In the past, it was not uncommon for an insurer or an insured to pull the plug on an innovation project over fears that a reinsurer would not underwrite the risk.
Essentially, the buck stops with the reinsurer. That’s why it is so vitally important for reinsurers to have a seat at the innovation table, according to Pranav Pasricha (pictured), managing director & global head P&C Solutions, Swiss Re.
“At Swiss Re, we’ve always said that we want to be progressive,” said Pasricha. “We are a 158-year-old company. We’re the bellwether, the backstop (whatever you want to call it) of the industry, but we’re also responsible for innovation. As a reinsurer, we take a large part of the risk in the industry. Therefore, we need to be part of the solution and we need to drive and enable innovation.”
Swiss Re launched its P&C solutions unit in 2017, with the aim of helping clients to make better underwriting and pricing decisions by using data analytics tools and other technology solutions.
The P&C Solutions unit helps insurers to increase their efficiency, steer their portfolios, and grow into new markets and segments. Its core areas of focus include: P&C analytics, property & specialty, cyber, liability, parametric, automotive & mobility, SwiftRe (online risk placement/management), and innovation.
“The tone at Swiss Re is really set by the top from our group CEO Christian Mumenthaler and all of our executive leadership,” said Pasricha. “They have the vision [which is clear through] Swiss Re P&C Solutions, to say: ‘These are the kinds of things that the industry struggles with, and this is why we want to provide these solutions to the industry.’ I think the ethos of innovation has to be driven from the top.”
One challenge that the insurance industry sometimes struggles to surpass is its inherent conservatism. The industry has to maintain a healthy balance sheet in order to meet its main purpose, but there’s always a possibility that supporting innovation and underwriting emerging risks could cause some financial turbulence.
“The balance is always: How do you take those baby steps? How do you make progress in the industry, try and test new technology, but still make sure that you’re solid in terms of your underwriting?” Pasricha commented. “That’s the kind of balance that we always strived for at Swiss Re – making sure that the technology we deploy works. We test it and work with our partners to make sure all the kinks are ironed out, and that’s when we launch. It is a big culture and mindset issue, but we’re also very actively being clear that we will strive for that balance.”
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It’s all about sustainability, Pasricha added. There are some innovators in the insurance industry – in fact, all industries – who deliver innovation hype, but cannot sustain their activity to deliver innovation success.
“If you can’t sustainably produce good underwriting results, it doesn’t work and you’re not helping the industry,” said Pasricha. “If you’re in the business of creating flash in the market – creating brand, hype, and customer pull - and then trying to get sold and create lots of money for private equity, OK, that does work. But if you’re going to be sustainable, you need to make sure you’re solid on underwriting, and that takes a lot more work.”