Insurance EuropeInsurance Europe
Digitalisation

The benefits of digitalisation

Technological innovations are changing our lives faster than ever before. And with those changes comes a massive amount of data generated by everything from your car to your smartphone. Yet this is only the beginning. The speed of digitalisation and the accelerating growth in amounts of data is only set to increase.

In insurance, digitalisation and big data are already bringing benefits.

Below you can find out about the benefits in terms of what and how insurance is sold. You can also read how insurers keep their customers’ data secure, as well as how insurers are helping to reduce the effects of cyber risks.

Another benefit of better technology and data analysis is better fraud detection. Insurance fraud is not a victimless or insignificant crime. Detected and undetected fraud is estimated to account for up to 10% of claims every year in Europe. This raises the premiums of the vast majority of honest customers. Digitalisation and the use of data analytics are making it easier to catch the fraudsters.

 

For more information, see also our Annual Report 2016-2017 articles on the following topics:

  • Innovation in insurance distribution
  • Cyber risk insurance
Distribution
 
 

In this digital age, consumers expect the convenience of communicating and engaging with their insurers whenever, wherever and however they want. Digitalisation of distribution will make it possible for insurers to offer an omni-channel experience to consumers and tailor their products and services to individual needs.

Here are some of the main digital developments and their potential impact on the distribution of insurance products and services, as well as what they mean for the consumer/insurer relationship.

Enhancing the customer experience
 

Consumers are embracing innovation in financial services, particularly where it makes their interaction more convenient and improves communication. They want new products and services that respond to their needs and the added convenience of interacting with their insurers when, how and where they want.

No longer an annual transaction, the consumer/insurer relationship is more of a day-to-day experience. New digital offerings may simply provide alternative communication channels, such as social media, or may make choosing or buying insurance more efficient, eg by using an app.

 
Blockchain
 

A blockchain is effectively a transaction database. It is an open, decentralised ledger that provides an unchangeable and verifiable public record of transactions or data. There is no need for a third party to authenticate transactions, as everybody has access to all the information.

Blockchain technologies may disrupt insurance markets by reducing costs and increasing transparency and trust. They carry the potential to make a significant difference in:

  • detecting fraud
  • making payments more efficient
  • reducing costs
  • managing and storing customer data

They would enable consumers to share their health, property and risk data to benefit from even more personalised pricing.

 
Innovation & competition
 

Digitalisation and new business models are disrupting insurance by opening up new routes to market and ways of engaging with consumers. The digital environment enables companies to bring innovations to market much faster and more easily. This includes new entrants and start-ups that seek to benefit from cost-efficient digital distribution and will affect how insurers compete when distributing products.

Insurance companies need to respond to the new challenges posed by fintech companies. Some are tending to see this as an opportunity, collaborating with fintechs to improve their offerings to consumers.

In one case a UK insurer has set up a “digital garage”: “a dedicated space where technical specialists, creative designers and business leaders explore, collaborate and test new insurance ideas and services which make financial services more tailored and accessible for customers”. It is part of a wholly-owned venture capital business that will invest in digital and new technology businesses in four main areas: the internet of things; data and analytics; innovative customer experiences; and distribution (eg new “shared economy” platforms).

There are also signs of a more general shift towards new and innovative digital offerings by insurers.

 

For more information, visit our page on insurance distribution

 
Fintech and Insurtech
 
 

The insurance industry is constantly innovating to better meet the evolving needs and demands of consumers. Technological developments are significantly changing consumer’s expectations of insurance and the digital environment enables both established companies and new start-ups to bring innovations to market much faster and better meet these emerging needs. 

Regulators and supervisors have a crucial role to play to ensure that consumers and industry reap the benefits of digitalisation. They must find the right balance between safeguarding high standards in consumer protection and fair competition on the one hand, and removing regulatory obstacles and actively encouraging innovation on the other.

