Insurtech: Redefining Risk, Risk Profiles and Risk Management

By Chris Mandel, SVP, Strategic Solutions, Sedgwick & Director, Sedgwick Institute And Guy Fraker, Chief Innovation Officer, Insurance Thought Leadership

Chris Mandel, SVP, Strategic Solutions, Sedgwick & Director, Sedgwick Institute

“That which is long expected suddenly becomes the unexpected when at last it arrives.” This wise observation from Mark Twain has never been more relevant than now, while we navigate the greatest period of knowledge acquisition and creation in all human history. Visionary tech pioneer Dr. John Gage has an equally profound and succinct quote that is particularly important when considering risk, “I only know of two hurdles to human capacity, light speed and human imagination and I’m confident we’ll fix one of those.” In other words, the “can we?” Question will almost always be, “sure we can build that.” However, this leads us to an equally essential question that receives far less attention, “Should we?”

"Learning to take new risk for value creation is an essential element of enterprise and strategic risk management"

The networking platform built by the team at Insurance Thought Leadership (ITL) appropriately named Innovators Edge (IE) is an ideal tool for those in risk management to discover which concepts still sit over the line separating science fiction from those pushing the boundary of reality. Statistics from IE portray a convergence of technologies transforming both the very nature of known risks and established methodologies of managing them. ITL’s platform contains an estimated 43,000 early stage firms located in more than 175 countries, fueled in 2017 by an estimated $376B in seed, series A, B, C funding, all of which are dedicated to reinventing one or more risks. For example, 340 of those firms are wholly dedicated to ending vehicle fatalities which, in 2017, received $3.5B in funding to accelerate pace towards that goal. Around the world the total fatality count of WWII has been repeated twice over since the end of that conflict in cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

More than 5,000 firms are dedicated to disease prevention and lifespan extension. Given that many consumer products and services designed to assist with financial planning rely on 100 plus years of past data, a 50-year jump in lifespan achieved in less than a decade represents either catastrophe for the uninformed or opportunity for those taking the challenge of innovation. This is also a capability where the risk management industry needs to raise the “should we” question.

Countless others such as Jamii are focused on enacting social change to facilitate the rise from poverty and democratize access to the world of healthcare, further stabilizing entire economies. Yet another example is Aquaai, which provides a natural swimming robot that has been adopted by the largest salmon farm supplying Whole Foods because the device doesn’t increase the stress of the salmon. Water quality, stability of the nets, and the overall health of the “crop” can be assessed with minimal intrusion.

Guy Fraker, Chief Innovation Officer, Insurance Thought Leadership

Historically risk management practices have sometimes provided the business acumen to enable societal shifts forward. Other times however, risk managers have been cogs in the wheel of progress because of their too frequent risk aversion. For example, years prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution the advent of homeowner’s insurance enabled the freedom to own property. In the 1920’s several mavericks launched consumer credit and auto insurance which allowed Ford’s mass production capability to go viral by 1925. Both historic examples shared a common mission: clean up the losses from unintended consequences. Now these vast arrays of technological capabilities are directionally moving the world towards more prudent acceptance of risk and aggressive prevention of unacceptable levels of loss. This represents a sea change for the average risk manager who heretofore viewed risk as something to eliminate, rather than control. Risk managers are quickly realizing that the pace of innovation and change driven by technology will only accelerate, and therefore the time to evolve their risk attitude more towards prudent risk acceptance and away from risk aversion is now. After all, growth and competitive advantage requires innovation and innovation requires risk taking. Learning to take new risk for value creation is an essential element of enterprise and strategic risk management, the future of the risk discipline.

So, the ground work is rapidly being laid for game changing domain technologies and more narrowly defined insurtechs to transform the risk profile and landscape for every organization implicating every organization’s risk attitude, risk management strategy and risk-taking philosophy. Cyber risk has challenged risk leadership like few others since the advent of terrorism. Too many risk leaders have taken their all too common turn toward their insurance brokers and sought another insurance solution to transfer the risk. And while this tactic is perfectly appropriate as one tool in the toolkit, the gap in risk thinking lies in this very default tendency; e.g. to rely on insurance as the singular treatment of new risk exposures. Risk leaders of the future must migrate their thinking to consider a broader array of solutions including non-insurance, often technological based capabilities that arise from artificial intelligence, robotics, disruptive forces, Nano-tech and other increasingly common sources of problem solving. The explosive growth of insurtech tools will be the source of more and more risk management solutions but only when the risk leaders of tomorrow, become the big thinkers necessary to see the application of these tools to problems that in the past, seemed only treatable by insurance. Tomorrow has arrived. Risk leaders are hopefully not far behind.

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