New frontiers

Portrait – Christian Fankhauser – SBB Head of Insurance Management (photo)

Christian Fankhauser
SBB Head of Insurance Management

When Swiss Re was founded 152 years ago, insurance was catching up with the industrial revolution. Today we are again at the edge of another sea change — a digital revolution. People, devices and information are increasingly interconnected. These forces reshape the way we do business and interact with our environment. Just as when we were founded, our role is to understand the drivers of change, anticipate the evolving risks our clients face, and leverage these forces to make the world more resilient.

Running like clockwork in a digital age

”We started with a vision and an idea. With Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, we could actually bring this to fruition. The forward thinking and open-minded collaboration in that process has been enriching and inspiring for all involved.”

Since the days of coal and steam, the Swiss rail system has been famously efficient and reliable. In the age of drones, autonomous cars and cyber attacks, how does operator SBB maintain that reputation? For starters, they consider even the most far-flung scenarios. With a new cover, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers SBB protection for imminent natural catastrophes, such as floods or falling rocks as well as failure of IT systems, including cyber attacks and other remote risk scenarios.

The SBB cover is the largest cyber deal Swiss Re has ever carried out. It protects our client in the event that its IT systems become unresponsive due to malicious software attacks. In the case of a large transport operator, the ramifications of a system failure can be daunting.

There are significant hurdles to assessing cyber risk accurately. Designing products that are easy for clients to understand and that truly meet their needs is key. Insurers also need to grapple with “accumulation risk,” or the possibility that one event can affect multiple policies. As a knowledge company we pride ourselves on developing expertise on these complex risks and sharing that with our clients.

Leveraging the opportunities

2 billion

Cyber risk premiums globally (2014 USD)

While as insurers it’s our job to look first at the risks of technological change, we have simultaneously to consider its enormous benefits.

We are engaging not only with clients but peers, regulators, and other partners — especially partners whose digital expertise can help us move to the next phase and maintain our reputation as the world’s leading re/insurer.

Smart analytics, for example, is one of the trends that can help us find hidden patterns in data sets that once seemed unfathomably extensive and complex.

Railway workers with a tablet (photo)

This year we teamed up with IBM to develop a range of solutions that rely on IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technologies for our Life & Health underwriters.

Cognitive technologies, coupled with human experience, can take decision-making to the next level. The technology marks the beginning of a new step in artificial intelligence, with systems now delving into unstructured data, generating new insights and continuously learning from their interactions with both data and humans. When IBM Watson gets smarter, we get smarter, too.

“Cognitive computing is one of the most transformative technologies in the re/insurance industry, one that will enable our experts to focus on the work that humans do best,” said Thomas Wellauer, Group Chief Operating Officer. “It’s a genuine game-changer that can strengthen our capabilities and help us extend our competitive positioning.”

Guy with colored cables (photo)