Insurance Europe produced an Insight Briefing that calls on policymakers to support innovation in fintech and insurtech, while also guaranteeing consumers the same protection when using services offered through new technologies by new market entrants, as they have with similar offerings by traditional insurers.

For more information, see also our response to the EC consultation on Fintech (June 2017)

 
Data analytics
 
 

With more — and more sophisticated — data and data analytics, a world of exciting possibilities opens up, such as insuring new risks, offering more tailored policies and providing additional services. And real-time data means policies that can be adjusted far more quickly to reflect changes in a customer’s behaviour or circumstances.

That is not all. More and new data can increase insurers’ understanding of risks. They can then offer better loss prevention advice to their customers.

Insurance Europe produced an Insight Briefing on the use of big data analytics and predictive modelling in insurance. It remains to be seen to what extent insurers will use these new tools and therefore what impact they will have. It will ultimately be consumers — and the products they choose — that dictate how big data analytics changes insurance.

 

Benefits for policyholders

Big data analytics helps insurers to cover new risks, to offer products better tailored to consumers’ needs and to provide better loss prevention advice. Below are examples of how data analytics can benefit policyholders.

Motor insurance
 

Motor insurance premiums have traditionally been calculated from basic information about a driver, such as their age, driving experience and claims history. New technology makes it much easier not only to refine a driver’s risk profile but also to offer new services.

Benefits to customers and society:

  • Greater choice of more tailored insurance policies
  • Lower premiums for certain drivers
  • Improved driver behaviour and safety awareness; accident prevention and safer roads
  • Faster and more efficient handling of claims
  • Less insurance fraud
  • Additional, location-based services

 
Property insurance
 

Property premiums have traditionally been calculated based on information about a property’s structure and its level of exposure to crime or weather-related events. Insurers are constantly expanding their sources of data and the analysis they apply to them to create increasingly sophisticated, predictive risk-modelling tools that improve the accuracy of a property’s risk profile. The more data, the better the predictions and the higher the availability of tailored insurance policies.

Benefits to customers and society:

  • Greater choice of more tailored insurance policies
  • Increased risk awareness; better loss prevention
  • Additional risk-reduction services
  • Faster and more efficient handling of claims

 
Health insurance
 

Individuals today have more knowledge of and control over their health and well-being than ever before, thanks in large part to the use of health apps and “wearables” that monitor everything from sleep patterns to levels of exercise.

Benefits to customers and society:

  • Greater choice of more tailored insurance policies
  • Increased health awareness; healthier lifestyles, increased longevity, lower medical costs
  • Additional health and wellbeing services

 
 
Data protection and privacy
 
 

Increased digitalisation and more data mean insurers have an even greater responsibility to treat customers’ data securely and confidentially.

The insurance industry is built on trust between insurers and their customers, so the security and privacy of the data they receive is treated very seriously.

Insurance Europe produced an infographic that illustrates the current and future regulatory framework under which European insurers collect and process data.

For more information, visit our page on data protection

 
Cyber risks
 
 

Along with its benefits, increased digitalisation can also bring risks. The risk of financial loss, disruption or reputational damage from IT failure — whether the cause is malicious or inadvertent — is not just a technical problem for IT departments, it is a risk that needs addressing at board level.

Cyber risks are little understood and rapidly evolving. Insurers are involved in raising awareness of the types and dangers of cyber risk. They are also active in risk prevention. And the range of cyber insurance cover they offer has expanded significantly in recent years, led by the US but developing in Europe.

For more information, visit our page on cyber insurance

 
Consumer focus
 
 

Insurance Europe developed an online consumer focus tool which highlights the continuous efforts across Europe's various insurance markets to innovate and to enhance products and services for consumers. The tool provides information through an interactive map of Europe which allows users to click on specific countries to gain insight into insurers' consumer-focused practices in that particular market. It includes initiatives in fields such as innovative products and services, digitalisation and transparency and financial education.

These good practices and innovative products and services were developed with specific national features in mind, such as national regulatory frameworks and local consumers’ needs, which — like companies — can differ significantly between EU countries. Insurance products and services are therefore not directly transferable from one market to another.

