The deployment of AI and robotics to overhaul the workings of insurance is nothing new.
From basic administrative duties to claims management, these advances are changing the face the the industry. But with the publication of two reports by Lloyd’s last week the risks and the opportunities of the these technologies were laid out for all to see.
The reports were ostensibly to provide underwriters with guidance on “best practice” for use of AI and robotics in the short and longer term.
But the reports have got figures across the insurance industry asking should robots retire?
The subject of what risks and opportunities AI and robotics pose to brokers and firms across the industry will be discussed at the upcoming Insurance 2025 event in July, but Simon Clayden, chief operating officer at AXA UK, told Insurance Times that the industry has been “living and breathing” these risks for the past 12-18 months.
AXA has been a leader in the adoption of robotics deploying three robots last January to carry-out repetitive administrative tasks, saving 18,000 man-hours per year.
And Clayden agreed with what the first Lloyd’s report said around trust, ethics, security and safety, with the former being his biggest challenge, and likens AI and robotics to a pre-school child.
“You have got to spend a great deal of time teaching them and setting them boundaries, around what you will have them do. We spent a great deal of time at the outset considering what those ‘golden rules’ would be – that was one of the big learnings for us right at the start,” he added.
Clayden said that this is an ongoing process, “as the technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, you will need to ensure that those rules remain valid and the support that you have around the robotics and policies” will need to be reviewed.
He said: “The staff had direct involvement in giving the robots human names. It engages employees and it helps with guarding against cyber crime as real names are harder for criminals to spot than, for example, robot1.”
Clayden said that AI is not good at communicating uncertainty in results, but its strength is identifying patterns and trends – as it deals with black and white terms therefore caution around this type of automated decision-making must be upheld.
Overall, he said AXA has learned that like people, robots can and should retire. This would depend largely on what process the robot automates. This would dictate its lifespan.
The ABI believes that AI has the power to transform insurance including claims handling, underwriting and product offering.
But a spokesperson from the ABI, warned: “Insurers have a long track record of using new technology to improve their operations and customer service. But, as with any rapidly evolving technology, AI brings challenges as well as opportunities, and its application in the industry needs to be carefully considered and monitored to ensure it delivers real benefits for firms and customers alike.”
Martyn Beauchamp, chief customer officer at Slater and Gordon thinks the industry is only beginning to see the potential of such technology.
He told Insurance Times: “We are already deploying AI to support those who contact us with certain enquiries to deliver a better customer experience. We’re also experimenting with advanced machine learning to speed up process intensive tasks, freeing up colleagues to focus on what they do best – helping customers.
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“Like any new technology, it’s important to be alert to the risks and ensure safeguards are put in place to mitigate them, but we’ve very positive about this innovation. We believe it will deliver huge benefits to customers by making services cheaper, quicker and more accessible.”
Lloyd’s warned in its two reports, that as AI increases in complexity that cyber breaches are more likely to have a bigger impact.
And given the ambiguity around legal uncertainty, it is questionable as to who is liable in the event of a claim.
Cate Wright, global insurance product manager for BAE Systems, said that insurers need to be aware of creating new types of risk. The firm provides security and anti-fraud solutions to the insurance sector.
Wright continued: “People are more likely to feel OK about defrauding or lying to robots than human beings – for example, taking the extra chocolate bar that a vending machine mistakenly drops into the tray than to shoplift a second bar of chocolate in a newsagent. There’s a perception that stealing from a machine is a victimless crime, even though it very rarely is.”
Wright added that the majority of people will manipulate seemingly trivial details on a quote to game their premium, such as an instance where the vehicle is left overnight as seen with online personal motor applications.
But these new technologies also hold an opportunity for brokers according to Stuart Walters, chief information officer at BGL Group. He said: “We already use complex machine learning algorithms in many areas across our business, including pricing, the digitisation of voice services and fraud prevention, among others.”
It is currently trialling new software, integrated technology and the art of customer conversation design. BGL also intends to continue its investment in voice recognition, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and intent modelling.
“Used effectively, artificial intelligence opens up a world of possibilities, ” he said. ”What’s crucial is that companies pick the right use cases and remain cognisant of the challenges, including, as the reports’ authors identify, trust and acceptance issues.
“Appropriate human oversight of machine learning and AI systems is vital. At BGL, for example, we’ve created a data ethics committee to make sure we are holding ourselves to account in our use of data, with full governance controls, challenge and oversight.
“We’re also focused on using the skills and experience of those people in our operation who have been delivering high quality service to our customer base for years to guide and shape our future AI capabilities,” he added.
To find out more about what risks and opportunities AI and robotics hold for the insurance industry, ask you questions to the experts at Insurance 2025.