I attended the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) Automation conference this week. WSIA is the 2017 merger of AAMGA and NAPSLO serving the wholesale insurance markets for managing general agents, brokers, and carriers. Last week I joined a large group of insurance CIOs at Novarica’s third Silicon Valley Innovation Tour where the ongoing topics of conversation were innovation and disruption, which was in line with the unofficial theme demonstrated at WSIA’s automation conference by numerous speakers. There were a number of interesting panels that made some thought-provoking points. Here are some key takeaways.
Jack Shaw of the American Blockchain Council provided some guidance on blockchain. Blockchain continues to figure out where in the insurance world it can solve interesting problems, but Jack believes that insurance is ripe with inefficiencies and opportunities. He referenced the Maersk cargo initiative that is leveraging blockchain. One question did stump Jack when it came to security. A member in the audience asked him how the blockchain’s inherent security design supports the use case when a node server is hacked and new data is added to the chain. In other words, how would the other servers’ distributed ledgers recognize that the hacked server is hacked and the new data added to the chain is decrypted? Jack opted to take that question offline.
Jeff Goldberg of Novarica led a panel of disrupters who were very disruptive throughout their discussion. Tim Attia from Slice roused the crowd as he indicated that carriers need to insure differently than they do today. He pointed out that underwriting is no longer a new business and renewal effective date driven effort; rather, there’s a need to underwrite in real time, what the industry refers to as “continuous underwriting.” The other two panel guests, Harish Neelamana of Data Cubes, Inc. and Robert Reville of Praedicat, emphasized the volume and velocity of data available to carriers now throughout the life cycle of a policy as insurers have always wanted more data. Have you tried drinking from a firehouse lately?
During a TED Talk session on cybersecurity Dan Burke of Hiscox USA emphasized that cyber can be more than just a data breach, and as new problems have arisen, insurance responded by covering ransomware, spear phishing, and social engineering losses. Carriers are also helping their insureds with innovative ideas, such as providing early warning sensors within a small insured’s data center.
The wholesale and surplus lines industry is by no means excluded from disruption of new technology, new industry issues, or impactful innovation and, in fact, may be ripe for pushing the envelope on new ideas to address old problems.