Artificial intelligence could create significant boost for insurers in both revenue and employment, but they risk missing out if they don’t switch soon, according to a recent Accenture report.

That reality creates an urgent need for training because there is both a shortfall of qualified employees and AI investment to enable such a transition and insurers have been conservative about updating their employee skillsets, says the report, “Future Workforce Survey—Insurance: Realizing the Full Value of AI.”

“AI has the potential to boost innovation, growth and efficiency, but insurers’ hesitance to properly reskill their employees could limit its impact,” Michael Costonis, leader of Accenture’s Insurance practice globally, said in prepared remarks.

Among the major findings: Carriers could increase their revenue by 17 percent and employment by 7 percent on average over the next few years if they invest in AI and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top-performing businesses could.

However, executives surveyed believe only 1 in 4 of their workers is ready to work with AI, and more than 4 in 10 said a growing skills gap is the main factor behind their workforce strategy. At the same time, just 4 percent of insurers plan to boost investments focused on training employees in vital technology skills over the next three years.

“To complicate matters, despite having a business that is ripe to apply technology and innovation, insurers aren’t in a good place to win the war on [recruiting] technology talent,” Costonis said. “Executives need to think pragmatically about how they can bring new talent in, redesign jobs and reskill existing employees appropriately.”

Costonis added that developing a more flexible work environment could be a key, initial way to “attracting data scientists and other outside talent.”

Accenture’s report predicts three new categories of AI-related jobs for insurance: trainers, who will assist computers as they learn to handle underwriting, claims and customer engagement; explainers, who will translate results of algorithms for both customers and regulators; and sustainers, who will make sure machines stay on course with their planned purpose and prevent them from crossing ethical lines.

Here are some added highlights of the Accenture report findings:

  • 63 percent of insurance executives believe the industry will be completely transformed by intelligent technologies.
  • 67 percent of insurance executives believe AI will produce a net gain in jobs in their respective carriers within the next three years.
  • 52 percent of insurance executives believe human-machine collaboration is important to achieve their strategic priorities.
  • 68 percent of insurance employees see intelligent technologies as creating opportunities for their work.
  • 75 percent of workers see developing skills to work with intelligent technologies as of “high importance.”
  • Most executives surveyed—61 percent—expect future workforces will blend humans and machines.

The report is based on two surveys: one of 100 senior insurance executives, and another of more than 900 nonexecutive insurance workers. Both took place between September and November 2017 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the U.S. It also included economic modelling to establish correlation between AI investment and financial performance, Accenture said.

Source: Accenture