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Insurtech and Bots in 2018: Should insurers dream of electric sheep?

The movie Blade Runner (and the novel it is based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) depicts a future world where artificial intelligence is taking over. It is a striking dystopia where robots – the replicants – have more humanity than their human masters.

Reimagining the future of insurance can get a little bleak too. Insurers might be concerned about Insurtech’s rise and its challenge to both the old ways of doing insurance, and even the need for insurers at all.

However, a week spent at our customer thought leadership event last month, helped me reimagine how Insurtech will impact the industry. Talking with industry CIOs and Insurtechs there, I came away with a clearer view on how the several strands of Insurtech would develop in 2018 and beyond.

One strand is how Insurtech disrupts insurers through digital distribution models. Lemonade is the pre-eminent example. Their challenge is direct, loud and bullish. But insurers have faced off this kind of model before, for example, insurance aggregators here in the UK. Insurers can stand tall against this disruptive move when they consider how they have strong customer relationships, and data that can be harnessed and used more powerfully and dynamically than ever before. Insurtech distribution models look less likely to succeed in my mind.

The second strand is more exciting, because it is more likely to succeed and create value for insurers and their customers. It is about Insurtech that enhances the life-cycle of key insurance processes. A great example of this is Octo which offers a telematics platform that can enable an insurer to work with dynamic data in how it serves its customers. In its motor insurance mode, Octo’s ability to stream data from a customer’s car means an insurer can know an accident has occurred almost immediately; they can reach out proactively with assistance, tailored to the incident, without waiting for the customer to contact them. On the same telematics platform Octo can help an insurer roll out other dynamically connected services for the home or even pet insurance.

This strand is also about how AI augments traditional processes. Cogito combines AI and behavioural science to provide an always-on AI-powered assistant to support an insurance employee or broker in engaging with a customer empathetically. Robots helping humans to be more human sounds odd but, echoing Bladerunner’s replicants, this is the kind of autonomous technology that can do just that. By constantly listening into a call to detect if the conversation becomes strained, the AI nudges the employee or broker to overcome emotional fatigue, and transform that customer engagement into a positive experience.

Insurtech and AI are converging to do much more, of course. The challenge for insurers is how to harness this technology in practical ways. Pypestream is a new entrant that is fulfilling this need, offering ready-to-go business process automation with chatbots and artificial intelligence. Its smart messaging platform is secure and scalable, and integrates seamlessly with insurance claims processing.

The third strand is where Insurtech extends the insurer business model with new complementary services and, in this respect, Insurtech is not simply about technology. WeGoLook is shaking up how insurers do field inspections. Its network of 30,000 “lookers” are trained to do field assessments, and then fast-flow data and images into a claims work-flow. The density of on-the-ground “lookers” means they can be deployed rapidly and is an ideal solution when an insurer needs to respond to a surge in claims, perhaps a natural disaster, like widescale flooding. This blend of human skills and digital science has been proven in the USA and is coming to the UK.

Insurtech is not simply an external force. Many large insurers are already reimagining themselves around internally nurtured insurtech business models. Insurance giant AXA is a great example with how it is optimising data for their customers’ benefit in a really exciting fashion. Their Givedataback initiative allows anyone to search AXA’s aggregated claims data and see the risk levels where they live, in terms of flood damage or burglary, with a view to risk prevention. This is not a stunt but the first step in how AXA intends to open up the power of its data to help customers in other more innovative and direct ways.

Insurtech is sparking great ideas to extend and enhance how insurance is executed more than disrupting or upending the industry entirely. In the same way that banks are responding to aspects of Fintech, we should expect many Insurtech innovations to be assimilated or adopted by insurers as they accelerate and extend technology to improve their operations, digitize interactions, and exploit the power of new data sources and new data science to model and price risk.




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Keith Stonell

Keith Stonell

Managing Director, EMEA


Member since

19 Aug 2015



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