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A Brief Excursion to the Insurance Industry of the Future

Insurance executives should take heart from Arthur C. Clarke's seemingly outlandish prediction of the "city of the future," and what it implies about the way technology will improve insurance enterprise processes, communication and decision-making in the not-too-distant future.

What if I were to tell you that in the not-too-distant future, technology would drive insurance companies' processes in an extremely efficient manner, for both internal and external parties? What if I were to say that carriers would be able to create new products in hours rather than weeks? That core systems would be easily integrated and decoupled, and that system silos resulting from mergers and acquisitions could be resolved in days or, at worst, weeks. That internal IT organizations would shrink dramatically, and that hardly any processing would occur on premises -- which would themselves have shrunken almost to the vanishing point. That decision-makers would have clear, nay, luminous visibility into all relevant data? That personal lines underwriting would be thoroughly personalized, and that commercial lines would be precisely individualized for many risks, and tied into complex risk mitigation agreements with policy holders, based on sensing technologies and precise insight into the characteristics of the property's location, and into the performance of machines and building materials? That document creation and distribution would be centralized at every insurance carrier, and easily federated according to the enterprise's needs, and that documents could be composed and personalized without manual steps. That regulatory compliance would become easy, fast and economical... OK, maybe that's a bridge too far. But you get the point.

All of this may seem very far away, but it's worth taking a look at what Arthur C. Clark said about the "city of the future" in the far off year of 2000, back in the early 1960s. Consider how outlandish it sounded then, and how much the things he spoke about apply to the society at large today, and even to the insurance industry.

In the subculture of insurance technology, we often grouse about how our industry lags others, and that we are forced to look externally for performance benchmarks. But another way of looking at this predicament is that insurance is not, and increasingly will not be, insulated from the way the rest of society and industry works, and that our industry will inevitably arrive at the sunny uplands of an information-driven society.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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