“We are constantly on the lookout for new relevant trends”

44 trends in five trend fields, almost 100 pages in length: once again, there is a lot of work behind this year's edition of the "Tech Trend Radar". Both at Munich Re and at ERGO. But how is it being created in the first place? Who is involved? And to what extent does the ninth edition of this annual study help to further consolidate our picture of the digital insurance of the future? The two project managers Martin Thormählen from Munich Re and Daniel Grothues from ERGO take us behind the scenes of this highly complex project.

Leading the project team behind the joint "Tech Trend Radar": Martin Thormählen from Munich Re (left) and Daniel Grothues from ERGO Leading the project team behind the joint "Tech Trend Radar": Martin Thormählen from Munich Re (left) and Daniel Grothues from ERGO

Mr Thormählen, Mr Grothues, congratulations on the latest "Tech Trend Radar"! How long did you and your respective team colleagues at Munich Re and ERGO spend on the current edition? And who is actually involved in this project?

Martin Thormählen: Thank you very much! Actually, we are constantly on the lookout for the new relevant trends. That said, we always have a particularly hot phase of analysis and preparation in winter and spring. However, the colleagues from our project team at Munich Re, ERGO, the Institute of Electronic Business from Berlin and ADL Consulting only work part-time on the topic. 

The "Tech Trend Radar" has been published since 2013. Has the production process become standardised? Are there efficiency gains from experience with previous editions? What changes did the pandemic bring - and how is it likely to continue in the future?

Daniel Grothues: Well, we have established a stable process that we continue to improve in detail every year. Before the pandemic, a lot was worked out in joint workshops. During the pandemic, however, it also worked well remotely, and currently, we are working hybrid. There is no classic starting point. We are all interested in technology and collect suggestions throughout the year. Of course, there are regularly tapped sources, studies, etc. for this. This also includes conferences like the Gartner Symposium. In the fourth quarter of each year, a structured evaluation, selection and preparation of trends and practical use cases follow ...

Could you take us through the development process step by step, using one of the 44 trends as an example? How exactly is a trend identified, analysed, classified and processed by the project team so that it finds its way into the "Tech Trend Radar"? 

Daniel Grothues: For example, the metaverse is new this year. We've known about it as a buzzword for a while, and at ERGO we've even had our own experience with it. But in the next step we will see if there is enough evidence that it is not just a hype that will quickly fade away. Besides, the trend is only relevant for us if there is a concrete connection to the insurance business.  

Daniel Grothues, ERGO Daniel Grothues, ERGO

In the metaverse we have now seen both: concrete business as well as hype. Big internet companies like Meta and Apple are investing billions in hardware and software and there are first metaverses that you can visit. The vision of the creators is that people will spend part of their lives in such virtual worlds in the future and of course want to be well regarded there. This means: there will be digital valuables and status symbols, such as properties, houses & clothing, for which risks also exist. If this happens, users will want to insure these risks, so they will need "metaverse insurance". At the moment, however, these are promises for the future, which is why we recommend observing the topic and not making any major investments yet.

And how do our clients benefit from these findings? Would you have examples of how corporate clients use the "Tech Trend Radar"?

Martin Thormählen: First of all, we want to provide inspiration and ideas for the internal digitalisation and strategic development of Munich Re and ERGO. Our clients then benefit indirectly from this. At Munich RE, we also discuss the trends with interested board members, product developers and underwriters from our primary insurance clients and speak at conferences. Here we inspire the participants and also explain the concrete solutions we have developed in the meantime - "from trends to solutions".

Martin Thormählen, Munich Re Martin Thormählen, Munich Re

A question of understanding or a request for the correct reading of the study: The trend "Digital Curriences", for example, in the trend field "Cyber & Crypto" was added this year - and due to its importance directly with the recommendation "Assess". The Munich Re Group has had its sights set on this topic for much longer ...

Martin Thormählen: Absolutely. There are many interesting use cases for the basic blockchain technology besides Bitcoin, as you have already shown here on //next. However, in our view, Bitcoin is not a good currency for use in insurance, as it is primarily a speculative object and extremely volatile. In the meantime, however, there are promising approaches, among others by central banks, which are intended to combine the advantages of a digital currency with the stability and reliability of a real currency. Overall, the Munich Re Group is therefore very cautious in its assessment of the insurability of these new technologies.

Do you have favourites among trends? Are there any trends that surprised you this year? And which ones are you particularly curious about how they will develop in the coming years - and study editions?

Daniel Grothues: Currently exciting are the various trends in the area of Data & AI, above all Machine Driven Decisions. We are increasingly seeing internally and on the market that recurring decisions for which there is a good data basis can be automated very well with machine learning.

Of course, we are particularly excited about the development of topics that are still a little further away from application - but at the same time have great potential to trigger truly disruptive changes.

Quantum computing is definitely worth mentioning here. It has already developed from the vision to the first practically built computers. But they are still used for limited specialised topics and require a lot of specialised technical knowledge. We expect that the big cloud players Amazon, Google and Microsoft will succeed in making the technology suitable for mass use in their data centres and that users will only have to worry about the actual problem to be solved. When this happens, we will have immense computing power and completely new functional principles at our disposal, which will allow completely new applications, for example in the optimisation of routes, production processes, etc. and also in the modelling of risks.

To what extent does the ninth edition of the "Tech Trend Radar" help to consolidate our picture of the reinsurance and primary insurance business of the future? In other words, what does the ninth edition already reveal about how the Munich Re Group might do business in the medium and long term?

Martin Thormählen: It is absolutely clear that the (re)insurance business model will continue to digitalise. We are only part of the way there. Machine learning/ AI and language processing (NLP) will enable even more automation of standard processes or steps, and this will allow our employees in all areas from actuarial to sales to operations and IT to focus on consulting, personal customer contact and complex problems.

We will see how we are increasingly networked with the business processes of our customers and partners. This brings new opportunities but also pressure on margins and the need to become more and more efficient!

The interview was conducted by Ingo Schenk 

Zur deutschen Version des Artikels geht es hier: „Wir sind ständig auf der Suche nach neuen relevanten Trends“

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