Andrew Gibbons, BIBA, Chair of Industry Claims Initiative, Blog – The future is not that much different to the past… Or is it?

23rd July 2019

When I joined Provincial Insurance in the late 1980’s there was an insurance revolution taking place – the computer!

Some might remember green screens and green and white lined paper heading to an extremely noisy dot matrix printer! Brokers were able to produce quotations on the first software house systems that were extremely basic, but revolutionary for the time. That is until somebody invented the red telephone on wheels, which signalled a massive step forward in insurance distribution despite using technology that had been invented way before the first computer by a certain Mr Bell.

We had a traditional industry that had hundreds of years of baggage that started to adopt strategy and technology that would take it forward, only to be usurped by the next big idea from a “disruptor”!

There are parallels in the similar space we find ourselves in today, where insurers needed to cut large swathes of cost from their distribution by reducing branch networks and  matching their competition and then through the use of the call centre. Dragging large infrastructures with them meant that these call centres sometimes sat outside our shores, while we lost great experience as a result of the cuts.

Mergers and acquisitions of insurers then and brokers today added to the disruption and are we actually as  an industry witnessing just the same issues now? Advances in E-Trading continue apace, but this is not a panacea, as business continues to fall off the covered grid when they simply do not fit the criteria of the E-Trade model.

Insurer branch structures continue to contract, and experience in the wider industry diminishes. While AI and Chat Bots can provide a valid and worthwhile contribution to certain areas of the distribution chain, we must not lose sight of the fact that when any subsequent redeployment may mean losing  a person with skills and experience that can provide the necessary common sense deal with issues how they should be dealt.

While the red telephone on wheels took a universal problem and solved it using a seemingly outdated technology, it was actually the people with the experience behind the telephone that made the concept work. We should remain mindful of the fable of the Emperor’s new clothes – though they may appeardifferent on the face of it, we are trying to solve the same problems that we were trying to solve 30 years ago.

Andrew Gibbons ACII

MD, Mason Owen Financial Services Ltd

BIBA, Chair of Industry Claims Working Group