Machines and artificial intelligence are becoming the newest recruits to the workforce, bringing new skills to help people do new jobs, and reinventing what’s possible.

A mere two years ago, when IPSoft launched its artificial intelligence (AI) platform that automates knowledge work and is able to speak to customers in more than 20 languages, some in the insurance industry were wary of Amelia, the virtual agent.

Some perceived cognitive computing to be a simple transfer of tasks from man to machine. But we know now that the real power of intelligent automation lies in its ability to fundamentally change traditional ways of operating, for insurers and their customers. These machines offer strengths and capabilities (scale, speed, and the ability to cut through complexity) that are different from—but crucially complementary to—human skills. And their increasing sophistication is invigorating the workplace, changing the rules of what’s possible so that people and their new digital co-workers can together do things differently.

This year’s Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance—which includes a survey of approximately 450 insurance executives in 15 countries—found that 82 percent of insurance leaders plan on using machine learning and embedded AI solutions like Amelia more extensively. Seventy-five percent are investing in machine learning.

And insurers in the Asia-Pacific market are already leading the way by utilizing various AI platforms to streamline their back-office data processing. MS&AD Group, one of Japan’s major insurers, has introduced IBM’s Watson AI system (a cognitive computing platform that is built to answer questions in natural language and “learn” from large amounts of data), which analyzes texts and voice logs to assess customer claims automatically. This alliance has already reduced the burden on MS&AD’s call centers in less than two years, according to the company.

In late 2015, Swiss Re Australia and New Zealand brought IBM’s Watson on board to mine the group’s underwriting platforms and provide more accurate data for the company to assess risk. Two P&C companies in the group have piloted Watson as a way to streamline contact center interactions with customers.

In New Zealand, AIG has already established an international UAV research and development program and conducted drone flights. The company now has approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate drones for inspections relating to risk assessment, risk management, loss control and surety performance.

Far from killing jobs and creating a dehumanized future, pioneering insurance companies such as the ones listed above are using intelligent automation to drive a new—and much more productive—relationship between people and machines.

Intelligent automation isn’t an option; it’s inevitable. The question is whether insurers have the capabilities to not just use it, but also implement it across every aspect of their organizations and maximize the benefits.

These Digital Transformers’ show insurers everywhere that it is time to move beyond a succession of pilots and to commit to your chosen business and distribution models.

To learn more, register to download the Technology Vision for Insurance 2016.

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