From coffee houses to smartphones – do people matter in insurance?

Holly Shepherd, Director

Consider these two points.

First, in the 330 or so years since Edward Lloyd poured a coffee and created the insurance industry we see today, Lloyd’s is still fuelled by caffeine and face-to-face contact. Second, there is a pretty good chance you are reading this on a smartphone. Since launch a decade ago, growth has been phenomenal – a jump from 17% to 78%.

My question is, in the face of our digital dependency is human interaction in our industry needed? Want a taxi? Hail an Uber. Need a room quickly? You can sleep easy with Airbnb. No time for that grocery shop? Ocado will run it from the till to your door. It makes you wonder if the insurance industry can continue to flourish when an algorithm and an app could just be a more efficient way of doing business.

But wait – is there place for people and tech?

There is no doubt that we are addicted to our technology with one study finding that some people touch their phone over 5000 times a day. Meanwhile, I struggle to hit the 10,000-step target set by the fitness app on mine. Yet, faced with these time and motion challenges I still believe there is a place for people, networking and technology.

My work stretches across many geographies and time zones. So, a tool like LinkedIn is very powerful for reaching people, particularly if I don’t have direct contact. Social media helps create an online presence, one that advertises our capabilities and availability. For example, I have attended a number of conferences this year. The biggest was BIBA in Manchester, which I attended as a delegate and in my capacity as a board member of the International and Wholesale Brokers Advisory Board.

Social media helped me reach out to other attendees, as did the conference apps. They were both very powerful tools in enabling me to get the most out of the events. This included setting up meetings, find out about other attendees and ensuring I could make the most of my time both before and during the conferences.

The thing is, events are attended by people, not bots; technology is an enabler that enhances rather than replaces contact. In the case of BIBA in Manchester, the numbers are impressive. In 2018, there were 213 exhibitors and over 7,900 registered attendees including 5,000 registered brokers. And those attending saw a decent ROI with 78% reporting that the got ‘real business done at the show.’

BIBA is just one of the many insurance conferences and shows the value of networking and personal contact while embracing technology. In addition, it is refreshing that insurance professionals are willing to travel from far and wide to catch up and do business. I think this reflects the broader day-to-day work in the London market. Technological advances bring efficiency and there is, of course, a strong case for simple insurance transactions to be automated. However, sophisticated risks benefit from discussion, analysis and top-quality broking from people who understand both the detail and the nuance.

At Shepherd Compello, we see the importance of technology, but not at the expense of people. This is why we will always be ready to talk to clients and markets, to deliver the right insurance solutions for our clients. If you would like to find out more about how we can help, maybe we should catch up for a coffee.