Even in the highly-regulated German market, radical change is coming to insurance sales — “Alexa, get me an insurance policy.” Deutsche Familienversicherung, a leading insurer, will make its policies available for purchase through Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant later this month.
The insurer will first test the market by selling a travel health insurance policy followed by standardized liability insurance, with dental insurance a possible later addition.
However, questions remain over the legality of contracts concluded through a digital assistant. Insurers including Zurich, Generali and Allianz already offer information through Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, but do not allow consumers to finalize a contract.
Ensuring informed insurance
There are good reasons for their reluctance. New European Union guidelines, which came into force in February, have increased insurance companies’ responsibility to properly inform their clients. The new requirements have already led to disputes between the BVK, Germany’s insurance brokers’ association, and Check 24, an online retail comparison portal.
Brokers and rival insurance companies remain skeptical about Deutsche Familienversicherung’s claim to have made a breakthrough in online insurance sales. Giovanni Liverani, CEO of Generali’s German operations, says the significance of smart assistants is overrated: “For most kinds of insurance, consumers need guidance from a trusted source,” he said. Technology cannot replace the expertise of insurance advisers and brokers, he said.
Others disagree. According to a study by a Swiss software agency, artificial intelligence will have largely replaced human brokers within 10 to 15 years. Around 50 percent of German consumers already say they can imagine completing the entire insurance process online.
Stefan Knoll, CEO of Deutsche Familienversicherung, says he is aware of the legal gray area his company is entering: “It’s quite likely that one or other interested party will sue us over this.” But Mr. Knoll, a lawyer by training, is convinced that artificial intelligence will ultimately win out over existing regulations. “Digitization is a revolutionary force and it will not spare the insurance industry. I’m pretty sure the industry will not survive in its current form.” he said.
Carsten Herz leads Handelsblatt’s asset management and insurance coverage and is based in Frankfurt. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org