Insurance Industry:: Innovation, transformation or failure


If you have visited my blog before you will already know that I have spent some considerable time researching and commenting upon a wide of topics that, although many within insurance fail to see the connection, are related directly related to the insurance industry.

In truth, my work was initially prompted by concerns (a deep dissatisfaction may be more appropriate!) about how the insurance (particularly broking) operated: structure; culture; regulation; remuneration levels; use of IT; cover; pricing of RISK. It was only as I delved deeper into the subject matter, a form of ‘root cause analysis’ [RCA] – causality being particularly pertinent to insurance! – that I came to fully appreciate HOW DANGEROUSLY LIMITED the understanding and application of a probability-based assessment of risk truly was. Especially when the business environment has, fundamentally and irrevocably, changed.

If a future event will take place, it will do so irrespective of the probability that we may have attached to it. If an extremely  unlikely event will happen, it’s probability of occurrence is already 100%

Having been introduced to Complexity (by Dr Jacek Marczyk, Founder of Ontonix srl) and it’s relationship to risk and uncertainty my RCA led me to investigate from a (more rigorous) scientific and mathematical perspective. Eventually into the realm of the behaviour of Complex Systems and, inevitably, to Systems Thinking. Gradually, the understanding, that comes from viewing life and work through the Systems lens, revealed that much of what is wrong with Financial Services stems from unnatural interventions.

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We are ALL funding an industry’s “prediction addiction”


We “know” (well, understand) that we cannot predict the future – which should be pretty worrying for the financial sector, whose success or failure relies upon the frequency and cost of a variety of events that haven’t yet and may never happen. Except that, the expiry date is approaching, for relying upon a steady stream of (mis)information, discredited economic theories, spending vast amounts on personnel and technology that convey the impression of knowledge.

In the absence of “special powers”, insurers have to rely upon what they ‘know’ i.e. what they have learnt from the impact and frequency of past events, that happened to OTHER, similar, risks!

We now have vast quantities of data, accumulated over many years, from a wide variety of sources. The type of information with which Statisticians, Actuaries, Economists (and Carol Vorderman) can have hours and hours of fun, aided by tried and tested techniques, using  the most sophisticated technology in our history. But it doesn’t change the basic fact that we cannot predict the future although we must learn from past events.

The invaluable lessons for our man-made world are, that:

  • non-linear [real world] interactions CANNOT be modelled – concatenated probabilities are still linear
  • we should question what we think we know – you know what they say about assumptions!
  • we cannot manage risk – we CAN influence what is within the scope of our control
  • conventional tools CANNOT identify, map or measure complexity
  • resilience is a function of complexity
  • resilience (or, per Nassim Taleb “anti-fragility”) should be our primary concern
  • we can learn many more lessons from nature Read more of this post

C4 Dispatches:: insurance industry – profit before people


The insurance industry, consistently, dispels the myth of “honour amongst thieves”. In this programme we see it through the lens of motor insurance BUT bad practice doesn’t stop there.

If you didn’t watch the programme…you should! Follow the link embedded in this picture (may only work in UK – sorry!).

motor ins ripoff

For the sake of clarity, you may, also, wish to consider the definition of the word that the Office of Fair Trading used to describe the motor insurance industry: DYSFUNCTIONAL Read more of this post

UK insurance ‘dissected’


I felt compelled to respond to some comments that were prompted by a previous article:

IBM Insurance:: does the industry really care what customers want? I wonder…

The following comments come from a, highly experienced and senior, former insurance executive, who now works for one of the major Global Consulting firms. Obviously I wouldn’t name names without first gaining the approval of the individual in question but I really wanted to share my thoughts. After all that’s why I blog.

For many years I have eagerly anticipated some meaningful debate with thought leaders, passionate or concerned people from within the insurance industry. But I have been, consistently disappointed. I wish I was more confident that these views might spark some meaningful discussion…but I won’t hold my breath!

The comments:

I think David Wilson is making the point that despite the results of the IBM survey, he’s seeing little action from the UK insurance industry. I think at the moment UK and Western European insurers have their hands full with Regulation – Solvency II, RDR – and this is diverting their attention.

Even so, in terms of innovation, UK insurers (or at least Northern European insurers) are seen as leading the global pack in terms of capital effectiveness and optimisation, with the North American market looking to UK as an example of best practice especially in the area of risk management.

My response:

What are the key issues identified:

  1. Compliance with additional Regulation – brought about by cultural, operational and regulatory failures
  2. UK & Europe seen as innovation leaders – based upon the above, should this be the case? And,
  3. capital effectiveness and optimisation – are these correct metrics for innovation and compliance?
  4. risk management – where is the evidence of “best practice”? – I see plenty of evidence of “bad practice” that has become ‘accepted practice’ across the industry. What are current practices in relation to complexity, business resilience and systemic risk?
    Insurance and banking have convinced themselves that they have been/are innovative but, if this is true, why are they the least trusted and most complained about industries according to their customers? Does that not explain the perceived need for more regulation?

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Why not “constructive transparency”?


I recently came across a very interesting article that brought to my attention a phrase I hadn’t come across before: constructive ambiguity.

Isn’t that an oxymoron???

The article is here and it touches upon a topic and writers I have written about before in relation to business as war. If you like you economics with a social conscience and a philosophical perspective Ashwin’s your man.

“The interaction between the market participants, and for that matter between the market participants and the regulators, is not a game, but a war.”

Rick Bookstaber

However, in this article ‘constructive ambiguity’ was being used in terms of preventing moral hazard within a regulatory regime.

That’s when it struck me! Why not constructive transparency?

transparency(1)

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