 
Social dialogue
 
 

Technological and digital developments are gradually transforming the insurance industry. 

Many insurers have already made changes to their working processes, while others are just starting. Online technology in the workplace can be a compelling tool as well as a potential challenge.

Insurance Europe and the other European social partners in the insurance sector, therefore, signed a joint declaration on the social effects of digitalisation on 12 October 2016. This joint declaration intends to frame potential further dialogue at national level and stimulate public debate on this topic.

Joint declaration by the EU social partners on the social effects of digitalisation

 
Digital skills and jobs coalition
 
 

Insurance Europe is a member of the European Commission's Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition.

The Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition is a multi-stakeholder partnership set up by the European Commission bringing together EU member states, companies, social partners, NGOs and academics. The coalition aims to help meet the high demand for digital skills in Europe which are essential in today's digital society and economy. It focuses on the development of digital skills for all citizens and the labour force in particular, and on transforming teaching and learning of digital skills in a lifelong learning perspective, including the training of teachers.

Insurance Europe promotes the sector's ongoing work on the use and effects of digitalisation. For example, it promotes the joint declaration signed by the European social partners on the social effects of digitalisation in the workplace. This declaration highlights the need for companies and employers in the insurance sector to invest in the continuous development of digital skills and qualifications of workers.

Moreover, Insurance Europe supports the wide range of initiatives by the European insurance industry to increase people's understanding of financial risks and opportunities from an early age. In this context, Insurance Europe promotes its recent publication "Financial education in a digital age — initiatives by the European insurance industry" and its online consumer focus tool.

European Commission digital skills and jobs coalition

 

Blockchain

Example: smart contracts

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The first use of blockchain is likely to be smart contracts to deliver lower cost insurance to customers.

Smart contracts are computer programs that can automatically execute the terms of a contract when a predefined condition is met. This could mean a policy where claims are paid automatically as soon as a loss occurs and certain conditions are met, without the need for a claims assessor.

For example, a mobile phone could be registered and tracked on a public blockchain ledger. If an insured phone is reported stolen, a claim can automatically be triggered and verified using a smart contract.

Blockchain and smart contracts have the potential to fully automate insurance markets, carrying the potential to dynamically price risk and enabling new markets to develop, such as peer-to-peer insurance.

 

Innovation & competition

Example: Peer-to-peer insurance & the shared economy

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Insurance companies are facing growing competition from financial technology companies and new, peer-to-peer rivals.

A peer-to-peer insurance example in Germany acts as an independent broker with a wide range of domestic insurance partners, which rewards small groups of users with cashback at the end of each claims-free year.

The concept revolves around policyholders with the same insurance type that form small groups. A part of their premiums is paid into a cashback pool. If no claims are submitted in a year, the members get some of their money back. If there are claims, the cashback decreases for everyone. Small claims are settled with the money in the pool. Larger claims are covered by normal insurers, with whom the company has partnerships. If there is insufficient money in the pool to cover a claim, a stop-loss insurance covers the rest.

The aim is to make insurance easier and more affordable. It claims to help insurance companies, as improved behaviour reduces the cost of claims, as well as the processing of small claims, while the claims-free bonus increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.

 

Innovation & competition

Example: Digital innovation

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The Polish vehicle licence contains a QR code that serves as a single digital identifier of the vehicle itself and its owner.

This allows consumers to identify themselves and their vehicles at dedicated ATMs at supermarkets, petrol stations etc.

They can then buy their motor insurance from a large insurer in the Polish market, paying by bank or credit card. The policy can immediately be printed out at the machine.

 

Digitalisation in motor insurance

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Telematics, with its real-time, wireless transmission of data, can give insurers a much better understanding of their customers’ driving. Information from the “black box” technologies that are already being installed in vehicles makes it possible to offer a wider range of products that are tailored to customers; based on the time they spend driving (pay as you drive policies) and/or the way they drive (pay how you drive policies), for example. For some customers — such as careful young drivers who lack experience — this could mean lower premiums.

