For insurers, operationalizing data activates innovation

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When asked, "What emerging digital technology has improved your business the most?" Jim Suchara, VP for digital innovation at Amerisure Insurance, chuckles.

"Some people act as if its a tech deli out there where you can order up things: 'I'll take half a pound of AI, a quarter-pound of blockchain,'" he says, explaining that it's most important to start innovation efforts with the business need, not try to apply a technology to a process that may not benefit from it.

"We don't seek to order up some AI and machine learning," Suchara said as part of the Prepare for Impact panel at the Internet of Insurance 2019 conference in Austin, Texas on Tuesday. "Insurance runs on data, so the ways in which we can acquire and process new forms of data are incredibly helpful for us. The IoT and connected sensors, data as a service companies, getting third party data sources to help us get better insights and better solutions."

Terry Luciani, VP of enterprise innovation for MetLife, noted that at his more-than-a-century-old company, "for years we've had piles of data and there's insights on insights in there." In the same way "people only really think about electricity when we don't have it," so do insurers with data, he adds. And, with more data accessible than ever to players across the value chain, carriers have to respond.

"For established companies, success drives size, size drives structure, and structure creates antibodies to change,' he says. "But, startups have taken the value chain and picked a small piece, product or full stack."

Kassie Bryan, Head of P&C solutions for Swiss Re, believes that the future of insurance is being shaped by the ability to use data more effectively than ever. As the industry evolves, assumptions about what insurance can and should do are being challenged. Carriers and insurtechs must find a path that supports the policyholder above all else, though.

"We can use this data to reposition ourselves as risk protectors, changing the role we play in the world around us and changing the value proposition in insurance itself," she says. "But we want to help and protect the industry. it may be that the regulator doesn't have a problem with the data source we're using generally, unless it incidentally cuts [a population] out. Ihe mantra I have is, 'How does this help policyholders and improve coverage?'"

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