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AI and the Insurance Industry: Is It a Threat or an Opportunity?

AI Chess piece

I hear every day of Artificial Intelligence (AI) startups that are or about to revolutionise this business or that. Today, for example, I was reading about “robot investigators” being widely used to examine documents in complex Serious Fraud Office (SFO) cases. Normally the SFO would use around 30 lawyers over many weeks for a case. Using an algorithm instead, the SFO said it took a tenth of the time to sift through this very complex case and, as bonus, the SFO reported that the algorithm is much more accurate.

Does this mean 100’s of lawyers will be out of a job? That AI will take all our jobs? Possibly.

I take a different view of this new technology when I think of the future, and I use the game of Chess as an example.

IBM’s Deep Blue computer won its first game against a world champion in 1996, in that match Deep Blue whilst it won a match it was overall defeated by a score of 4–2. Over the next year Deep Blue was upgraded, and played again in 1997. Deep Blue won the six-game rematch 3½–2½ and became the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion.

Recently AlphaZero, the game-playing AI created by Google sibling DeepMind, beat the world’s best chess-playing computer program, having taught itself how to play in under four hours!

So, chess is over right – I mean what’s the point?

Obviously, this is not true, chess is still a great game and more people can play chess on phones and other devises, both learning the game and pitting themselves against chess software. Tournaments are held where Chess Masters, each with computers, do battle in games that are every bit as close and exciting as they ever were. It’s just that the humans have been upgraded, a kind of chess cyborg that elevates even novice players to greatness.

Using this as a template we can return to the use of AI for business. I believe that AI will change nearly every job and wipe out some along the way. It will also create jobs, enabling businesses to become far more insightful and smart and customer facing that ever before. Products, service and insight like never before will be available and delivered at a cost that today we cannot imagine.

Looking at my industry, insurance, data has always been at its heart but poorly used. Data is traditionally split, rekeyed and divided as the customer’s policy is processed through agents, wholesalers, brokers, underwriters, reinsurance, claims and on and on.

Today, there is an ability to create and uncover insights at speed, in real time, and this is pulling process, data and information together. AI and machine learning is and will be used in many ways – the insurance cyborg is coming our way! This is critical for shared economy insurance to work.

This is a BIG win for customers and where they will notice the most is around customer service. Insurance is known to be one of, if not the worst industry when it comes to Customer Service, so it won’t be too hard to be impressive!

What will customers notice? The successful new insurance companies and intermediaries will focus on instant customization, instant claims payments, more frequent relevant touch points to the customer and transactional short-term event based policies that customers will be demanding to meet their event based work and leisure lifestyles.

AI will allow the industry to move away from the constraints of the product and focus on service and doing what insurance is all about – managing risk and paying claims when certain conditions are met, all at a reasonable and understandable cost.