Daft Punk and Underwriting Innovation

One of my favorite rock bands is Daft Punk.  They are the Grammy award-winning duo famous for songs like “Get Lucky” and “Robot Rock”.  I don’t just admire them for their incredible music, but because they are innovators. They gained popularity in the ‘90s as part of the French house movement. They uniquely combine funk, techno, disco, rock and what is known as synthpop to create their unique sounds. But, they are most known for their robot personas. Here, in my opinion, they cleverly play with the notion of identity and the relationship between audience and artist. Are the robots the artists or is it Guy-Manuel and Thomas? This use of a contrived identity has allowed them to transcend time and the ever-changing landscape of music trends. I call it “Artistic Innovation”. The music industry and their fans have embraced it wholeheartedly, and we can draw a close comparison between Daft Punk's artistic innovation and the innovation taking place in insurtech right now. In fact, the parallels are so strong that I opened our recent Underwriting Management customer conference by talking about (OK, and dancing to) Daft Punk.

What on Earth could Daft Punk and insurtech possibly have in common? Well, musicians and visual artists aren't the world's only innovators. Insurance underwriting definitely has its fair share of innovation to discuss and build upon. Over the past decade, the wave of innovation in this space has reached insurers of every kind, especially commercial and specialty lines companies. These carriers are looking for ways to grow their businesses and remain competitive in a constantly changing global market. They are focused on differentiating themselves by improving distribution management, entering into new geographies, creating new products and expanding their underwriting appetites, and finally, seeking out and implementing new tools and processes to improve operational efficiency. The chief underwriting officers of these companies realize that it will be difficult to accomplish their goals without the use of technological innovation.

In the past decade, the industry has seen its fair share of technology innovation. In fact, the most impactful innovations can be categorized into four “transformation zones”, namely: (1) Underwriting Workstations, (2) Core, (3) Data Analytics and (4) Digital. The underwriting workstation is a new addition to the insurance underwriting landscape. As Deb Smallwood of SMA puts it, “A new age of underwriting is being conceptualized and refined, and the underwriting workstation is playing a vital role in reshaping the practice of risk assessment.” There has been a wave of replacement of core systems (policy, billing, claims) to improve speed and agility in insurance product definition and marketing. Core policy systems and underwriting workstations are now synergistic components that can be combined to significantly improve the practice and scale of mid-market commercial risk analysis. Digital has moved from traditionally being seen as an enabler of multichannel to the key to the new frontier of omni channel. And finally, data analytics and related technologies now arm carriers with an overwhelmingly powerful degree of insight into the true nature of risk. As the amount and diversity of data explodes (drones, the Internet of Things, telematics, and countless others come to mind), so do the possibilities. The most successful and forward-thinking carriers now combine the powers of core, data, digital and underwriting workstations to create platforms for winning go-to-market strategies.

But, what does this all mean to the underwriter? Yes, I'm referring to that group of individuals synonymous with the business of risk assessment, who are absolutely crucial to our industry. Well, with so much technological innovation already underway, there is no doubt that the role of the underwriter will look very different in the near future. In fact, the very identity of underwriters will likely change - and it may not be on purpose like it was for my friends Daft Punk.