To mark 50 years of the Geneva Association, a keynote address from Mapfre’s CEO touched on themes of technology, cyber, climate, and closing the protection gap.

Mapfre’s CEO Antonio Huertas has addressed the “Summit 50” gathering of 50 insurance industry CEOs to mark 50 years of the Geneva Association.

Antonio Huertas

Antonio Huertas

Huertas opened his speech by emphasising that despite turbulent times, the insurance sector is “steadfast in supporting economic resilience” through its risk expertise.

His keynote focused on the role of insurance and emerging technology, including artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber risks, as well as related challenges of climate change and energy transition.

Insurtech competition

Huertas noted the new sources of competition insurers face in their digital transformation efforts.

“During this time, new players have also emerged, both large companies that have considered entering insurance and competing with us and digital neo-insurers, who brought apparently a more agile model, without structures inherited from the past, and therefore capable of generating disruption,” he said.

“And I say only ‘apparently’ because there is no doubt that insurance has to innovate as much as possible, but it cannot lose sight of the fact that in the end, it is also a financial business that must meet demanding requirements of solvency, capital, and financial return,” Huertas continued.

“We have seen how in recent months the tightening of financial conditions has called into question some of these models,” he added.

Cyber risks (and opportunities)

Huertas addressed resurgent geopolitical risk around the globe, and related threats, including cyber risks.

“The threat of cyberattacks, data breaches, and digital disruption looms large, capable of toppling industries and economies with a few keystrokes. As insurers, we stand at the crossroads of both challenges and opportunities in this digital frontier,” Huertas said.

Insurers’ expanded role for cyber risks – providing risk advice and resilience rather than the traditional focus on indemnity alone – favours more work towards industry collaboration and public-private partnerships with governments, he suggested.

Cyber represents opportunity as well as risk, he stressed.

“It allows us to re-imagine our role as partners in risk mitigation, empowering organizations to embrace digital transformation with confidence. By crafting innovative policies that encompass not only financial protection but proactive risk assessment, incident response, and cyber hygiene education, we enable our clients to navigate the digital age with resilience,” he said.

“Furthermore, the growth of the cyber insurance market is a testament to the innovative potential of our industry. It is an arena where data analytics, AI and risk modelling converge to create products that safeguard our clients’ digital assets,” he continued.

“As pioneers in this space, we have the chance to lead by example, influencing global standards for cyber resilience and catalysing the adoption of best practices across industries,” Huertas added.

AI leap

Innovation is not a “nice to have”, he noted, but rather reflects societal transformation, otherwise the industry risks sliding into irrelevance, with AI at the fore of humankind’s disruptive technologies.

“It is not a passing fad; it is a tool that will most likely mean an absolute transformation of many aspects of our lives, not only on the economic level,” he said.

“It is still early to predict how it will develop, but what is incontestable is that all the boards of directors and management committees of all our companies are already analysing and internalizing it, and those who do not do so run the risk of being left out of the game,” Huertas said.

An “exponential” leap in generative AI will benefit the industry and its customers, he emphasised.

“There are also open questions about the impact that tools like ChatGPT can have not only on economic activity, but on other variables such as productivity or workers’ jobs.

There is a question that those of us who are already working with AI ask ourselves: how can it affect people?” he asked.

“My vision is quite optimistic, I believe that if we do it right, we can turn these technologies into powerful tools at the service of workers, improving their skills and experience, while boosting the economy in general.”

Governance and regulatory questions will need to be resolved for AI’s “ethical and responsible development”, he noted, but not at the cost of competitiveness.

“In a global market, Europe has to find the balance between regulation, which is undoubtedly necessary, and the development framework for these technologies. It is necessary to experiment with this technology precisely to know its limits and verify ethical operation free of bias towards people and their circumstances,” Huertas said.

Regulatory warning

The world is changing, regulation is evolving, and insurance business is getting more complex, the Spanish insurance CEO warned, providing a European standpoint.

He noted that in 2007, European insurers needed to comply with about 12 directives.

“Fifteen years later, these 12 directives have turned into more than 30. And if we have a look at what is to come in the immediate near future, we could be talking about more than 60 EU Directives for operating just at EU level,” Huertas said.

“Consequently, policymakers should be careful and cautious when promoting regulation with effects on the insurance industry’s role,” he continued.

“In this context, organisations, forums, and think tanks such as the GA acquire more importance than ever since they allow insurers’ voices to be present in the debate, addressing important issues like protection gaps, resilience or social and financial inclusion,” he added.