Blockchain in Insurance: What Will the Future Hold?

The Automated Insurer | Digital Transformation

By Mike de Waal | 17 May 2021

Key Points

Though still in its infancy in insurance, blockchain is poised to transform the industry. Blockchain has the potential to transform insurance in the following ways:

  • Faster underwriting and claims processing
  • Improve fraud detection, saving insurers up to $60 billion annually
  • Automatically execute contract terms using smart contracts, without the need for a third-party

Amid increased pressure to streamline underwriting and claims processing, secure information, and reduce fraud, insurance leaders should understand how blockchain can be used to transform their organizations. 

In recent months, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and similar inventions have commanded the attention of investors, entrepreneurs, politicians, bankers, regulators, and everyone in between. Insurance executives are now exploring how their organizations can leverage the famously misunderstood technology behind the Bitcoin network to automate and streamline processes across lines of business.

What is blockchain?

Put simply: a blockchain is a type of database.

Where a blockchain differs from a traditional database, however, is how it is structured to enable a digital ledger of events, called transactions, that is shared among a decentralized network of computers. The records shared between these computers are encrypted and cannot be erased. Moreover, no record can be changed without changing all other records within the same block. As a result, the primary benefit of blockchain is its ability to build trust between parties, facilitating secure transactions and maintaining the accuracy of information.

Blockchains can be deployed in different ways depending on the use case. They can be open, where information is open to the public, or closed, where information is open only to invited users.

Blockchain’s potential for securing transactions and providing trustworthy information makes it a hot topic in the financial and insurance sectors, with several VC-backed startups emerging in recent years to solve classic industry problems with blockchain applications.

What are the applications of blockchain in insurance?

Blockchain is poised to change the future of insurance by making possible new insurance products, services and business models, as well as promoting new ways of improving control, measuring and pricing risk. It can enhance client engagement, while reducing costs, improving efficiency and expanding insurability.

Underwriting: Blockchain can provide accurate information on past insurance policies and claims history, resulting in more accurate selection and pricing. Additionally, smart contracts can be used during quoting to automatically execute contract terms once pre-determined conditions are met – all without the intervention of a third party. On a blockchain network, all smart contract transactions are trackable and irreversible. For employee benefits plans, this can drastically speed enrollment time and provide an opportunity to offer additional voluntary benefits to insureds based on smart contracts integrated with other technologies (e.g. health scores).

Claims processing: Blockchain can provide verifiable and trustworthy claims data, thereby reducing fraud and improving customer experience with faster processing. Blockchain can also provide incorruptible proof that a claim has been settled, reducing the costs of potential litigation.

Claims automation can also be supported by blockchain. For example, service providers can be engaged automatically based on terms within the contract. Escalation to a human decision-maker can be automated as well.

Blockchain in Insurance Fraud Reduction

An insurance report by Ernst & Young reveals that blockchain technology could become important in “detecting fraud and eliminating error and negligence by offering a devolved digital depository to help in verifying independently the legitimacy of policies and claims and of course customers.” Such a common platform, which offers a mutual record of truth, could assist insurance firms in saving a lot of time and money while improving operational efficiencies.

$60,000,000,000

Lost annually to insurance fraud

Recent studies reveal that fraud costs insurers in the U.S. and Europe alone an approximated $60 billion in annual losses. This is because the majority of fraudulent claims go unnoticed. With blockchain, this could become a thing of the past. Blockchain is fraud-proof, indisputable, and time-stamped, offering the highest security of identities. The gains to the industry go well beyond $60 billion. Several existing fraud prevention approaches may become redundant, resulting in even greater savings that can be reallocated toward providing better experiences for legitimate claims.

Insurance Companies Using Blockchain Today

Even though blockchain technology in insurance is still embryonic, a number of established insurance firms have joined the bandwagon and are exploring the space. For instance, Shenzhen-based Ping An and Hong Kong-based AIA recently partnered with R3, a fast-growing blockchain group based in New York City.

The French bank Caisse des Dépôts recently rolled out their blockchain market initiative in partnership with a host of insurance companies such as AXA, Aviva, MAIF and CNP Assurances. The goal is to identify and encourage the development of opportunities for each of the partners by exploring these technologies.

Other carriers like John Hancock and Allianz have publicly announced blockchain initiatives, with more bound to follow.

B3i, a global initiative involving over 40 insurance industry participants, was founded in 2016 to spearhead various blockchain projects for insurance. In collaboration with its partners, B3i has launched B3i Reinsurance, an application that “supports the electronic placement and administration of Property Catastrophe Excess of Loss (Cat XoL) treaties, from structuring the submission to negotiating, binding, endorsing and technical accounting.”

B3i’s plans for 2021 include new claims management features as well as extending the platform to new reinsurance types and lines of business.

Pioneering Insurance Blockchain

As new and emerging technologies are routinely deployed within the insurance industry, blockchain’s largely unexplored potential will begin to unfold. According to a recent Novarica report, blockchain is clearly still in a nascent stage of adoption, with far less hype than artificial intelligence, RPA, and big data. Insurers that invest in blockchain now should get a powerful first-mover advantage that should be considered when planning their digital ecosystems.

Given the recent explosion of blockchain-enabled technology like Bitcoin in conjunction with an accelerated pace of digital transformation in insurance, I predict blockchain will have seismic impacts on the industry in the coming years. Get ready!

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Mike de Waal

Mike de Waal is president and founder of Global IQX, an Ottawa-based software provider of AI-driven sales and service solutions to employee benefits insurers.  He has deep experience in both software development and business management skills. Early in his career, he worked as a computer programmer and then went on to become a financial planner and a benefits consultant with giant Manulife Financial before becoming a tech entrepreneur.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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