’The industry has a tendency to get really excited about things and we all go bells and whistles,’ says head of corporate and commercial claims operations

The insurance industry needs to “stop getting overexcited” about new trends such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digitisation and introduce new ways of working in a “balanced” way.

That was according to Victoria Sutton, head of corporate and commercial claims operations at Howden, who said the sector should not go “all or nothing” when it comes to new technology despite having a tendency to go “all bells and whistles” when new developments emerge.

Over the last few years, several technological trends have emerged in the industry – while some have faded, others like parametric models and embedded distribution have taken root.

Another that has started to become more and more popular is artificial intelligence (AI), with large language models such as ChatGPT piquing the interest of many.

While the rise of AI and digitisation within the industry is natural, especially given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sutton used claims apps as an example of how the industry can get “overexcited” about the rise of different technologies.

“The industry has a tendency to get really excited about things and we all go bells and whistles,” she said during an Insurance Times roundtable in partnership with NTT Data.

“A few years ago, it was like we must have claims apps everywhere because everyone wants to do everything on an app.

“However, you’re not going to have an app downloaded on the off chance that you might have a claim, it was never going to work.”


While some firms in the insurance sector have started to explore AI, initial forays into the use of the technology have been made on an experimental basis to determine whether it has long-term viability.

For example, insurtech Artificial Labs has been experimenting with ChatGPT as part of a pilot to assist underwriters.

And earlier this year (27 March 2023), insurer Zurich said it was experimenting with the tool as it explored how it could use the technology for tasks such as extracting data for claims and modelling.

Sutton felt that, if new ways of working were being introduced due to AI or digitisation, triaging of customers was key because there were consumers who still wanted to talk to humans.

She cited a time where she had to make a pet claim, but struggled to get through to anyone on the phone as the firm she was with mainly operated online.

“It was so emotive when I had that claim going through and I wanted to speak to somebody to check they had my invoices,” she added.

“No one would speak to me [as they said] they do it all online.

“And that was the point where I thought that you can’t go all or nothing – we’ve got to stop getting overexcited about the next trends.

“There has to be a balance, [with new technology] being introduced in the right places.”

Too fresh?

Meanwhile, Lockton global chief operating officer Ian Cooper felt AI such as ChatGPT was like “Google version two”.

However, given AI technology is quite new, Cooper questioned whether there needed to be more examples of use cases for adoption to really take hold.

“AI is a fascinating subject, but I am not sure how to ask my boss for some money to invest in something that might make a difference,” he added.

“I still think there is a lack of clarity around where the initial use cases are going to come from.

“Is it going to be contact centres? Is it going to be through unstructured data and finding records more easily and more quickly for our people [with the help of AI]? What is it going to be?”

In response, Ralph Tucker, client partner at NTT Data, said there were “numerous” applications for AI, while David Basson, business developer and advisor to UK insurers for the firm, added that the Japanese-owned technology company could provide “greater clarity”.

Japanese communications firm NTT Data is looking to enter the UK insurance market and bring its experience with AI to “turbocharge” the insurance sector.

The firm is currently the largest provider of services to the Japanese insurance sector, the leading administrator of health insurance policies in the US and boasts a Singapore-based global market-leading insurance middleware platform for the rapid launch of insurance products into digital distribution channels.

Speaking about what it could do to comfort UK insurers about the use of AI, Basson said: ”You would have an idea of where the on-ramps are, what your one to two years looks like and, potentially, what years three to five would look like as well.”