- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

War, Refugees, and Technologies

Ever since I started working in the technology insurance industry,  I occasionally look back on the technologies and the people who are the providers. In the beginning, there were different tools and computing devices, which held back standards. However, previous results were brought together, removing problems and allowing better linkages.

Now, we find the industry looking at InsurTech, which will be an order of magnitude larger to implement. Some folks are concerned. However, others are able to use previous successes to leverage new and ongoing work.

All in a Day’s Work …

In the mid-to-late 1970s, alongside a full-time job, I was working on a Masters of Public Administration (MPA). The fall of Saigon occurred while I was in Detroit working for the Red Cross.

I was seconded immediately.  The work was to welcome and support refugees from Vietnam on Guam, and to start moving families to new homes in the US, Canada, and elsewhere.

What surprised me was the use of technology. In Guam, we were using 80-column punch cards (1975) which allowed us to keep past, present, and future data on refugees, both individuals and families.  Some stopped on Guam for a few hours, others had to stay for a few weeks to months while the information was gathered. But there was early intelligence.

At some point, I received a certificate for my MPA. And I worked with the Red Cross throughout. Busy times.

Moving, then moving on

I came to Toronto in 1981, and I started working with Aetna Canada, a US-based insurer (which shuttered operations in Canada a few years after I left). I was put into a Marketing environment, but before I could find my desk, I ended up in a technology project. The company had strong technology infrastructure, knowledgeable people, and business-level executives. The staff certainly helped other organizations.

And for the balance of my career, I have been graced with excellent people and better-than-average technology.

InsurTech, Insurance Industry, and the Slowest User

I often encounter interesting things and take a step back to see how my early work gave me a lesson.

Serious insurance carriers are working well and will set new milestones. However, we have run across folks within the insurance community who are looking for technology that fixes the wrong solution, or so it appears to me.

Shubham Bapna, a reporter for, has put forward several posts that focus on the insurance industry. A recent entry was How Insurtechs are Shaking up a Trillion-Dollar Industry, on April 17th.

To me, the headline is a little strange in relation to the inside headline, specifically,

The insurance industry has been the slowest mover in terms of changes in technological advances and adoption of new techniques to cater to Millennials.

He adds some details: “With the insurance companies finally embracing that they can’t escape the change, various adoptions and acquisitions are being played out around the world.”

The result?  “InsurTechs nowadays are focusing on underwriting, claims and insurance buying process. But nobody is focusing on actuarial and technical aspects when it comes to medical and death claims” (emphasis added).

We Insurers Understand … Will you?

With all due respect, I would suggest most humans, including Millennials, would spend little to no energy on actuarial and technical aspects.

But I’d agree with Bapna’s prediction that “a lot of InsurTech companies will fail in the next 2 years, and a ‘winning’ group of 20-30 […] will come through.”

In closing, Bapna asks, “What type of InsurTech companies [will] survive?”

The response is: “The main problem with traditional insurance … is that it’s lacking good technology. Use of in-house tech stacks to solve problems in an easy and scalable way – with no blockchain or complex AI – can help the customers to buy the policies by comparing with other providers in just minutes.”

These experiments could fall in easily into some existing programs, rather than requiring a new and separate project.

Your thoughts?