For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of attending what I consider the premier U.K. insurance event, The Future of General Insurance. The event has been running for 17 years. Some of my non-insurance colleagues wonder what could possibly change enough in this age-old industry to keep people like me returning to such an event year after year. For those of us steeped in it, however, the answer is clear… everything.
I’ve worked in this industry for more than 25 years, and occasionally have to pinch myself to believe how far insurance has come since I started – and the pace of that change seems to accelerate almost daily. The event’s coordinators, Marketforce, named this year’s conference “Insurance Innovators” in recognition of this speed of change, and the regularity with which insurtechs are springing up in support of “doing things a different way.”
Held at the QEII Conference Centre, opposite Westminster Abbey in the heart of London, this year’s show was much larger and grander than in the past – another indicator of the extreme health of the industry. Many of the old familiar faces were there, but so was a sea of new ones. A younger suit-less and tie-less generation added extraordinary invigoration.
While it is easily argued that the insurance industry has been innovating for 300-plus years, evolving regularly to provide coverage for new types of risk, today’s innovation is about much more. Today’s carriers are constantly asking themselves how they can truly provide a world-class service to their customers, differentiate their product offerings, and utilize technology to improve efficiencies and speed-to-market. And those are among the more straightforward questions! They’re also trying to adapt to societal shifts that have them grappling with challenges such as millennials not necessarily wanting to own everything that they use.
We heard from Allianz about how they have been trialing robots – but, importantly, with human supervisors. We are truly coming to the fourth industrial revolution! We also heard from the MD of British Gas Insurance about how the smart home is fast becoming a reality – marked change from five years ago. And in a voting session by attendees, there was an overarching sense that insurance will need to become an add-on product – let’s see what Amazon does!
The takeaway for me over these two days is that we are entering into something of the unknown, but that successful insurers will absolutely need to take advantage of technology. They must not fall behind the curve, and must understand the needs of the new and future customer, keep a watch out for what the insurtechs are doing, and above all, embrace “the new.” The future of insurance will be defined by constant change, and the carriers that embrace it now and plan for an open, connected ecosystem will be the ones that dominate the space for years to come.
Thanks to Marketforce for continuing to put on such a first-class event. I am genuinely excited for the coming year and to see how we have progressed at the next Future of General Insurance show in 12 months!