ascribe our industry’s power and influence to our investment portfolios.
Globally, the industry has over $35 trillion of invested assets. Assets that are invested in companies’ domiciliary countries’ government bond markets and are critical to those countries.
Assets invested in their stock and corporate bond markets, as well. And now, insurers’ role, along with pension funds, as the only true long-term investors, means they are vital to infrastructure funding. Growth projects for the emerging world, and reconstruction financing for the developed world. This is what gets the attention of policymakers. And so this attribute is what we must nurture and promote to enhance our stature. Our most promising avenue to high esteem with policymakers is by securing their understanding of the vital role our investment portfolios play in helping them achieve their goals.
And so, the world of Insurance 4.0 is not just one of new products covering new risks, but a whole new conception of what insurance can be and do. Some say that in the future, all companies will be technology companies. If that is even close to being true, then insurance companies, which run on information, must surely be technology companies to succeed.
But can they all be? No. Some don’t have the innovation mindset to adapt. I know of many insurers that employ only slightly modernized versions of the same processes that have been around for well over 100, and have yet survived. They will continue to try to muddle along until forced. Capital providers to stock insurers are getting impatient about returns, and so merger and acquisition activity is increasing. Few small insurers can afford to become state-of-the-art technology providers, and many will have to seek stronger partners. Most mutual companies, which do not have those demanding investors to answer to, will just carry on, but lose share of market to faster-moving competitors. I believe Insurance 4.0 will feature an accelerating consolidation of the global industry, driven by the technology leaders taking over technology laggards.
I also believe that more and better utilization of data by insurers will lead to better pricing and better loss reserving, reducing the amplitude of underwriting cycles. This, in turn, will result in the industry becoming less of a frequency business and more of a severity provider, a tail-risk provider. The greatest value of the industry to its customers will become having the ability to better forecast and the capacity to provide for extreme weather events and other large losses. Examples would include cyber, environmental and terrorism/civil unrest. This is yet another argument for industry consolidation around fewer, bigger, tech-savvy insurers, and for an even greater role for funding from the capital markets.
Another rapidly emerging concept of Insurance 4.0 is the industry’s role in loss mitigation. I’m shocked to find that many people still think our industry exists solely to pay money to people after bad things happen. In fact, the industry’s role in mitigating and even preventing losses before they occur is the key reason for the rapid rise of public/private partnerships and invitations by governments to help them anticipate and reduce, not just pay for, losses.
As an example, I participated in this year’s G20 meetings in Argentina , where, for the first time ever, a dedicated insurance summit was held. Industry and governments explored opportunities to work together better to reduce losses any way possible. It is becoming widely understood that every dollar spent on loss mitigation and prevention by governments saves five dollars of post-event spending.
This gets to a basic disconnect that the industry must come to grips with: Insurers basically want to sell protection for when losses occur, which they have done for centuries now. Customers, on the other hand, now want to buy loss prevention and mitigation, in the form of broader advisory services.
If real customer-centricity is to be achieved, making this fundamental shift in the business model of how the industry meets customer needs would truly mean we have reached Insurance 4.0!