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Insurance Management Students Take On AI, Innovation, and the Future of the Industry

By Teresa Chan, Director of the Master of Professional Studies in Insurance Management Program

The third cohort of the Columbia University Master’s in Insurance Management program successfully completed its final semester, culminating in the students’ delivery of their independent applied-research projects during a three-day in-person residency in NYC in December.

The breadth of knowledge and skills these students developed during the 16-month program was evident as they tackled problems, needs, and opportunities identified from their respective workplaces; addressed events that are impacting their business; and explored untapped markets that were either ripe for development or worthy of being monitored. Students creatively researched using various resources including focus groups, market surveys, interviews, and traditional academic and professional publications, and conducted data analysis and synthesis to produce papers, executive summaries, and presentations that supported their proposed solutions.

It was no surprise that the hot topic of the year was artificial intelligence and its application across all business functions, from underwriting to sales and operations. Demand by clients and customers for improved products and services is driving the impetus for accelerated application of AI, but are companies that are intent on AI adoption prepared? Do they understand the risks? What protection mechanisms do they need, and are they sufficient? Among the conclusions drawn from the students’ independent work was a comprehensive analysis of the multifaceted considerations to which any company seeking to effectively embrace AI should pay close attention.

Students generated unique solutions to existing problems: nontraditional application of the Internet of Things (IoT) to casualty pricing, modernizing the customer experience while preserving intellectual property, and even a new product for e-gaming. Other proposals involved how to achieve multimillion-dollar operational savings, banking guidelines in support of insurance companies, and the formation of a new insurance company for a niche medical product.

During the process, students recognized that the lessons learned were not only technical in nature. They would have to consider change management consequences—such as balancing the prospect of re-skilling and up-skilling with the elimination of certain job functions—in the course of making their recommendations to leadership or as leaders.

Where projects cut across multiple departments, not everyone was supportive. Some students experienced unexpected resistance from their management, peers, and subordinates, and faced the added challenge of negotiating opposing views and anxiety about change. Some students overcame such obstacles, while others could not. Nonetheless, the learning experience was a success by many counts, and the exercise ultimately provided students with a much deeper understanding of their companies and a reassessment of how such situations may be handled in the future.

After receiving the feedback of faculty members, course associates, peers, and 31 Corporate Advisory Network members, the students are taking their projects to the next level, beyond graduation and into the workplace.

They have advanced as thought leaders who will be the future of insurance.

Views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Columbia School of Professional Studies or Columbia University.

About the Program

The Columbia University Master of Professional Studies in Insurance Management equips a new generation of professionals to lead insurance businesses with advanced industry knowledge, strategic and operational expertise, and the skills to champion new ideas. The program is part-time, online, and instruction is asynchronous to accommodate working professionals.