Canadian Underwriter

One way of predicting whether a computer will take your job

June 15, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Despite a general consensus that many insurance tasks traditionally performed by humans will soon be done by computers, software still lacks some key human attributes, speakers said Wednesday at an industry panel.

“If you are good at following and memorizing the rules, there is going to be a computer that replaces you,” said Adam Mitchell, principal of Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd., during the Property Casualty Underwriters Club CEO Luncheon in Toronto. “If you can’t employ compassion and empathy and creativity in ways to think outside the box, you can be replaced.”

Moderated by Marilyn Horrick, former national vice president at The Guarantee Company of North America, the CEO panel discussion included Louis Gagnon, president of Canadian operations for Intact Financial Corp., the nation’s largest property and casualty insurer when measured by premiums written.

“The thing that people will have to continue to do is use their judgement to make a decision,” Gagnon said. Judgement, he added, is “a great quality” for an insurance professional.

Gagnon and Mitchell were commenting on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in insurance. Their remarks came a day after think tank Insurance Nexus released a paper, reporting that 94% of insurance professionals responding to a survey said artificial intelligence will transform the insurance industry.

AI involves technology that mimics “human cognition and activities,” such as learning from experience and identifying patterns, Mark Breading, a partner with Strategy Meets Action, told Canadian Underwriter earlier.

While AI is good at predicting, computers with AI “are not going to make decisions, not in the near future,” Gagnon said Wednesday during the PCUC luncheon.

Moreover, hard work and a “positive disposition” are not attributes that can be easily taught, Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Whale – based east of Toronto in Whitby, Ont. – is taking advantage of AI with its chatbots, which let customers type messages into a pop-up box when viewing Mitchell and Whale’s website.  The artificial intelligence in the chatbots comes from natural language processing – where the software interprets the customer’s words for their meaning without a being specifically programmed to do so. The chatbots are used for a variety of customer service functions, including generating quotes.

Artificial intelligence can be used by insurers to save time and effort in handling documents, suggested Kamana Tripathi, vice president of global markets at TD Securities, during a webinar this past May. Much of the time, insurers are manually processing documents – such forms, e-mails, invoices, claims and policy comparisons, Tripathi said May 17 during the webinar – Sharpen Your Competitive Edge – Drive action from AI & Advanced Analytics in Insurance –hosted by Insurance Nexus, a unit of FC Business Intelligence Ltd.