Insurance Industry jobs could be lost to robots and AI

  • Speculating on how far the robot revolution could go is nothing new – Hollywood has been producing apocalyptic films for decades showing machines ruthlessly taking over from humans as masters of the planet. However, when a source like PwC takes up the story, backing its arguments with statistics and firm predictions, the shape of the future takes more meaningful form.

    The author of the recent study, PwC’s Chief Economist John Hawksworth, reckons that up to 30% of all UK jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) by the early 2030s – so, less than 15 years from now. If that’s true, there is only marginal comfort in noting that, according to Mr Hawksworth’s calculations, the equivalent job sacrifices in the US and Germany are likely to be even higher, at 38% and 35% respectively.

    The study does go on to point out that the sectors that are most likely to be affected are transportation, manufacturing, wholesale and retail and that it is the “less educated workers” who are more at risk. Also, that it is men rather than women who should fear for their jobs.

    The good news is that the services industries are likely to be the least affected; the report cites education, health and social workers. But what about insurance and others in the financial services sector? There are plenty of tasks and functions in financial services that seem equally repetitive and monotonous and look ripe for a take-over by robots and AI in the name of improved efficiency and cost savings.

    Where the picture could become complicated is in the sensitive areas of compliance and security, but no doubt clever minds in the FinTech space are already being applied to solving problems of that kind. One of the burning questions is whether regulators like the FCA will have to raise their technical game so they can be in charge of the robots, too. Discuss.

    In the meantime, since the march of technology is unstoppable anyway surely it would be better to embrace it rather than try to resist. In the insurance industry, there is an opportunity actually to enhance customer service by applying new technology to simplify processes such as risk assessment and compliance, as well as to reduce costs and encourage fairer pricing. The emphasis should not be cutting costs to boost profits for shareholders, but rather on investing in modern systems and good people for the benefit of all parties.

    To get that message across, customers need to be taken along for the journey so that they understand and trust the changes that are being introduced. As we have seen with the banks, customers do not always take kindly to being told what they are going to have, regardless of whether they want it or not.

    Therefore, part of the investment should also include inclusive, effective marketing as an essential ingredient in the strategy mix. Top quality customer service and value for money should not become the casualties of change.

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