Artificial Intelligence and machine learning has come a long way but the industry has only hit the tip of the iceberg. Rob Smale, transformation director at Ageas sits down with Kimberley Dondo to discuss what the audience can expect from his Insurance 2025 session

What will you be addressing to the audience at Insurance 2025 and why?

We all know that artificial intelligence is here to stay. For better or for worse, robots and learning machines are going to play an ever-larger part of our everyday lives – both as insurers and as consumers. But how many of us have a clear idea of the real capabilities of AI? Or how fast AI is developing? And how can we make sure that it is helping our policyholders and colleagues? Having worked with AI for a number of years now, I will share my experience so far.

What is Ageas’s background in this area?

At Ageas, we’re improving the way we manage vehicle repairs by augmenting human engineers with AI technology with our partners Tractable. By using deep learning AI, we’re making real-time decisions on car repairs from analysis of photos. This allows us to process thousands of repairs, ensuring the most effective method is adopted in order to control costs and give customers a more consistent experience of the repair.


What insight can delegates expect to get from your session?

Practical grounded experience on a scaled project that has worked. The industry is really only scratching the surface with AI, so the more we share experience, results and ideas, the more we can truly harness its power for the benefit of our customers and our shareholders.

Why should other sectors within insurance utilise Artificial Intelligence for automation of processes?

In our business, policyholders want to manage their relationships with their insurers whenever they want to, wherever they want to, on whatever device they want to use. They want more flexibility than the telephone offers. AI will help enable this for our customers in a way non-AI augmented human teams could not. And even if at the moment, this is still restricted to relatively simple, linear processes, we know it’s going to get more complex as the machines learn how to do things, and we harness the power of deep learning AI combined with robotic process automation backed by people empowered to create solutions to customer predicaments.

AI has the potential to change the very nature of insurance. We will see product design change as the opportunities afforded by AI become real. We may see insurers helping customers by moving to prevention as well as cure. We’re only just scratching at the surface of the potential and benefits.

Is there a risk that the rise of AI will eradicate job roles within the industry?

I have no doubt that AI will change rather than replace roles in the industry.

Organisations that succeed in the future will be those that harness the power of artificial intelligence to augment the human skills that are always at the heart of everything we do. Even with the most sophisticated of technology, there are times where human empathy, creativity and judgement will be needed and what AI does is to free up time to allow our people to focus on these cases where they can really add value for the customer and the insurer.

Why should attendees come along to the conference, where you will be presenting a case study on Ageas’s use of automation?

Machines can learn, but humans are great at learning too. We are great at talking as well and the opportunity to immerse in this subject with like-minded people will spark ideas. I don’t know about you, but the days at work I value most are the ones where I either learn something new or reimagine something familiar. And that’s why people should come along to the conference.