The Art of the Possible

Published On: November 12, 2018

How is digitalisation reimagining the insurance industry, and what aspects of insurance still have scope to be further digitalised?

In 1990, I walked into a General Accident office in Glasgow to learn about insurance. Sitting in the corner was a sparkling IBM PC, with the rest of the office on some form of green screen technology. “Why is nobody using the PC?” I asked.

“It’s our expert Commercial Quotation System; we know we should use it, but we can all do quotes faster than it so we don’t!”

I think that this sort of anecdote sums up many of our experiences in insurance – we know we should use the technology but we are happy enough to plough on as we are. Worse still, some of us have seen where people didn’t really want technology to work as it would “commoditise the business”. It has often taken someone from the wings or outside of the industry to come along and disrupt; just look at Peter Wood, a computer programmer who used technology, mainly a phone, to disrupt and create Direct Line in 1985.

History and experience show us that it’s not the technology that’s the issue or the differentiator in digitalisation, but the people.

So what’s different now? Technology has accelerated change and transformed what’s possible. The first iPhone didn’t have GPS; next year’s will track you to within 30cm on the planet! Insurance people are becoming more technology savvy, and we are starting to understand the art of the possible, mainly due to technology being all around us.

It’s people that are reimagining the insurance industry. Leave the stereotypes behind; in my own business over a third of our App users are over the age of fifty. Take the technology we have, whether it be ‘mobile’, artificial intelligence, virtual reality or advanced analytics, understand it and see how it can be applied to what we do. Combine the data rich world of insurance with cutting edge technology, and you can understand why there’s so much Insurtech chatter.

We’ve scratched the surface so far, mainly focusing on admin improvements. A massive area for development is in analysis and prevention. Will we see insurance becoming more about preventing the claim than paying for it?

It’s often said that the insurance industry is about people. The future is still about people, but people with the right technology, skillset and vision.