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Chairman of NARIM and Director, Global Insurance at Arcadis

The annual meeting of NARIM, the Dutch risk managers and insurance buyers’ association, will take place later this week. NARIM NOW will be entirely online and will explore themes including the use of innovation and technology in the risk and insurance industry. Ahead of the event, we talked to Adri van der Waart, chairman of NARIM and Director Global Insurance at Arcadis, about current trends in risk and insurance.

This year’s event will explore the 5th Revolution – namely, the use of innovation and new technologies for the advancement of humanity. How is this transforming the risk and insurance industry?

We decided upon the theme for this year’s congress last autumn – before we knew about COVID-19 and its impact. The events of the past few months have seen us all working differently and using new technology. As many of these changes are here to stay, we will – at the congress – reflect on what this means for people going forward; what it means for the way we work, the way we collect data and the way the industry operates. The insurance industry has typically been fairly traditional, but we have now all been prompted to work in these new ways. The theme of the congress is timely!

I believe that people will continue to use some of these new ways of working and we will maybe get to a 50/50 balance of working remotely and face-to-face interactions. Communication is so important in our industry – it is a people business where relationships and meeting people play a huge role. About 50% of what we do, aside from the financial and management part of our work, consists of building relationships and communicating with our partners. And I, for example, do not feel that I can do all of my renewals via video calls – I like to be able to look my insurer in the eye even from 2 meters.

We now need to think about how our business will be affected moving forward. Will we meet partners in a socially-distanced way in restaurants and cafés? How will it work? It is likely that some of the traditional ways of doing business will remain, and we will continue to also use new forms of communication.

The congress will address The New World Order, The New Leadership and The New Money – what do you see as the key factors here for risk and insurance?

The risks are evolving and that is what is exciting about the congress. Our keynote speakers will challenge the attendees and give them food for thought. We always try to look at future issues and debate what they might mean for all our business. While many people are skeptical about the adoption and application of certain new technologies in the risk industry, these trends are already here. Take crypto currency, for example; there is a question mark over what it will mean for the future. It isn’t really in use in the insurance industry at the moment, but one should never say never. Several initiatives relying on blockchain – the technology behind crypto currencies – are already being piloted by some actors in the industry.

Technological breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), for example, are beginning to change the way risk is transferred. Can you see these innovations being widely used in the insurance industry?

I have seen AI startups entering the insurance industry and it is certainly an interesting area. I recently was discussing this topic with colleagues from AIRMIC, the UK risk managers’ association, some of whom are using AI in their own businesses. I can see ways in which AI could be used to good effect in cargo or property insurance, for example. In liability insurance classes, where you need an understanding of how people behave, it might be less applicable currently. Certainly, insurers are beginning to explore the use of AI and that is a welcomed development.

The 2020 global pandemic crisis has forced the insurance market to acknowledge some of its blind spots, and to (re)discover some inherent strengths. What can insurance buyers learn from this experience?

This is a really interesting but challenging time. Many insurers are understandably anxious about what all of this means. Some may have claims related to the crisis, some are talking about introducing various exclusions. In addition, interest rate changes to try to limit the effect of the pandemic on financial markets may well have an effect on insurers’ own financial models, for example. We are also coming out of a period of about ten years where insurance premium rates were typically falling and entering one where insurers are seeking rate increases and new terms in certain areas.

As insurance buyers, risk managers need to be realistic about these rate changes. And while they understand that there needs to be some adjustments, they need to look at what is coming down the tracks. They need to prepare their board for what their premium spend might be compared with what was expected a year or six months ago. Again, communication is so important – buyers need to communicate with their board, with their stakeholders and with their insurers.

Finally, what are you looking forward to at this year’s NARIM congress?

We have a great line up of speakers whom I believe will challenge participants to think about some of the themes we have been discussing. The NARIM congress is also a great opportunity for discussion and debate and this year will be no different. The event is entirely online, for the first time ever, and is free to join. I urge interested Dutch speakers to sign up and I will see you there… Online!

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