The Ethics of Personalisation and Behavioural Fairness  

The digital revolution that is happening now in insurance is resulting in some profound changes. A lot of good will come out of this, with practices long past their use-by-data swept away. At the same time, ethical concerns are being raised and challenges prepared, in response to some of the outcomes being experienced. Four ethical themes stand out…

  • the impact of personalisation on how insurance products work
  • retreat or reinvention – the move to a more service orientated market
  • the changes this brings to the business models of insurers
  • the way in which this changes relations with consumers

Here you will find independent and detailed analysis of the fundamental changes happening in insurance at the moment. Many of the articles drawn on academic papers and research results, from Europe, the Americas and Asia. And while there is a great deal of challenge in some of the articles, there is also a great deal of support for the need for change.  


If you want to deepen your understand of the big underlying currents that are driving digital change in insurance, you've come to the right place. Over the past ten years, I watched and analysed the key developments in digital insurance. Out of this has emerged a series of interlinked themes - fairness, personalisation, product or service, and time and identity. 

Here you will find many of the articles that have come to define the fundamental challenges facing insurance. I've debated them in numerous conferences, and in universities across the UK, and in Ireland and Switzerland. Progressively, insurers and trade bodies have recognised that these ethical issues are here to stay and need to be addressed. 

In September 2019, I was the keynote speaker at the NRP75 conference, a Swiss Government project delivered by the University of Zurich and Swiss Re. 

six fundamental challenges

This guide brings together six article I wrote in 2019 about the fundamental challenges facing insurance. Each of them is relevant to underwriting and together, they present the big themes that leaders and strategists need to know. It's free to download - just click on the guide's cover to go to the download page. 


Behavioural Fairness

Many see behavioural fairness as the future of insurance. Yet is it? Researchers have identified its journey into the heart of insurance thinking as more of a reaction against ethical risks than by deliberate design.

In this 2020 article, I bring together research from the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US, to analyse the future for behavioural fairness. As the title suggests, it's not so rosy as many in the market think....  Behavioural fairness is a serious risk to the future of insurance  

To fully understand the implications of behavioural fairness, you need to understand the notion of identity. Underwriters may think they know what type of person you are and so what type of risk you present, but identity is much more complex than how data on  this is being used. In this article from 2019, I analyse why this is so... The problems that insurers will have with identity 

Every insurer with a digital strategy needs to be familiar with personalisation and behavioural fairness. The implications of these two related trends are immense and there are signs that challenges are emerging.  



This is the most fundamental of all changes happening in insurance. It seems here to stay, but there are ethical questions associated with it. It has the potential to put the sector under serious challenge in the 3 to 5 year horizon. 

In 2013, I first raised questions about the implications it had for insurance... Do personalised premiums mean the end of risk pooling? In 2018, I wrote a more thorough analysis of personalisation... Personalisation - could it take insurance into a digital winter? This drew on feedback I was receiving from academics and policy makers. 

In 2020, the UK regulator acknowledged that personalisation could result in consumer detriment, but saw it as outside of their remit. Here's my critique of that (still unexplained) statement... A dangerous regulatory mindset that will undermine trust in insurance  

And in 2021, I explored the implications of the next big development - What does Hyper-Personalisation mean for the Future of Insurance? And followed this up with an already emerging example: Embedded Insurance


Horizon Scanning

I help insurers explore the implications of emerging trends that will affect their markets.

Insurers have to understand the ethical landscape that lies ahead, so as to build its implications into their risk strategies. Through workshops and reports, my ethics radar highlights the problems and opportunities to look out for.

Example - A leading UK insurer wanted to understand the influence that supervisory technologies would have on its digital strategy. My research and analysis set out the developments to watch out for and allowed the insurer to adapt accordingly.


Foresight on the Fundamentals 

My engagement with the academic community allows me to produce close analysis of the fundamentals, as in these two articles...

The atomisation of insurance

The radical way in which time is changing insurance


Re-invention or Retreat?

Consider these words in 2018 from the CEO of one of Europe's leading insurers...

In life insurance we will move to more of a service offering, developing advisory services more than taking financial risks on to our balance sheet.

This move to a more service orientated offering is one of the main outcomes of the two trends looked at above - behavioural fairness and personalisation. On the face of it, this service based move ticks all sorts of boxes - better health, less flood losses, etc. Yet like any significant shift in a market's orientation, it raises ethical questions around the wider implications that will result from it - the availability of risk transfer for example. 

In this article, I analysed those wider implications... Is a retreat from insurance underway?  And I followed this up with a critique of signposting, one of the early outcomes of this retreat...  Is signposting as ethical as the market believes? 

For an examination of the fundamental issues here, read this... What is insurance? And why data analytics makes this matter.

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