What do Amazon and Insurance have in common? The answer, I suggest, is this: Everything and Nothing.
But first I digress. For many years, the desk staff at my Manhattan apartment building really had but one job: To be pleasant and sometimes helpful to tenants coming and going. Now the desk staff has become servants of Amazon as each day UPS drivers dump hundreds of packages at the front desk: Shoes, toys, diapers, clothing, furniture…everything “brick and mortar” retail once sold. And now that Amazon has moved into fresh produce and groceries with the purchase of Whole Foods, the anxiety of the desk staff has increased measurably.
With that digression in mind, recently, I attended an international insurance conference in Rome, Italy. There, one panel of insurance brokers and underwriters discussed how the marked preference of millennials for internet shopping has changed and is changing the way insurance is sold.
With the advent of online insurance applications, the brokers are worried about becoming irrelevant; and, the underwriters are worried that fraud, already a $40 billion dollar industry problem, will rise to even greater levels. But some panelists argued that Watson-like cyber brains and sophisticated algorithms would eventually solve short-term blips in online insurance applications and claim service.
Needless to say, save for the inevitability of change in the way insurance is sold and claims resolved, no clear answers emerged. The only consensus seemed to be this: Routine risks such as auto and basic homeowners would increasingly be written and resolved over the internet; while sophisticated commercial and high net worth risks require and will always require human judgment to assess whether the risk ought to be accepted and if so at what premium. And, of course, boots on the ground and perhaps lawyers would be required for complicated matters.
The theme that ultimately emerged from the discussion is that human expertise in risk assessment and claim service still matter and add value no cyber network, however sophisticated, can match. But even with that positive realization, the clear message to insurance professionals and lawyers alike was to embrace technology to achieve greater efficiency and profitability. In sum, the promise of the mantra– “There’s an App for that”–may soon become more than Silicon Valley hype in the insurance world. And we have to be ready to meet it.
And that’s it for this This and That. If you have any thoughts (or gripes) about how the internet has changed the way insurance is produced, claims are managed, or lawyers employed in our digital world, please call or email Dennis.