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AI Keep Both Eyes on the Road… Mostly


Keep both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.  Most of us likely heard something similar as we were learning to drive.  It was intended to help us maintain control of our vehicle and to be aware of possible distractions … other cars, objects in the road, animals, or even a child chasing a ball.  Ultimately, it was advice to stay focused on what we were doing and minimize the chance of an accident.

In many ways, this is also sound advice when running an independent agency.  Whether discussing your talent needs, changing customer demands, carrier actions, market conditions, succession planning, marking and growth ideas, or technology, there are any number of things that require our focus.

So, it stands to reason that we should do the business equivalent of keeping our eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.  In fact, we often discuss this approach with agencies as they consider technology changes, as it is critical to stay focused on the fundamental and defined objectives of the agency such as growth plans, hiring needs, geographic expansion, M&A, perpetuation, carrier alignment, operational efficiency, etc.  These issues are hard and require keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road to make sure we able to navigate possible distractions.

Sage advice … mostly.  When in unfamiliar areas where there could be additional distractions and risks that emerge from out of nowhere, it can pay to pay even broader attention.  In those cases, we often get told to pay broader attention to what’s happening around us.  We are entering a new age that promises true societal change and very real impacts on how business is done in our industry, our country, and around the globe.

Artificial Intelligence

AI will likely revolutionize nearly every aspect of our professional and personal lives.  So, while we need keep our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to focus on our fundamentals, we should also pay broader attention as we all learn how AI can and will impact the fundamentals of our business and more.

With the proliferation of AI, one could strongly argue that we’ve never had more opportunity to introduce net new capabilities and ways of conducting business … and that we’ll need to recognize comparable levels of new risk.  Similar to how fire, the invention of the wheel, and the industrial revolution changed everyday tasks, created brand new capabilities, impacted societal dynamics and, importantly, added new risk, AI stands to do the same.  And all of this with AI is happening at break-neck speed which can make it challenging to keep both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.  In fact, this is one of those times when we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to look more broadly than ever before.

Much has already been written about some early areas in which AI can offer benefits to businesses.  Areas such as meeting note taking, task assessments, copy writing, chat bots, contract reviews, addressing duplicate entry, phone systems, niche development, fraud detection, candidate screening, and code writing have already been impacted by AI.  Everyone reading this should be paying attention, researching these capabilities, and following rapidly evolving developments if not already beginning to explore some of these in their business.

But this is just the beginning.  The reality is that with the pace and scope of AI development, the things happening outside of our peripheral vision are very real, moving fast, and deserve our attention.  If not, we run the risk of issues coming seemingly out of nowhere and having unanticipated impacts on our businesses. Those who stay disciplined on the necessary fundamentals while also paying attention to what’s happening with AI at a larger level will have a leg up on innovation and changing societal demands.  They may even be the people and businesses shaping the future of our industry.

While most of us are ill-equipped today to anticipate all the possibilities, it’s not farfetched to imagine a world in the not-so-distant future where we’ll have to ponder and navigate some of the following:

  • Scope and Pace. As noted above, society has gone through numerous mass scale evolutions that have fundamentally changed the nature of how we live.  Each took decades, if not centuries, to fully impact society.  By comparison, AI is happening at exponential speed and can impact us in just several years or even months.  How equipped are we to deal with, manage, and embrace change?
  • Insurable risk.  AI is just one of many things changing the nature of risk.  What everyday risk from today will change significantly or be eliminated all together?  What brand new risks will we have to solve for?  Can we build pricing and underwriting models at a pace to keep up?  Can our industry adapt quickly enough to serve these new needs?
  • Data and Insight. Can we fathom the amount of data that AI will accumulate, create, interpret, and act upon? How long before we move from a “use, but validate” approach to full acceptance, and ultimately, to not being consciously concerned?  Are we considering the many upsides, and risk, associated with having unthinkable data and insights at our disposal?
  • Accountability.  As AI does more for us intentionally, and perhaps unintentionally, where does accountability lie?  Which stakeholder will own what responsibilities?  Who will be responsible when things go bad?  How will we cover it … if we will?
  • Regulatory. What will AI mean for licensing and appointment contracts and regulation? How will E&O insurers respond?  How much should this be regulated?  Can we keep pace?
  • Role changes. It’s very likely that countless tasks we do every day will disappear and new human tasks will emerge.  This will change the nature of who does what in our industry, thereby requiring contractual changes to define roles, responsibilities, and which entity gets paid for differing responsibilities.
  • Talent. The elimination and creation of tasks and capabilities will have a meaningful impact on the talents we need in our business.  Training, recruiting, and fully integrating our teams with new tools, expectations, and minimized geographic boundaries will be increasingly critical to our success and viability.
  • Value adds. As AI and other emerging technology fundamentally change the definition of risk, tasks and roles, how will the areas in which we add value also evolve?  What will customers expect and accept based on their needs and other societal experiences?
  • Experiences. As AI and human experiences become more indistinguishable, will we know?  Will we care?  Will we proactively communicate to stakeholders how they are being serviced?  How can we utilize AI capabilities to create and add value while minimizing, or at least, managing differing beliefs and risks?

We could literally keep going and going with the possibilities, both exciting and alarming, as AI capabilities continue to expand.  While it would be very hard to ignore given the amount of press and conversation about AI, it is important for all of us to pay attention how and how quickly AI is being developed and deployed.  It’s also sound advice to consume content on both sides of the issue, listening to those who are staunch supporters of AI and those who are raising sizeable red flags.  As with any polarizing topic, there is something to be learned from both perspectives as we form our own beliefs and consider how to integrate AI into our personal and professional lives.

In short, this is one of those times we need to look more broadly and not just keep both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.

Chris Cline
Executive Director, Agents Council for Technology