The Future of Insurance

A conversation with Argo Group's Andy Breen and Jeff Radke

Andy Breen
Jeff Radke

Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. The internet of things. The future of insurance is more technologically advanced – and complicated – than anyone ever expected.

We recently spoke with Argo’s senior vice president of digital Andy Breen and head of group operations Jeff Radke about what to expect, tech-wise, from the future of insurance – both in the near term and the decade to come.


Q: What do you see as the hottest trends five years from now in insurance?

Andy Breen: Automation and finally making use of all this data we have. As a data-driven business, we have the ability to actually apply new technologies, algorithms and approaches. You can imagine the flood of data Google, Facebook and Twitter receive, and they had to completely reinvent data science and data analysis. We’re now able to take a lot of the spoils of that invention and apply it to another business that has massive amounts of data and do a lot of things based off that data.

Jeff Radke: The really exciting thing is the ability for your algorithm to learn based on the data.

Breen: If we follow what’s happened in language analysis and image recognition, it actually can be better than human perception. That’s kind of interesting and kind of scary, in some ways.

Q: How about longer term – 10 or 15 years from now?

Breen: The distribution chain is breaking down and morphing. Now, I don’t think it just means digital entrants and new upstarts. I actually think there are quite a few companies well positioned to capitalize on it, and it is happening at a distinct pace. I saw what happened to media and advertising, the music industry, and the hotel industry. Everyone’s completely paranoid about it now.

Radke: Hyper-segmentation. Insurance based on usage rather than for a calendar period.

Breen: Right. One thing I’ve learned in the industry is that we don’t have to just sell based on traditional annual or multiyear policies.

Radke: Though we may never get there because chance has such a big role. I may perfectly know what your long-term or medium-term odds of a car accident are, but I don’t know about tomorrow’s outcome very well, right?

Breen: The idea that I bring up an app and say, “Oh, I’m going outside right now, and it’s a hailstorm, so I have to flip on the life insurance,” right – I think that’s impractical.

If we follow what’s happened in language analysis and image recognition, it actually can be better than human perception. That’s kind of interesting and kind of scary, in some ways.

— Andy Breen

Q: What’s technology going to look like in insurance?

Breen: Artificial intelligence is already in your life. I was going to JFK the other day, and I had no navigation because I was being driven in a car. A traffic alert popped up on my phone and knew what road I was on. From there, my phone assumed I was also highly likely to be going to JFK. This plays into insurance. Insurance may actually go into the background.

Radke: I would bet on technology focused on avoiding or mitigating losses. For instance, satellite shots can evaluate things like the density of snow on a roof.  You can use that to figure out the weight per square foot and from there, you can send a note saying it’s time to worry about the weight of the snow on the roof.

Breen: As that thinking expands, it’s probably not the technology, funny enough. It’s the imagination getting stretched.

Q: Who do you draw inspiration from in the insurance industry?

Radke: I think that’s a wrong question, because most of the catalysts for change will be from outside the industry.

Breen: I look to the companies that are responsive and innovative at scale. So I look at Google. I look at Facebook. I look at Amazon and what they do in their organizational design and in their culture that makes them embrace the change they’re seeing. I think, honestly, Jeff Bezos is really the leader in all this.

Q: Final thoughts?

Radke: It’s really important for us to adopt the notion of experimentation, which has good and bad outcomes – but a lot of it has outcomes you didn’t expect.

Breen: There’s always one good outcome, which is learning.

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