Collaboration is key for blockchain in insurance

The seeds for the use of blockchain technology in insurance have been planted, with pilots and experiments already taking place.

The underlying platform provides huge potential for innovation, but only if the industry is able to collaborate, according to GlobalData Financial Services.

Progress and collaboration were key themes in a recent webinar by InsurTech Rising, which explored the evolution of blockchain and the potential opportunities that lie ahead for the insurance industry.

One area for excitement was the role of insurance initiative B3i. The group consists of 38 brokers, insurers, and reinsurers collaborating across 15 countries on exploring the potential for blockchain solutions in insurance.

By definition, blockchain is a mutually distributed ledger that only really finds meaning within a network, so the exploration of potential in this area cannot really be found unilaterally.

The project has developed a usable test case, which is essential for the future programs and apps in development stages to be tested on. The launch of the fully functional beta-version blockchain prototype was announced by B3i in Monte Carlo, in September 2017.

Richard Phipps, finance project manager for Swiss Re, said he had noticed a major difference just in the last six months: innovation teams are no longer the only ones talking about blockchain, with such discussions now being held by operational teams.

The main advantages of blockchain cited by the panelists lie in the back-office initially, cutting out paper trails and inefficiencies to improve customer delivery.

Oliver Vork, from Allianz and B3i, was keen to stress that the advantages going forward were almost limitless, comparing blockchain to smartphone technology. He said it was not so much in the underlying platform, but the apps and other products that work on top of it where the real innovation will come from.

Collaboration was very much a central point, being essential to the success of B3i’s test platform.

Ranvir Sigu, CEO of blockhcain company Blocksure, opined that the product simply can’t work without it. Even on a smaller scale, the value in the process can be achieved only through brokers working with insurers and clients in the same chain.

Phipps suggested the insurance industry may be at an advantage here, as it is used to working together, with some large insurance policies having had 20 to 30 insurers listed on them.

With the overall message being very positive and a working prototype for tech companies to test products on complete, 2018 could be a breakthrough year for blockchain in insurance.