Canadian Underwriter

Insurers investing in AI can boost revenues by double digits: Accenture study

May 10, 2018   by Jason Contant

Print this page Share

Insurers that invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as “top-performing” businesses could, over the next five years, boost their revenues 17% and their employment 7% on average, according to new research by professional services company Accenture.

Released on Wednesday, the report Future Workforce Survey – Insurance: Realizing the Full Value of AI found that insurance industry workers are willing to embrace AI in their day-to-day roles. Almost three-quarters (73%) of those polled believed that AI will make their jobs simpler, and more than two-thirds (69%) believed that it will enable a better work-life balance, Accenture said in a press release. And contrary to popular belief that AI will reduce jobs, two-thirds (67%) of polled executives expect AI to result in a net gain in jobs within their company in the next three years.

The report is based on two surveys, one of 100 senior insurance executives and another of more than 900 non-executive insurance workers from 11 countries. Although Canada was not included in the surveys, AI and machine learning have applicability to the country, including the ability to use it to help predict court decisions or even allowing it to aid in selecting better board directors. Oft-cited benefits include faster underwriting, quicker claims settlement and improved customer service.

The executives surveyed believed that only one in four of their workers are ready to work with AI, and more than four in 10 (43%) cite a growing skills gap as the top factor influencing their workforce strategy. Despite the clear need for training, only 4% of insurers polled plan to significantly increase their investment in reskilling programs in the next three years.

“AI has the potential to boost innovation, growth and efficiency, but insurers’ hesitance to properly reskill their employees could limit its impact,” said Michael Costonis, who leads Accenture’s Insurance practice globally. “To complicate matters, despite having a business that is ripe to apply technology and innovation, insurers aren’t in a good position to win the war on technology talent.”

The report said that the use of AI will reconfigure many existing jobs within insurance and the report identified three new categories of AI-driven jobs likely to emerge: “trainers,” “explainers” and “sustainers.

  • Trainers will assist computers as they learn – for example, to recognize faces or identify images in photographs taken by drones – and play key roles in underwriting, claims and customer engagement. They will work with the systems to ensure that the algorithms accomplish their tasks in the manner and with the outcomes required.
  • Explainers will play a vital communications role, interpreting the results of algorithms to improve transparency and accountability for their decisions. If AI rejects a customer’s insurance claim or offers a settlement, insurance workers can help dispel the “black box” perception of AI, helping to strengthen acceptance of AI among customers and regulators.
  • Sustainers will ensure that machines stay true to their original goals without crossing ethical lines, including drifting away from desired outcomes or reinforcing bias. Insurers might need to hire ethics compliance managers to ensure that an AI-powered claims assessment system does not discriminate against certain categories of customer.