Consensus 2017: Global Insurers Debate the Future of Prediction Markets

Michael del Castillo
May 23, 2017 at 22:18 UTC
FEATURE

Having a window into the future would make the job of an insurer a whole lot easier – and blockchain could make that possibility a bit more realistic.

The topic of blockchain-powered prediction markets and how the tech could help insurers like MetLife and reinsurers like Swiss Re was on display during CoinDesk's Consensus 2017 blockchain conference.

Swiss Re, for its part, is in the earliest stages of seeing how it can tap the "wisdom of the crowds" to help make the reinsurer operate more effectively.

Jags Rao, who serves as the Switzerland-based firm's blockchain workstream lead, conceded that such an application isn't going to happen in the short term – but that doesn't mean it's not on the firm's radar.

He said during the panel:

"It's not in the next couple of years horizon, but it's important to be prepared because that’s where we as an insurance company can contribute knowledge that can help make that work."

The idea of using prediction markets that let experts wager on future events based on their certainty of its outcome is also being explored blockchain startup Gem, which has partnered with healthcare tech firm Philips to research the potential benefits of blockchain for healthcare.

Siva Kannan, the company's VP of engineering, said that his team is also in the early stage of looking at the prediction market concept.

According to Kannan, if his company were to ever consider using data derived from a blockchain-based prediction market in a healthcare application, he'd be unlikely to do so with any organization funded by a token that didn't also play an active role in the functionality of the app itself.

"We haven't explored it a lot," he said. "We are definitely looking at the opportunities."

Not everyone was onboard with the concept – at least for now, including the membership of distributed ledger consortium R3, which was represented by director Ryan Rugg.

Subhajit Mandal, MetLife's director of fintech innovation, also said his company wasn't currently looking into prediction markets.

Their reasoning: because those markets are generally reliant on publicly available information, and his firm's focus on life insurance means that the requisite data is tightly controlled.

Mandal said:

"When it comes to personal health, that data will not be available."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Gem. 

Image by Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk

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InsuranceConsensus 2017Swiss RereinsuranceMetLife

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