Insurers must reshape their workforces to maximise growth, says Accenture

Insurers must reshape their workforces to maximise growth, says Accenture
Investing in AI could increase revenues by 17% and employment by 7% over next five years

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Insurance companies must take immediate steps to reshape their workforces to work with artificial intelligence (AI) or risk missing out on growth opportunities, according to new research by management consulting firm Accenture.

The report, Future Workforce Survey - Insurance: Realizing the Full Value of AI, found that insurers that invest in AI and human-machine collaboration could increase their revenue by 17% and their employment by 7% over the next five years.

According to the report, more must be done to train the insurance workforce to collaborate effectively with AI. For instance, the executives surveyed believe that only one in four of their workers are ready to work with AI, and 43% cite a growing skills gap as the main factor influencing their workforce strategy.

“AI has the potential to boost innovation, growth and efficiency, but insurers’ hesitance to properly reskill their employees could limit its impact,” said Michael Costonis, senior managing director at Accenture. “To complicate matters, despite having a business that is ripe to apply technology and innovation, insurers aren’t in a good position to win the war on technology talent. Executives need to think pragmatically about how they can bring new talent in, redesign jobs and reskill existing employees appropriately. Creating a more-flexible work environment could be a key first step to attracting data scientists and other outside talent.”

The study revealed that 61% of the executives surveyed expect that the workforce of the future will be a combination of humans and machines. Contrary to the popular belief that AI will reduce jobs, 67% of insurance executives expect AI to result in a net gain in jobs within their company in the next three years.

The report found that insurance workers are willing to embrace AI in their day-to-day roles. Two-thirds believe it will create opportunities in their work, while only 4% think it will create more challenges. Approximately 73% believe it will make their jobs simpler, and 69% believe it will enable a better work-life balance.

According to the report, reaching the applied intelligence stage requires dedicated leadership at the C-suite level and a cross-enterprise strategy with long-term budgeting. To prepare the insurance workforce for this stage executives must: reimagine work to better understand how machines and people can collaborate; pivot their employees to areas that create new forms of value; and teach new skills that will enable employees to work effectively alongside intelligent machines.

The use of AI will reconfigure many existing jobs within insurance, and the report identified three new categories of AI-driven jobs likely to emerge: ‘trainers,’ ‘explainers,’ and ‘sustainers.’

Trainers will assist computers as they learn and play key roles in underwriting, claims and customer engagement. Explainers will play a vital communications role, interpreting the results of algorithms to improve transparency and accountability for their decisions. Sustainers will ensure that machines stay true to their original goals without crossing ethical lines, including drifting away from desired outcomes or reinforcing bias.

“As more insurers look to integrate AI within their organisations, they should pursue a large-scale application in which humans and AI work together across a variety of tasks,” said Andrew Woolf, talent and organisation lead within Accenture’s Financial Services practice. “The benefits — including faster underwriting, quicker claims settlement and improved customer service — could be extraordinary, helping insurers solve complex challenges, break into new markets and generate new revenue streams.”

The full report can be found here:

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