View source:  Matthew Marolda

Insurance brokering innovation will only succeed if the focus is on augmenting — not overriding — human capabilities.

Insurance, often maligned for lacking innovation compared to other industries, deserves a reprieve. While there’s still much ground to cover, advancements in technology and artificial intelligence have created an opportunity for insurance companies to be the game-changers of tomorrow.

This point of view is driven, in part, because we have realized what distinguishes our industry: relationships between people, particularly brokers and the insured. Our ability to make and keep relationships is as native to insurance as the premium.

Given both the emergence of technology and the importance of relationships, the insurance industry needs to double down on this marriage of humans and technology if we’re to move innovation forward. Insurance brokering innovation will only succeed if the focus is on augmenting — and not overriding — human capabilities.

With this in mind, how should firms approach innovation? How can technology aid in furthering the mission of our industry? How can we ensure these investments are well-placed and future-proofed? And how can we make sure all of this ultimately benefits the insured?

Adaptability and client centricity

Conventional wisdom states that the most important innovations are purpose-built for a specific problem. But arguably as important, tech solutions must be able to adapt to change. When companies identify where and how they can accelerate value creation through a client-centric, tech-driven strategy, simple transformations have the potential to create unparalleled impact.

As we look across a variety of industries, we can see how technology has driven changes in consumer behaviors. An initial innovation — like selling books online, shipping DVDs directly to consumers, using batteries to enhance fuel economy, or enabling mobile phones to play music and surf the web — can initiate a market disruption. However, the companies that thrive beyond that initial distribution are able to continue to adapt and innovate, such as large-scale direct-to-consumer retail marketplaces, streaming media platforms, high-end eco-friendly autonomous vehicle manufacturers and full-fledged computing devices in our pockets. All of these adaptations have fundamentally changed the way we experience retail, entertainment, cars and technology.

Unlike these other industries — and given how complex many insurance products are — the true destination in insurance is fostering human relationships with clients that build confidence and trust. Therefore, the best way to remain client-centric is to be fully tuned in to the market and adapt along with clients’ varied preferences and needs. Some would like a streamlined, fast and tech-driven solution with minimal to perhaps no human interaction. For these folks, the idea of buying insurance through a smart speaker could feel liberating.

Most, however, especially when they are considering sophisticated products with myriad nuances, will continue to rely on a trusted advisor to guide them through the process. For these folks, the idea of buying insurance through a smart speaker could feel terrifying.

In either scenario, implementing feedback loops and machine learning is a critical “day one” step to consider. Building data science-driven technology establishes a stronger foundation and ensures that clients are offered services based on what they truly need and in the manner that works best for them.

For those human interactions, Auris, Acrisure’s own AI platform that improves producer workflow, uses proprietary machine learning tools that learn from our collective interactions with our clients. This means that our agency partners can make sure that the products we offer our clients are best fitted to solve the most critical problems at hand.

Marrying human relationships and data relationships to harness power

Insurance brokers must maintain human-centric interactions that are backed by data insights. By using the emotional intelligence of humans in tandem with the analytical intelligence that only technology can bring, companies can revolutionize their operations, boost efficiency, grow their businesses and ultimately provide a better client experience.

This is where an untapped opportunity still exists for insurance brokers to enhance the client experience with technology. Even behind the scenes, technology can better help price and place risk, which ultimately benefits the client.

More simply said, it is about matching the client with the best product at the best price with the fewest hassles.

In order to do that, we should avoid viewing human relationships and data relationships as separate or conflicting concepts and think of how to create technology that blends the two. Even if the client would prefer a streamlined, automated purchase process, the experience for that person should reflect and respect the industry’s long-standing embrace of relationships. Certainly, for those who prefer turning to a trusted advisor, it is essential to arm that advisor with the technology that enhances and improves that interaction.

A recent MIT Sloan Management Review study found that only around 10% of companies report actual financial benefits from incorporating AI into their business model, but that those who saw that success are focused on mutual human-machine learning. It’s the reason why Acrisure has emphasized the ways in which machines can learn from people, and people can learn from machines.

There’s still a lot of catching up to do. But insurance is quickly shedding its reputation as a relatively tech-deficient industry. As we continue down this path, we must remember that AI should aim to improve the human experience and vice versa. By recognizing that artificial and human intelligence go hand in hand, each unable to exist without the other, companies can rise to meet growing client expectations and demand without losing the trust, deep connection and legacy of human relationships.