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In a grieving city, insurers look to a brighter future

Amid what was supposed to be a routine conference in Las Vegas, a senseless act of mass murder had cast a pall over the city. Walking the Strip, one could not escape the fallout from the Oct. 1 shooting: The police cars, the flags at half-staff and the casino signs emblazoned with solemn messages.

SNL ImageMGM Grand Las Vegas pays tribute.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

But the city also showed its resilience. By Oct. 3, revelers packed the streets once more, and the InsureTech Connect conference went on as planned. Much of the conference was dedicated to the task at hand: Learning about the new technology reshaping the insurance industry, be it blockchain, artificial intelligence, drone and satellite imagery, or self-driving cars.

SNL ImageInsureTech Connect conference

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

But at times the gravity of recent events was unavoidable. XL Group Ltd. CEO Michael McGavick spoke to how insurers can help in such situations, through aid to victims and, in the future, by making outdoor spaces safer.

While engineering is often viewed as wholly distinct from the humanities, a common theme throughout several of the conference panels was a focus on people. The CEO of Sureify Labs Inc., a maker of software for carriers, talked about how needs change as people experience new life events and how the insurer, in those situations, can offer different services and advice. Speakers from startups like Ladder and incumbents like American International Group Inc. all touched upon the same idea.

As CEO and co-founder of Tractable Ltd., an artificial intelligence company, Alexandre Dalyac has much to gain from increasing automation, and he predicts that over the next five years machine vision will overtake tasks like inspecting damage and calculating repair costs. But there is one thing, in his view, that cannot be replaced: Managing human emotions. "The humans are going to be there to stay," he said.

The CEO of Ring, James Siminoff, called upon fellow inventors to make the lives of people better. The mission of his company, a maker of home security systems, is not just to develop new technology, but also to reduce crime in neighborhoods. "Our [key performance indicator] is around how much crime we reduce, not how much revenue we produce," he said.

Siminoff later offered a moving example of the difference technology can make. He described how the motion sensors in Ring's devices detect heat and, while not intended for that purpose, alerted a user to a fire starting outside his house. As a result, the father was able to rescue his young daughter before tragedy struck.

Telisa Yancy, the chief marketing officer for American Family Insurance Group, interviewed Siminoff, providing insight on her employer's partnership with Ring. At the end of the discussion, she offered an eloquent observation on insurance and technology. Both, she said, are built on the same belief: "Tomorrow will be better than today."