Push for insurance innovation underscored amid new digital risks

Increased dependency on digitalisation will leave many at risk, reinsurer says

Push for insurance innovation underscored amid new digital risks


By Kenneth Araullo

In its latest sigma study, Swiss Re Institute finds that potential digitalisation benefits across countries and throughout the insurance value chain are far from exhausted.

According to the reinsurer’s “The economics of digitalisation in insurance” sigma report, digitalisation is a source of new growth, new risks, and new efficiencies for the insurance industry. Digital value creation has led to an increase in firms' intangible assets, including digital data. At the same time, increased dependency on digital infrastructure makes such assets more vulnerable, e.g., to business interruption and cyberattacks.

In the report, Swiss Re Institute also introduced the Insurance Digitalisation Index, which tracks the progress made in 29 sample countries with respect to the digitalisation of their insurance markets. South Korea came out on top of the index, followed by Sweden, Finland, and the US.

While advanced markets with strong physical infrastructure and high internet access rates have made the most progress in digitalising their economies, China, Slovenia, and India are catching up. China, for example, has moved up by 10 places in just 10 years. This is because emerging markets can jump straight into adopting newer digital technologies rather than transitioning from legacy systems.

“The study clearly shows a positive correlation between resilience and digitalisation. For society, digitalisation is a force for giving more people access to insurance and thereby closing protection gaps. For insurers, gains from better underwriting, risk mitigation and risk measurement from 2/4 digitalisation of insurance improve the quality and efficiency of their work,” Swiss Re Group chief economist Jerome Haegeli said.

New risk pools mean more opportunities

Digitalisation of the wider economy will also create new risk pools, opening opportunities for insurers. For example, digital technology has facilitated sharing-economy business models, resulting in fundamental shifts in operational risks and liabilities that require innovative insurance risk transfer solutions.

Sharing services like Uber and Airbnb are increasingly replacing private ownership, the sigma study said. This requires a shift in business mix from personal to commercial lines based on usage, as personal lines typically exclude coverage for the commercial use of vehicles and homes. Insurers can help achieve such coverage through innovative digital risk transfer solutions.

With the shift from producing physical goods to providing information and services, the global value of intangible assets – which increasingly include digital assets – of listed companies has increased fivefold over the past 20 years, to US$76 trillion in 2021. Close to 80% of that value remains uninsured.

Firms will need protection against digital risks, for example, business interruption and cyber risks, as well as the emerging liability risks related to AI. Cybersecurity is a key concern for businesses globally, as reflected by the rapid growth in demand for cyber insurance; Swiss Re Institute estimates global cyber premiums will reach US$16 billion in 2023, up 60% from 2021, and US$25 billion by 2026.

Digital technology allows insurers to gather and process large sets of data using connected devices, data analytics, and machine learning. This will allow more holistic and accurate risk assessments and better pricing of risks. Digital solutions can also automate standardised tasks, such as data collection and analysis for underwriting, driving down costs and ultimately leading to lower premiums. Insurers' digital transformation projects are targeting 3% to 8% improvement in loss ratios and savings of 10% to 20% in other parts of the value chain.

“Despite the rapid digital transformation of the insurance industry, accelerated by recent advancements in cutting-edge technology, we still see significant potential to make insurance more accessible and affordable for consumers. Our industry should see this as an encouragement to continue investing in innovative solutions and adapting to emerging risks,” Swiss Re Group chief digital & technology officer Pravina Ladva said.

Recently, Swiss Re chief underwriting officer of P&C reinsurance Gianfranco Lot spoke to Insurance Business about its sigma report delving into the benefits for non-life companies in a higher-risk, higher-return world.

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