The insurance industry has always been conservative by nature – slow to change, even when tempted by technology innovation. Carriers and other companies have a way to go, but they are getting much better at embracing the new, according to Swiss Re tech executive Pranav Pasricha (pictured).
“If I rewind the clock four or five years back, there was a little bit of skepticism or not knowing, [wondering] is this stuff real? We didn’t have a mature vendor ecosystem to bring some newer technologies to life,” Pasricha said. “We do so now.”
For nearly two years now, Pasricha has been global head, P&C solutions, at Swiss Re. He brings a wide range of perspectives to the job, both technology and industry focused. The division, launched in 2017, incorporated a lot of Swiss Re’s tech assets under one umbrella. It handles more than 600 customers and carrier clients, he said.
Most recently, Pasricha was CEO of Intellect SEEC, an insurtech company that produced data, machine learning and cloud-based products and services for global P/C and life insurance clients. He’s also a veteran of QBE Insurance, where he handled strategy, technology and operations for the carrier across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, he brings strategy and operations consulting experience to the table, from stints with Booz Allen and A.T. Kearney working with high tech, financial services and telecom clients.
Pasricha believes the industry at large has made progress as it increasingly embraces technology to solve problems, boost efficiency and cut costs. There’s still a long way to go, he added.
“It’s a little bit glass-half-empty because a lot of the bigger carriers in particular are still very cost-wise … focused on fixing legacy problems,” Pasricha said. “Some of the core [legacy tech] engines are slowing the potential of what can be achieved with these other things.”
Many technologies have made their impact on insurance and other industries and no single one has been “all-transforming,” Pasricha observed. There’s at least one, however, that Pasricha views as having made a significant impact in how tech works globally: machine learning.
Machine learning “is perhaps the most profound change ever since computing was invented,” Pasricha said, in part because technology is always being programmed, while machine learning brings something consistently new to the equation.
“We build systems. We write logic and …. technology does what humans program, but this is the first time in the history of computing that technology can infer and make smarter decisions,” he said. “It can outperform a human.”
Still, machine learning can’t make a huge impact in a vacuum, Pasricha noted.
“AI is the engine, but without the data, the engine doesn’t run,” he said. “Big data and the explosion of data and third-party data resources and unrestricted data is a massive change, a very profound change to how we do things. Likewise, things like the Internet of Things, in its own right – you can’t do much with IoT data unless you have machine learning algorithms.”
The key, he said, is using all of these technology innovations together for maximum effect.
“What’s happening now is the combination of cloud data, machine learning, IoT – all of these things come together to really create almost a new paradigm of technology,” Pasricha said. “That’s what’s powerful.”
Pasricha’s role at Swiss Re is to lead efforts to build cutting edge new products and technologies. There’s also a data consulting effort to coordinate tech offerings to industry partners and clients such as carriers, MGAs and new market entrants like embedded insurance players.
Additionally, his department helps companies boost their operations and underwriting efficiencies with new tech tools.
Some of his early work has been pursuing updates on Swiss Re products such as CatNet, a long-time catastrophe modeling product used globally and marketed to carriers. Pasricha said the product has undergone “very significant upgrades,” along with improvements to the company’s overall data and analytics capabilities.
Another early plus: the recent launch of Impact+, a new platform designed to offer advanced risk models and data to Swiss Re clients.
“That’s been something really exciting for us,” Pasricha said. “We have made a lot of progress enabling new products for some of these insurtechs – digital MGAs and embedded insurance.”
On top of that, the group is tackling “protection gap-type of problems,” that affect product rollouts such as flagging private flood risks, dealing with building climate change scores and addressing sustainability scores, Pasricha noted.
His long-term tech goal is to continue to bring advanced tech tools, digital platforms and models to the insurance industry that can help improve underwriting. There’s much more to come, Pasricha said.
“There is still under-penetration of these advanced tools and models in the industry,” Pasricha said.