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Social justice is an easy goal on which to agree, though as the events of the past year have taught us, we often fall short transforming the aspirational into reality. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, and in as vital an industry as insurance, the need to ensure we properly and fairly serve all consumers has never been greater nor more widely understood.

Executive Summary

While some insurance professionals focus on the potentially negative outcomes of using AI in insurance, Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew Mais believes positive possibilities make exploring AI insurance applications more than worth it. “AI will bring better targeted, more relevant and better priced products to market, along with easier ways to uncover and eliminate discriminatory practices,” he writes. Mais, who is also Secretary Treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, also reports on the NAIC’s efforts to make sure the good outweighs the bad.

Here in the insurance capital of the known universe, the Connecticut Insurance Department believes that our charge to protect consumers includes encouraging competition and facilitating the provision of as many relevant products as quickly and as affordably, for as many consumers, as possible. We all need insurance. We all should have it.

That means that we, as regulators, must be facilitators of innovation and growth in rapidly changing times. So much has changed since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, since the first iPhone was released in the U.S. in June 2007, since IBM’s supercomputer Watson won on Jeopardy early in 2011.

These days, advances in technology seem to come quicker and with a broader impact than ever before. The goal of many startups is the disruption of the business or product status-quo. This approach has businesses bringing products and services to market that generally fall outside the existing regulatory framework. That can be a challenge to properly regulate. But when new business practices are managed properly through effective regulation, growth can occur with acceptable risk, and consumers benefit.

We need AI product designers to help us strip yesterday’s biases and prejudices from our future.”

Progress and growth are never entirely risk-free, but the opportunity cost of ignoring the potential advantages of systemic changes for consumers is unacceptable. That’s why in Connecticut, we have been working very closely with InsurTechs, startups, consumer advocates, academics and industry experts through two advisory councils—one on regulation and one on innovation. Both councils work toward the same goal, using input and insight from all stakeholders to harness technology and make the insurance industry work better for all consumers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped expose the sad reality that many people don’t have the insurance they need because they think it is too expensive, getting it is too difficult or time-consuming, they are unsure what they need, or they just have not been exposed to the importance of insurance. The result is there are far too many unserved and underserved communities that could benefit from more relevant, more affordable and more understandable insurance products.

That is where the need for innovation becomes obvious. Regulators should help foster such innovation and growth and remove regulatory barriers for sensible new products such as microinsurance that may serve underserved populations. Innovation and technology are great enablers, and I want to encourage their development and contributions to the public good—to reach as many people as quickly, as easily and as affordably as possible.

The future of insurance will include almost unlimited opportunities to leverage innovation as a differentiator for sales opportunities and to reach consumers who embrace technology, much of it driven by artificial intelligence (AI). AI will drive exponential change and accelerate growth. AI will be life-changing for insurance companies and consumers alike, raising the question of how regulators can ensure that models and algorithms and machine learning don’t simply scale-up the bad practices of the past.

As regulators, we are charged with protecting consumers and approving products that are structured to work for the common good. The full impact of AI and other technologies on public goods, services, education and sustainability must be considered. Unintended bias can certainly lead to harmful consequences—racial or gender bias and segmentation—that need to be considered by the developer and addressed by the regulator before any widespread use. These are issues that need further attention nationally and internationally.

We need to make sure consumers know they are protected. Trust is vital when the stakes are so high. How do regulators keep consumers protected?

Regulators should help foster such innovation and growth and remove regulatory barriers.

AI as a driver for change can be both positive and negative. The negative perpetuates discrimination, but the positive possibilities make exploring AI more than worth it. AI will bring better targeted, more relevant and better priced products to market, along with easier ways to uncover and eliminate discriminatory practices.

Consistent AI policies will be essential to the continued successful evolution of insurance and should have their base principles clearly focused on consumer protection, transparency and cybersecurity, among others. Industry, consumers and regulators need to have a playbook, and fortunately we do. The NAIC’s AI principles can serve as a guide for all participants in the marketplace.

A major goal of the NAIC’s AI principles is to make sure vulnerable populations are not being targeted and exploited, with a clear understanding that AI creators and products should meet basic standards: being ethical, accountable, compliant and secure. Morality must govern.

We need industry to look beyond the easy numbers and to understand that while past is prologue, it is not destiny. We need AI product designers to help us strip yesterday’s biases and prejudices from our future.

For us as regulators, the work has only just begun. In 2021, the NAIC’s newly combined Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (EX) Working Group will begin its work to research the use of big data and AI in the business of insurance and evaluate existing regulatory frameworks.

See related sidebar: What the NAIC’s Guiding Principles on AI Say

The group will assess data needs and required tools for state regulators to appropriately monitor the marketplace and evaluate the use of big data and intelligent algorithms in underwriting, rating, claims and marketing practices.

Other NAIC workstreams, most notably the NAIC’s Special Committee (EX) on Race and Insurance, will be focused on policy issues surrounding what is fair, ethical and appropriately transparent.

There is much we need to change in our world and our industry. That begins with examining the assumptions that led us to where we are now. Let that challenge and change begin with us.

By talking openly about the issues and working together—regulators, innovators and industry—we can accelerate progress. We can draw closer to that day when every consumer has meaningful access to the insurance they need. That’s good policy. That’s good business. That’s just good.

Topics Legislation InsurTech Tech Data Driven Personal Auto Artificial Intelligence Connecticut