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Challenges in melding tech with insurance remain: Experts

Challenges in melding tech with insurance remain: Experts

LAS VEGAS ­— Technology is making its way into the insurance space in a variety of ways, but it must overcome challenges, according to speakers on the panel The Strategy + Tech Formula of Leading Insurers at the InsurTech Connect Conference Tuesday in Las Vegas.

“We take technology and apply it to our existing businesses to help amplify those,” as well as “exploring and experimenting into new business areas including emerging risks,” said Andrew Breen, senior vice president of digital for Argo Group International Holdings Ltd. in New York.

Some see regulation as potentially slowing the pace of change.

“Insurance is a very regulated environment,” said Kristof de Bremme, head of marine, general insurance for AIG in London, adding that some more stringent regulations are like “putting a harness around trying to deal with data.”

“There is a lot of technology, but there are a lot of encumbrances from a regulatory point of view,” Mr. de Bremme said.

Others see challenges with the insurers themselves.

“Insurance companies are still exchanging information in very antiquated ways,” said Mr. Breen. “We’re still doing documents and paper forms, and there is a tremendous amount of time, money, energy and error involved in dealing with paper forms.”

One way forward was to take a “horizontal” platform, in this case Salesforce, and build insurance functionality on top of it, said Reid Holzworth, CEO of TechCanary Corp. in Milwaukee.

Such an approach allows further development such as adding on phone system integration to identify incoming calls and log customer activity, Mr. Holzworth said.

“When you start to think about adding these modules onto a platform like that, the sky’s the limit,” Mr. Holzworth said.

The insurance sector may have to consider new ways to engage customers.

Netflix was an example of “a different way to know a customer,” said Jon-Mike Kowall, head of property product for innovation with USAA Inc. in San Antonio. “The whole mindset shifted,” from a physical presence like Blockbuster video in terms of consuming digital media.

“There is a whole other way to have interaction with a customer,” Mr. Kowall said. “I think we’re sitting on that type of opportunity.”