Skip to main content

Automation, AI and the future of insurance

Insurance Consulting and Technology
Insurer Solutions

November 30, 2018

Alice Underwood and David Ovenden explore how the rate of change in the insurance industry is unlike anything we've seen before, particularly in the space of artificial intelligence and automation, and outline how insurers are responding to this.

In an interview with Reuters, Willis Towers Watson’s Alice Underwood, Global Leader of Insurance Consulting and Technology, and David Ovenden, Global Pricing & Underwriting Leader, Insurance Consulting and Technology, explore how the rate of change in the insurance industry is unlike anything we've seen before, particularly in the space of artificial intelligence and automation, and outline how insurers are responding to this.

Insurance is an industry that has to deal with constant change. That change has always included steady developments in technology - both in terms of how that technology affects what insurance might cover, but also how insurers operate day to day.

What we’re seeing now is a rate of change unlike anything we’ve seen before - bringing with it new challenges, but also many new opportunities - particularly in the space of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation.

Willis Towers Watson is a company which is helping their clients take advantage of these opportunities, with its unique combination of a strong technology offering and consulting heritage - enabling them to provide experts in both the subject matter and implementation of technology solutions for the insurance industry.

Insurers have been using sophisticated analytics for a long time, so a move towards machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence isn’t such a massive leap. An advantage for insurers with strong data backgrounds will be the ability to bring in their own underlying data assets to merge with the capabilities of these new predictive models - generating unique insights and opportunities.

David Ovenden, Global Pricing & Underwriting Leader, Insurance Consulting and Technology at Willis Towers Watson says there are big opportunities for growth and profitability through the use of AI and automation: ”Within the commercial community there is an awful lot of frictional cost in the value chain, and as a result there’s significant opportunity to employ intelligent automation to support the underwriter’s decision. There’s a lot of human intervention and not a lot of data integration - so as we’re starting to see data integration across the value chain you have the ability to make better decisions quicker, so you get that pace and ease of use for the intermediary and the carrier.”

Technological advisors performing automated analysis that doesn’t require intervention frees up human advisors to truly add value - and ultimately allows the industry to rethink what an underwriter’s process actually is. Intelligent automation can also drive sophisticated pricing, which could, for example, open up the opportunity for commercialised trading hubs. Using smart automation, these hubs could offer intelligent pricing from insurers enabling brokers to have automated decision rules about which deal is presented to which client.

The challenge is integrating these technologies with legacy systems, and in some instances helping to shift the culture of a business. In the past a company may have wanted to control every part of a process, but that’s now changing. The need to diversify and work with different providers is becoming more important, as Alice Underwood - Global Leader of Insurance Consulting and Technology at Willis Towers Watson - describes: ”One of my colleagues jokingly described a kind of company that once upon a time wanted to be so vertically integrated that if they could have, they would have gn their own trees to make paper to print the insurance policies on. I don’t think anybody is aiming for that kind of model these days. Today there is a clear trajectory towards connectivity of the market, with companies looking to be able to plug in and connect to different providers of information, different providers of technology - the ability to integrate that technology with your existing legacy systems is going to be more important than ever. However this also creates a challenge in itself, identifying the right companies and technology to partner with.”

Some companies have the desire to try and make a shift towards these new technologies happen entirely ‘in-house’, or believe it’s something they can focus on in the future. That could be risky when the speed of change is accelerating by the day. Willis Towers Watson are increasingly working with clients who are looking to bring about fast and efficient shifts, employing a combination of internal and external resources to ensure they are keeping pace with the shifts taking place in the industry. David Ovenden describes a recent example of how Willis Towers Watson helped one company make fast and transformational change: “The act of bringing the consulting, the subject matter expertise and the technology together means that the client not only gets a great solution - we also enable them to deploy in a much more rapid way. For example we recently worked with a client to deploy some pricing sophistication technology within 3 and a half weeks of signing a contract. We were able to move a client from a situation where they had a significant pricing problem in the market to being a price leader inside a month. It’s delivery at pace - which is a key component of our approach.”

Most service providers in the insurance space are focusing on the technology or the consulting. Willis Towers Watson’s unique focus is bringing consulting and technology together to offer solutions specific to each client. With its technological expertise and broad knowledge of what’s happening across the industry, Willis Towers Watson is able to give its clients insights into what’s coming next - to be able to look at what’s happening across the world, in other market environments, and other product segments - so clients can address these changes and challenges and adapt quickly.

The company’s roots date back to 1828 - and that range of experience coupled with the fact Willis Towers Watson trades in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of technology every year means it’s in a unique position to help other companies take advantage of these ever progressing technologies.

Contact Us