Forget fearing technology and more technology-adept rivals. Embracing the change both bring to the table makes good business sense, a recent reinsurance industry panel concluded at the PCI Annual Meeting in Dallas.
“The reinsurance industry has done a very good job of embracing technology for its own purposes,” said Stephen Levy, president of the reinsurance division at Munich Re America. “I am bullish on technology.”
Levy was a panelist during a discussion on navigating uncertainty, held at the PCI Annual Meeting on Oct. 24 in Dallas. He noted that technology can create uncertainty, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because the change can be beneficial moving forward.
“It seems to be a disrupter, but disruption can be a good thing,” Levy noted.
Andrew Winyard, executive director of Atrium Syndicate said technology is “a fantastic way to embrace business.”
“We can’t ignore technology, it can only be good for us as businesses,” Winyard said. “Look at our data, look at the businesses we’re involved in.”
Technology has become increasingly necessary for the industry, well beyond the use of analytics as a tool to help manage, mitigate and understand risk, said James Bradshaw, CEO of Willis Re North America.
“The broker is becoming much more of an advisor and just placing reinsurance is not enough,” Bradshaw said during the panel discussion. “Even though there are great analytics around the transaction, clients are looking to us to help them with problems beyond the latest trend [from] rate making to claims payment.”
Bradshaw noted that the latest technology is useful here, allowing clients to help address any issue. In other words, technology is there “so their businesses can grow and be profitable.”
David Priebe, vice chairman of Guy Carpenter and Company, argued that technology is “an area to embrace.” That applies to InsurTech, he said, a sector where startup competitors that pledge to be cheaper, quicker, more customer friendly and more efficient than older companies are today.
Priebe said he was at an InsurTech conference in San Francisco earlier in October with more than 1,500 attendees, most of which was from the property/casualty insurance industry, and he said there was plenty of excitement and enthusiasm among the crowd.
“It was fascinating to see,” Priebe added. “It is really exciting times. As a broker we are excited to bring some of those ideas and thoughts to clients to help them improve their own businesses.”
Levy said the growing use of technology in insurance “is being driven by the same disruptive forces that have transformed so many industries,” such as digitalization and great computing power.
He noted there has been a significant growth of InsurTech startups even since 2015, and that “leading VCs see this as a hot area, that the insurance industry is prone to this type of disruption.”
The insurance industry is prone to this, he said, in part because of its cost structure and the low marks it gets on how it currently handles “online engagements.”
Levy said the industry can benefit from the emergence of InsurTech companies, if it gets ahead of the trends.
“While this might represent a threat to us, it [also] represents a significant opportunity to improve the value proposition for our industry,” Levy said. “We would recommend that insurers and others in the industry try to engage with these types of firms. Obviously they are not familiar with the industry and all the regulatory aspects, so the real opportunity for us is to work with them and guide them appropriately.”