Board member to insurers: “Don’t get Uberized”

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11 December 2014
Michael Fitzgerald
At the National Underwriter Executive Conference last week, a member of the Board of Directors at one of the largest life insurers in the world warned insurers: “Don’t let what happened to the taxi industry happen to us. Taxis thought regulation would protect them and you see where that got them. We can’t allow ourselves to be Uberized.” Beyond the fact that this was the first time I have heard the verb form of Uber (remember when Google was just a noun?), the statement represents a valuable summary of the disruptive threat for our industry. The public expression of this possibility by such a highly visible leader is another in a number of recent signals that insurance innovation is gaining real traction. A recent Celent survey provides the datapoint that innovation practitioners expect the probability of disruption to rise in 2015: Disruption chart Note that no one responded that the threat would decrease. However, recent events demonstrate that the Uber effect is also an opportunity for insurers -- the high level of trust that the industry has earned over the past 150 years. An Uber driver in India has been charged with assaulting a female passenger, reminding us of the dark side of the sharing economy. I am not suggesting that this is a reason for insurers to become complacent, or think that the need to invest in experimentation and to reward risk taking has lessened. Rather, I trust that our industry will heed the threat expressed by one of its most prominent leaders and leverage the positive relationships it has established with its consumers to deliver new solutions which increase its value proposition.

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