Property/casualty insurers have talked for years about the need to modernize and embrace technology in order to serve their customers better.

COVID-19 came along and rapidly quickened the process, asserts Nigel Walsh, managing director, insurance at Google.

“The pandemic [was what] accelerated insurance beyond all recognition and all the initiatives that we had in play to make ourselves digital, to engage, to continue business as usual but just in a completely remote workplace,” Walsh told Carrier Management Editor Mark Hollmer. “The opportunity now for us is, is there a smarter way to do it using better data, using better engagement, using parametric tools on the claim side that actually fundamentally changes the way in which we do insurance?”

Walsh’s interview, excerpted here, will be available in full as part of Carrier Management‘s InsurTech Summit 2021, which will be broadcast on May 12, 2021. To sign up, log onto

Digital Indigestion

Nigel Walsh

Walsh said that the rapid digital acceleration in the insurance industry over the last year has left it with “digital indigestion” in 2021. That phenomenon has wide implications as carriers assess their tech needs over the coming months, he said.

“I talk a lot about a term called ‘digital indigestion,’ and what I mean by that is, what the insurance carriers and brokers and so forth are doing after the year that took us all by surprise,” Walsh explained.

What comes next is prioritizing technology needs out of all those newly-acquired systems. Walsh said that includes working out “what we’re going to keep and what we’re going to push away and what we’re going to use to then drive forward.

“One of the big opportunities in my mind is using this thing that just happened to us [the pandemic] as a ‘leap forward’ moment,” Walsh said. “To do that, our InsurTech community have a great opportunity to help insurers, carriers and brokers to actually drive that forward.”

Technologies that were in vogue last year are still relevant now, Walsh argued. But, he said, “enabling” startups that focus on specific insurance processes are more in demand at the moment than “full stack” InsurTechs trying to become the next Metromile, Lemonade or Root.

Particular process improvements gaining attention right now include areas such as robotic process automation, improving efficiencies, reducing costs or boosting customer service, Walsh noted. That means InsurTechs in these areas are in an advantageous position.

The Big Opportunity: Small Businesses

Asked to offer some predictions for InsurTechs in 2021, Walsh said he sees huge opportunity among small to medium-sized businesses.

It is “about to go digital en masse,” Walsh said. “It is a huge opportunity, but we need both the technology, the understanding and love of insurance and the distribution capability all brought together. So I think there’s a really huge opportunity for Insurtech in that space, and there are lots of players there already. I’m really keen on that.”

Another InsurTech area Walsh said will be worth watching is the broad use and accessibility of data to help quantify personal risk. It’s not in the P/C insurance space, but Walsh said it is still worth watching. Think Apple Watches, Google Fit devices or any other product that helps people make personal life choices to avoid health risks and live longer.

“Without a doubt we are putting individual risk managers in everyone’s pockets,” Walsh said.