Understanding a customer’s driving also provides opportunities to improve it. Giving feedback or offering coaching could help prevent accidents. Indeed, just having a black box in the car might improve driver behaviour and safety awareness.

And when there is an accident or claim, access to a vehicle’s data — particularly real-time access — can mean faster, more efficient claims-handling and assistance. Those speedier responses can be beneficial, as they make it possible to settle claims more quickly and more likely that a vehicle is recovered in cases of theft. The vehicle data can also be useful in combatting fraud in motor insurance; the largest non-life insurance line in Europe.

Finally, vehicle data allows insurers to offer innovative services beyond insurance. These can include location-based services, such as directing a driver to the nearest garage, petrol station or hotel, and weather or traffic information.

 

Digitalisation in property insurance

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Prevention is the cornerstone of any insurance scheme. This is especially true for extreme weather-related disasters which, without any prevention measures in place, could be difficult to insure. The improved risk-modelling means insurers can advise customers more accurately about the risks to their property, so that they can take more preventive measures to limit their exposure and ultimately increasing the insurability of their properties. Such measures include, for instance, how to best implement flood prevention measures based on the characteristics of the property. Flood-related damage can vary depending not only on the location of the building but also, for example, on the underlying land or the building material.

Increased digitalisation also makes it possible for insurers to offer additional products that go beyond cover for damage, such as alerts of extreme weather events like flooding or high winds. These warning systems do not only benefit policyholders, but also the public at large through the use of free apps and online tools available to everyone.

Insurers can also take account of the connected devices in smart homes — known as the “internet of things” — to tailor policies to individual risks. Examples include smart thermostats that turn up the temperature if there is due to be very cold weather, to avoid frozen pipes and subsequent water damage, or smart boilers that remind the owner when they need servicing.

 

Digitalisation in health insurance

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The use of this new technology can be especially relevant to health insurance. Several insurers offer disease management programmes for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or coronary heart disease. It is possible to monitor the individuals’ health and provide them with lifestyle tips and health advice. Thus consumers become more aware of the preventive measures they need to take to reduce risks associated with chronic diseases and control medical costs. These sources of data can allow insurers to price risks more accurately by using data showing how healthy and active a person is, rather than using the average for someone of that age or gender.

Additional and more detailed data sources can also make it possible to better predict long-term cost trends, as well as to provide cover for health risks that would previously have been uninsurable.

In the long run, individuals’ greater involvement in and better understanding of their own health and wellbeing as a result of using such devices and programmes could lead to healthier lifestyles, increased longevity and more optimal use of medication and deployment of medical staff.

 

Awareness-raising

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Many businesses, especially SMEs, are not fully aware of their cyber risk exposures. Yet business of all sizes and in all sectors — whatever the type and amount of data they store — are at risk of IT failures or malicious attacks.

Even companies that are aware of their risks do not always treat cyber-resilience as a priority or consider the need for a risk-transfer tool like insurance.

Cyber risks must be seen not as an IT problem but as an issue that has to be properly understood at board level. They need to be incorporated into a company’s ERM (enterprise risk management) planning.

What insurers are doing:

National insurance associations in many countries work closely with their governments to help raise awareness. Insurers also distribute information and publish reports on, for instance, how cyber insurance works, the state of the market at national level or on the needs of insurers to properly underwrite cyber risks. For instance, one European company has published a free guide to help SMEs make their own assessment of their cybersecurity needs.

This increase in information available on cyber insurance can be especially important for certain sectors, eg those categorised as “critical infrastructures” or SMEs. The latter are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks due precisely to their general lack of awareness.

 

Prevention

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The speed at which technology is evolving and the potentially large-scale consequences of a cyber-attack, make cyber risks difficult to prevent. Yet this uncertainty can be mitigated by identifying a company’s specific IT threats and weaknesses by, for example, regularly conducting safety audits to ensure the implementation of appropriate prevention and mitigation measures.

