I met online with the authors of Citizens Advice’s ethnicity report last week, for an informal chat about what's likely to be happening next.
It’s clear that they want to open a discussion with insurers and regulators about the findings their research produced. This accounts for the diplomatic tone in which their report was written. And it reflects the wider debate that is ongoing into how bias in data and analytics can be tackled.
The impression I got was that they had put their data on the table and would like insurers and regulators to do likewise. So for example, is there claims data that might account for some of the differences they found? Is there counter fraud data that might do likewise?
There’s an opportunity here. I’ve often talked about the importance of there being a debate about the key ethical issues associated with the digital journey that insurance is on. It looks like this influential consumer group is encouraging that debate, on an obviously key issue.
What I see therefore is a determination to see the question of discriminatory pricing addressed, but a willingness to listen to what insurers and regulators have to say about it. And with an expectation that data informs that debate.
Is there a risk for insurers in engaging with Citizens Advice? Well, clearly if the scope and/or depth of insurers' work on discrimination in pricing falls short of expectations, or if insurers can't adequately explain those pricing differences, then the tone of the debate could change. A lot will depend on the attitudes that both sides bring to the table.
Should insurers wait until the regulator has engaged with Citizens Advice? Given their recent strategy and business plan, I'm not convinced that waiting would be a sensible move. So while the recommendations in the ethnicity report were all aimed at the regulator, the real questions are for insurers to answer.
I've been advising insurers for several years now to draw together their data on this and weigh up what it is telling them. Those that have acted on this can now reap the benefit.