Intellectual giant Stephen Hawking once fretted to the BBC that “artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” With a focus on benevolent uses, AI is disrupting the insurance industry and could change the face of employee benefits.

At a time when AI has made Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Watson household names, virtual assistants are popping up across the marketplace to field questions or pay claims. One such example is Metromile’s Ava, an AI-powered auto claims assistant. There’s even an AI chatbot nicknamed Mia, which simulates conversation with humans, that sells insurance and answers customer inquiries on the Facebook Messenger app. Observers of this trend say AI is expected to dominate the way people interact with computers.

Bloomberg/file photo

Francesco Corea, Ph.D., a complexity scientist and AI technologist who’s also an editor at Cyber Tales, predicts AI’s impact on insurance will be greater than other industries that have been more receptive to technological change.

The idea behind AI is to augment — not replace — people, as well as improve the speed and efficiency of their systems, according to Dan Colomb, chief technology officer of Snapsheet, whose proprietary technology handles hundreds of thousands of virtual claims a year and is white-labeled by auto insurance carriers. The Snapsheet app works with Metromile as well as other carriers.

“It’s really interesting what’s happening right now in all aspects of insurance — from call centers to the estimating and policy side,” he says. “Everyone wants to get involved in AI.”

AI can be used to analyze photos to better determine the true or fair price of an auto insurance claim, Colomb says. It also can improve customer satisfaction by eliminating long hold times to speak with a call-center representative about the status of a claim or other policy information, he adds.

Corea believes robotic process automation will help reduce costs, while better pricing and risk assessment associated with analyzing more granular data will produce more detailed customer profiling.

‘Something amazing’
Believing AI’s digital assistance will become almost compulsory for insurance companies, Colomb says “it’s a powerful tool that needs to be integrated with a lot of processes. It’s not just going to be a silver bullet for everybody. But once people understand how to apply it for better service, I think it’s going to be something amazing.”

AI also could change the nature of certain workplace benefits, according to Corea. For example, he says it’s possible that chatbots could be offered as an employee benefit “in the case of specialized therapist chatbot, trainers, assistants or concierge services rather than paying your medical bills for the therapist or your gym subscription.”

AI is changing every aspect of insurance, including brokerage, claims, customer engagement, telematics, underwriting, peer-to-peer policies, etc., he explains. Given these developments, Corea believes brokers and advisers “should be ready to engage intelligently with new types of data and adapting their models and infrastructures to fully embrace the AI potential.”

He says the changing landscape also will require that they develop “a new cultural mindset and an open approach toward the man-machine collaboration paradigm because this is currently the greatest barrier to an early adoption of AI solutions in insurance contexts.”

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