What insurers are doing:

Insurers can help their clients achieve the highest possible level of cyber resilience.

Besides offering valuable risk-transfer tools in the form of cyber insurance policies, their experience in managing risks means they can offer help in developing effective risk management practices, for example through safety audits or the use of third-party certification.

 

Cyber insurance

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The offer of cyber insurance cover has expanded significantly in recent years, led mainly by the US but rapidly developing in Europe.

What insurers are doing:

Cyber insurance can cover a number of first-party or third-party losses.

First-party examples include cover for:

  • business interruption
  • data asset protection
  • cyber fraud
  • theft of intellectual property

Third-party examples include cover for:

  • privacy liability
  • network security liability

Due to the wide range and complexity of cyber risks, there is no standard insurance product for cyber-related losses. Cyber risks are not only covered by stand-alone policies, they can also be included in traditional policies, so customers need to understand what their policies do and do not cover. This is a good educational opportunity to help consumers understand where there are gaps in their traditional products and how cyber-specific policies can help.

While cyber insurance is a useful tool for assessing risks, it first and foremost a risk transfer mechanism and it will be each company’s individual choice as to what role insurance plays in its risk management portfolio.

 

Insurance Europe messages

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Any new legislation, rules or guidelines concerning the distribution of insurance products should:

  • be digital-friendly and appropriately designed, so as to allow both consumers and industry to benefit from the opportunities digitalisation offers
  • be technologically neutral and sufficiently future-proof to be fit for the digital age
  • not give any more favourable or preferential treatment to existing distribution channels over new and emerging digital channels that would create barriers to their further development or stifle digital innovation

Existing rules and regulations on the distribution of insurance products and services should be adapted and made more flexible to be digital-friendly and future-proof.

Regulators should encourage innovation to allow consumers and industry to reap the benefits of digitalisation, which makes it possible to target and layer the information provided to consumers, decreasing the risk of information overload.

 

Insurance Europe messages

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Insurers firmly believe that consumers should decide with whom they share their data and for what purposes. This issue is made more pressing by the increase in the volume of data due to the greater connectivity (and automation) of vehicles.

This also means ensuring consumer choice through fair competition, by avoiding proprietary models for access to vehicle data so that all stakeholders can offer their services freely and directly to consumers, rather than having to do so through vehicle manufacturers.

 

Insurance Europe messages

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Prevention is the cornerstone of any insurance scheme. It is embedded in the practices of the private insurance sector, which has gained much expertise in this area over the years. This is especially true for weather-related disasters. Without any prevention measures in place, certain properties would be very difficult to insure.

Helped by digitalisation, insurers are better able to advise their customers on the right prevention measures they need to implement to make their properties more insurable. The insurance sector also works closely with national authorities on raising awareness about the importance of implementing such measures. However, public authorities need to encourage a move towards more preventive behaviour and to introduce mandatory measures facilitated by digitalisation, such as land-use planning for citizens and businesses who might otherwise consider the required investment too great.

 

Insurance Europe messages

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It is important that national health authorities promote health awareness schemes and disease and accident prevention if medical costs are to remain under control and health insurance is to remain affordable. Digitalisation can be of significant help in running such programmes.

Likewise facilitated by digitalisation, is the fight against health insurance fraud. High amounts can be involved in health claims and authorities must support insurers in combatting fraudulent claims.

 

Insurance Europe messages

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Under the new EU regime, a European Data Protection Board will give advice and guidance. Any guidelines and recommendations it makes should:

  • strike an appropriate balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the needs of businesses in the increasingly digital world
  • be future-proof —allowing insurers to use innovative technologies to collect and process data and provide services
 
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William Vidonja
William Vidonja
Head of conduct of business
Nicolas Jeanmart
Nicolas Jeanmart
Head of personal insurance, general insurance & macroeconomics