By Leslie Ankney | Forbes
In an announcement on September 25, auditing and consulting firm Deloitte announced a plan to help The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance expand into Canada. In November, RiskBlock announced it would also chair blockchain standards for ACORD, the global standards-setting body for the insurance industry. These moves could signal significant steps toward product development and international growth for blockchain-based insurance applications.
RiskBlock is a blockchain consortium of more than 30 insurance companies looking to boost efficiency and reduce fraud via blockchain technology. RiskBlock’s vice president, Pat Schmid, explained that its role as a non-profit keeps self-interested parties out of development. He said, “Blockchain is a network-based technology that will only be harnessed with a strong network already in place. The Institutes already has a broad network and, as a well-respected not-for-profit, has no stake in the game.”
As one of the largest global accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world, Deloitte’s work with blockchain may be an early signal of industry reform. Over past few years, Deloitte has been ramping up blockchain strategy formation, prototyping, and production for its clients.
Ted Epps, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, said Deloitte and The Institutes have been collaborating with regulators since the start of their partnership. “RiskBlock is hosting a workshop with state regulators in November that we are helping to facilitate. In Canada, we involved regulators from the beginning to gain support for forming a consortium. We are taking similar approaches to other geographies as RiskBlock contemplates global expansion.”
Deloitte is currently working on two insurance-based blockchain applications that could help streamline some aspects of the rigmarole involved with filing a claim. The first is a proof of insurance application that shows customers have paid their premiums and are eligible for benefits. The other is a subrogation tool that helps collect member payments and improves claims processing and accounting. The subrogation tool could help those filing claims get paid faster through the use of smart contracts that automatically disburse funds after the insurance company gets the proof of loss needed to process a claim.
While Deloitte’s expansion may be promising, it still faces a bevy of domestic and international regulatory hurdles. In the US, regulations vary widely from state by state. These state-specific rules, especially around forms and documentation, mean a lot of hurdles not just for blockchain firms, but for any company wishing to provide national or international insurance.
“The hard part is going to be figuring out how you ring fence things at a state-by-state level to get regulatory approval that satisfies really old-fashioned but pro-consumer regulations,” says Stephen Palley, an insurance coverage lawyer.
Palley, who chairs the blockchain and virtual currency practice group at his firm, Anderson Kill, also expressed some concern over Deloitte’s subrogation application. When someone files a claim, he or she doesn’t always know which policy should handle it, and submits it to everyone. Palley said this can lead to the quandary of who should be paying out on the policy: “How does [Deloitte’s] tool solve that?”
Though Deloitte and The Institutes are launching a collaborative effort with regulators and are developing what are perhaps some of the first tools for their industry, the benefits for consumers and their future success with regulators remain to be seen. Will these new moves bring consumers faster resolution of their claims or fairer payouts thanks to blockchain?
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