The first time alarms started going off in my head about the future of the industry I've so far invested a decade of my life into was 18 months ago at an awesome(ly geeky) London Futurist Meetup in Shoreditch. A study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology on Employment was cited. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne developed their own algorithm to analyse how susceptible various occupations are to computerisation.
Of the 702 common occupations tested… the Insurance Underwriter was joint most at risk.
In fact, and as the title suggests, the algorithm gave a 99% probability that by 2033 insurance underwriters will lose their jobs to algorithms.
(other Insurance related occupations faired as badly - Insurance Claims and Policy Processing Clerks and Insurance Appraisers, Auto Damage were just behind at 98% while Insurance Sales Agents had a 92% chance of being replaced)
Now I imagine you may react to this in the same way I did: instant dismissal of the study. These Oxford academics couldn't possibly understand the nuances of our beloved industry. No algorithm could replace the years of experience and expertise that have dominated the London Market from the outset.
But the various arguments of the expert Futurist thinkers planted a seed of doubt in my mind. Once I began unraveling the (re)insurance value chain and considering how future tech will change the way everyone thinks about the evaluation, monitoring and sharing of risk, I couldn't shake an awareness of the mortality of our current business practices.
We really can't say exactly what the future of our industry will look like in 2033, but I can say with certainty it won't be business as usual. The world is at the beginning of a great digital gold rush as Tech pioneers trip over themselves to create the next Uber+ of 'X'. The insurance industry is not immune from these advances.
The good news is that our leaders and home grown pioneers are becoming aware of this. There is an incredibly encouraging amount of activity going on: new tech being experimented with and adopted, partnerships being developed, investment and acquisitions, accelerators etc
But we also need to ensure those people still working in 2033 (myself included) aren't taken by surprise by these smart risk-calculating algorithms on the horizon. We must build the reimagining of the industry into our cultures and should start work on our own skillsets so we can lead the conversation rather than waiting to see how it develops.
Insurers need to make bold moves while there is still a window of opportunity.