Transforming the Commercial Insurance Market with Artificial Intelligence

Colin Toal, CTO,

In this discussion with Colin Toal, CTO of, we uncover the challenges being faced by this 5000 year old industry. We walk through the structure and practices of the commercial insurance sector, discuss why it works the way it does, and how AI is now helping to transform it one step at a time. We unpack the differences between basic insurance which is standardized vs. commercial insurance where every policy is a unique snowflake and how that poses challenges for automation and interconnection. We dig into the historical value of automation, and then we touch on the never-ending debate of build vs. buy. Finally, we closed the conversation with some advice to aspiring AI and machine learning engineers looking to build a career.

-- Timing –

00:00 Introduction

01:03 Disruption in the insurance industry

06:22 How AI is modernizing a 5000 year old industry

11:09 When non-standardization and flexibility are features and not bugs

13:27 Automation is an effort-reduction mechanism

16:55 Colin’s winding road to Chisel

19:15 Colin’s time at Amazon learning how to do machine learning at scale

22:11 Bringing it all together - using technology to crack a hard industry problem

28:03 Reduce your customer’s effort now and you’ll get to learn more about their business and help them even more in the future

29:30 Why hasn’t this particular industry problem been solved with EDI or web services?

37:04 Machines trained by humans are basically as good as humans on their best day...but every single day and 24x7

39:35 Once you’ve reduced the effort, you’ve also built a channel and you have more data than anybody else and you can expand your business from there

45:56 The tech stack: Build, buy, borrow, or open source?

53:08 Colin’s advice to aspiring AI and machine learning engineers

-- Links --

Full Episode (58:24)

Clip: Using AI to improve insurance processes (1:24)

Clip: Upgrading the insurance market (0:36)

Clip: A CTO's advice to aspiring AI/ML practitioners (3:12)

Listen to the full episode on Simplecast