Insurance Day have once again bought together some of the key thinkers in the realm of insurance technology to discuss a range of hot topics which will (and are) impact the sector. So what did we learn this year?
Firstly, I want to thank ID for the event - my attendance at last year's congress introduced me to the word of InsurTech, and has enabled me to get more deeply involved in finding solutions for a number of the challenges facing the sector, so I now feel that I am contributing to the solution rather than simply commentating on the problem.
I think it fair to say that much has changed in the realm of insurance in 12 months, but sadly many things have not. There remains a reticence to facilitate change through the adoption of new technologies, and many traditionalists still have their heads in the sand regarding the threat (opportunity?) technology represents. Digitisation of process cannot be viewed as a nice to have, it must be considered an essential part of business strategy for organisations to unburden their cost base. Sadly, too few in the London Market are truly aware of what is going on.
Innovation is still being stymied by the replication of traditionalist perspective; to quote one of the panel members discussing 'closing the skills gap': 'We naturally choose people like ourselves...' This has hindered the development of skills in the industry for some time, and sadly some of the discussions at the ITC (both during the networking sessions, and the various debates) lead me to believe that not enough is being done to rectify this issue. Be reassured that there are some that are breaking the mould, and whilst it would be remiss of me to comment negatively of particular entities, I am happy to laud the culture at Beazley (described with enthusiasm by Paul Willoughby, their Head of IT Strategy, Architecture, and Innovation), as something other incumbents should aspire to.
By no means am I seeking to focus on the negatives though, and we were introduced to wealth of exciting initiatives that have the potential to propel the insurance industry into the digital age.
Although we heard quite a lot about 'disruptive technologies' (Insurance as a Service, Usage Based Insurance, Prescriptive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Robots, etc.), a continuing theme throughout the two day congress was that of Data. Insurance is a hugely data rich sector, and there are many innovative new ways being developed to better utilise that information to aid - well a number of things - not least moving the industry from a culture of compensation to one of loss mitigation (as discussed by Justin Emrich CIO of Atrium). The Internet of Things will provide new sources to a universe of data that is previously untapped, and the savvy are working to ensure they can harness and analyse this to the benefit of the party that needs to be at the centre of any debate for Insurers: the Customer.
There are many people who can better debate BlockChain and it's potential impact on insurance than I, but surely any technology that can provide all stakeholders in the insurance value chain with the same version of the data, at the same time (think policy documents), without the need for re-keying, essentially eliminating human error, is invaluable in a sector seeking to make cost savings wherever possible... It seems there are a couple of exciting businesses that have already developed viable propositions, and are running pilots.
Given that I have heard the word 'data' more in the last two days than in the previous 2 months, I think it worth mentioning also that the threat to data from malicious sources is very real. We received expert opinion on the capabilities of cyber criminals, and a panel debated the role insurance can play in the development of cyber security.
So if you focus just on the information we received, all is positive if the market starts embracing the opportunities digitisation and technology offer. However, that's quite a big 'if'.