Editor's comment: What does the future have in store?

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It’s been four months since I joined the team here at Reactions and it has been a steep learning curve into the world of re/insurance and the ideas and problems that are, to steal the phrase I have seen plastered over the walls at several events, “keeping those in insurance awake at night”. This was highlighted at the recent Airmic conference in Liverpool in June where the looming spectre of the technological revolution was discussed more than any other topic. Between Airmic CEO John Ludlow’s opening plenary speech, the panel discussions and speaking to those on the ground at the stands, there was a mix of nervous energy and excitement about what technology will do to the industry. People know disruption is coming, they know the big ticket item that is going to change the industry is probably being worked on somewhere in an IT department as they speak, but they just don’t know what it is. This technology revolution means one of the most common phrases I hear is “tangible versus intangible” assets and how the industry must learn to work in this new field because it’s no secret that the world of business is changing as we move to a cyber-oriented future. The oft-trotted out staple that Uber owns no taxis and Airbnb owns no hotels has already become a cliché but it is true, and the insurance industry needs to take this changing environment into account. Bricks and mortar are out and zeroes and ones are in as more and more business look to an online-focused future to protect themselves from changing consumer habits. It’s difficult to say what effect this will have on insurance in the upcoming years, but what we do know is that this is a time of flux and that not doing anything is not an option. One of the ways this change was also highlighted in my first few weeks was the UK government’s programme to announce the gender pay gap for all companies with over 250 staff. Not technology, but cultural change. Something that a large portion of the industry is clamouring for, but has – even in my short time on the staff – been visibly dismissed by the old white men at the top in public arenas. The pay gap reveals said nothing we didn’t already know, but it showed the data properly for the first time and gave us an insight into why it existed - women are paid the same for work done in equal positions, but the problems is women aren’t making it into the top quartile of positions and so the pay is skewed for all. This issue and the other surrounding diversity and inclusion is something we plan on covering much more in Reactions. Insurance is often regarded as a conservative and slow-moving industry. But on this issue, it simply cannot afford to be. If it wants to attract and retain the best talent, if it wants to be able to better protect itself from disruption from outside the industry and if it wants to better reflect its customer base, then it needs to find ways to listen to those asking for change. One of the best conversations I’ve had since I joined was with the co-head of LINK, the insurance LGBT+ mentoring group in the City, where we discussed what would make insurance a more attractive sector to both young graduates and those more experienced workers seeking a career change. There was no single answer, but the problems could be summed up with one small but powerful statement that she made in our interview: “insurance needs better PR”. Plain and simple – the industry needs to convince people it’s worth investing in and learning about. Whether this is to achieve a dynamic new generation of colleagues to join, or so the industry can withstand an onslaught of inevitable disruption is unimportant. What matters is that it does and that it embraces the change.

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