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Relationships ‘crucial for brokers in data-driven world’

Brokers must focus on client relationships to provide personalised advice as the community becomes increasingly comfortable with disruptive technologies, a forum on innovation heard today.

Warren Burns, director of technology think tank the Leading Edge Forum in Asia, says improved data and software have expanded the opportunities for automated advice that can be adjusted for specific customers.

“Software is eating the world slowly,” he said. “Algorithms are starting to be a very comfortable part of our lives. We trust them more because they are made without emotion.”

Mr Burns, who featured in the cover story in Insurance News (the magazine) in February, is also the founder of innovation agency BurnsRED.

He says technology allows customers to better understand and compare products, challenging the traditional roles of  “professional complexity explainers” such as financial advisers and brokers.

He says brokers must become “customer intimacy” businesses, of equal importance to a client as a lawyer or accountant.

“Obfuscation of complexity is no longer a business model,” he said. “If you’re a salesperson for products, you are not a customer intimacy business.”

LMI Group MD Allan Manning told the forum the rise of aggregators also reflects a market focus on reducing complexity, but the role of brokers is key in helping clients with risk-related matters.

More broadly, he says major changes driven by technology include the use of Big Data and the increasing shift from community risk rating to more precise assessments.

The rise of driverless cars presents challenges, with the potential to reduce motor insurance claims and earnings, and a range of flow-on effects.

Issues related to cyber crime also bring both risks and opportunities, with 25% of brokers having experienced an attack, he says.

“To me, cyber is the biggest single risk facing us as an industry,” Professor Manning told the forum.

Faith, heritage and care sector specialist Ansvar hosted the event – titled Innovation Revolution: The New Age of Insurance – in Melbourne after forums in Brisbane and Sydney. Events are also scheduled for Adelaide on Friday and Perth on Tuesday next week.

Ansvar CEO Warren Hutcheon says brokers seeking to be trusted advisers require trilateral arrangements with specialist insurers and customers.

“We believe clients will be looking for bespoke risk management support.”

He sasys recent trends in the care sector include centralised consumer websites, increased transparency and a focus on real-time data and more flexible digital technologies.