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Blockchain seen as evolutionary force in insurance

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LAS VEGAS — Blockchain remains a major source of interest among the insurtech community, according to speakers on a panel about its use in insurance at the InsureTech Connect Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“Blockchain is one of three main areas of focus for us,” along with artificial intelligence and the “internet of things,” said Sastry Durvasula, chief digital officer for Marsh LLC in Phoenix. “We see blockchain as a major force in disrupting the insurance and risk management industry.”

Initial deployments of the technology are underway.

“We’re actually changing our operations to be blockchain-driven,” said Truman Esmond, vice president of solutions and partnerships with the American Association of Insurance Services in Denver.

The association started with a pilot program in Ohio using homeowners, and after loading about 2.5 million records “you could very quickly see some emerging patterns and immediate value for everyday users which often receive this data in a pile,” Mr. Esmond said.

Further development and use could yield substantial results.

“From my perspective, the root cause of all our woes across industries, and not just in insurance, is the silos system of records and data,” said Jeff To, global head of insurance for Salesforce in New York.

“You start to see huge economies of scale” when employing commonly agreed-upon reliable sources of data, Mr. To said.

These first projects, however, are just the beginning of a longer process.

“If you want to be successful with blockchain, you need to understand that the first step you’re taking now is part of a bigger roadmap to productive use,” said Betrand Portier, IBM Distinguished Engineer, Blockchain in Financial Services, Austin, Texas.