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Vivek Zakarde
Head of Data Analytics at Reliance General Insurance

Profile

Vivek Zakarde, an analytics professional with over 16 years of experience in the analytics space. I am primarily being working with large scale enterprise data warehouses helping organizations all over the globe to business value out of their information assets. Responsible for AI, ML and RPA processes in organization.

I am a veteran of Big Data, having created and led Data Science and Analytics teams in my career. I have a winning formula for building and mentoring such teams who can add value to a business. I have developed a global reputation in Big Data, implementing powerful solutions through expertise in all aspects of the data pyramid that works well with business strategy and organizational strategy.

I have a passion for building and leading high-powered teams to deliver data-driven results improving products, services, and business processes. The established record of contributions I've made to my employers has added greatly to their top-line growth and bottom-line profitability.

Presently, I am working as Head – Data warehouse, Business Intelligence & Analytics for Reliance General Insurance ltd where driving analytics initiatives.

As Head Data Analytics, I bring an extensive background focused on the intersection of technology, business and the analytics. I manage the operations of data analytics practice and leads the development and implementation of technology-based solutions that provide value to the firm and my clients. Also uses data analytics tools to facilitate process improvements and efficiencies and assist in protocols for the secure handling of data. In my capacity, assist with developing strategies for efficient and effective data harvesting, review and production, continuing investments in AI & ML and implementing cost-shifting and cost reduction strategies.

I have extensive Management Consulting and Corporate Leadership experience in various companies including Fortune 100. I have worked with EXL Services, Wunderman International, WNS & IBM. Global experience with clients like British Gas(UK), Ford Motors(US), Suncorp Bank(Australia), TORM Shipping (Denmark).

I am Bachelor of Engineering at Delhi college of Engineering, Delhi in India, an MBA (IT).

SPEAKER INTERVIEW

Q1: What would you say blockchain will be most useful for vs. what it will be least useful for, in the insurance industry?

“The insurance industry will still have obstacles to overcome, but blockchain’s ability to provide complete accountability, transparency and superior security will help insurers save time and money, as well as improve customer satisfaction.

The banking and insurance industries are embracing blockchain with open arms. Executives in banking and insurance plan to more than double their investments in blockchain by 2019. The insurance industry in particular understands that it must evolve to stay competitive, which means streamlining processes and meeting the demands of digitally savvy customers. Blockchain technology can help insurance companies overcome today’s challenges and create transparent operations built on trust and stability. In order to fully understand the current insurance industry landscape, I will outline some of the challenges organizations face and how blockchain can mitigate these issues below.

Insurance companies face a number of challenges as it relates to complex compliance issues, limited growth in mature markets, fraudulent claims activity, third party payment transactions and handling huge amounts of data. With the onset of connected devices and the ever-growing amount of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT), insurers have to sift through the data that matters in order to deliver tailored services and products. Insurers must also evolve from a focus on purely financial-loss compensation to a mode of physical-risk prevention in order to compete effectively with disruptors in the space. This can only be achieved if they have visibility into their data.

Additionally, the move to digital transactions has left many insurers wondering how to streamline processes and secure sensitive information. The sheer cost and security of moving money digitally is a growing concern. In fact, five to 10 percent of all insurance claims are fraudulent, which makes securing data even more crucial for insurers.

While blockchain might not be the end-all-be-all to problems faced by insurers, it does provide foundational technology that promotes trust, transparency and stability. Blockchain is in the early stages of adoption, but there are already a handful of ways that insurers are leveraging the technology to mitigate the abovementioned challenges:

· Security: Through its use of public ledger, blockchain can potentially eliminate suspicious and duplicate transactions by logging each transaction. Through its decentralized digital repository, it can verify the authenticity of customers, policies and transactions by providing historical records. This makes it more difficult for hackers to corrupt and steal files.

· Big data: More connected devices are being used every day, which is causing a spike in the amount of data insurance companies need to handle. Blockchain can properly manage, share and monetize large amounts of data. The benefit is that the technology can store static records and/or data without central coordination and the data can be viewed by all parties. Data is registered on the blockchain by creating a digital fingerprint using a date and time stamp which provides both security and transparency. Streamlined data can also make risk assessment timelier and more accurate.

· Third-party transactions: Blockchain can handle the increase in third-party transactions and claims made through personal digital devices. Blockchain helps reduce administrative costs through automated verification of claims/payments data from third parties. Now, insurance companies can quickly view past claims transactions registered on blockchain for easy reference. This promotes higher degrees of trust and loyalty between the insurer and customer.

· Smart contracts: Personalized contracts are beginning to emerge in the insurance industry. These contracts connect real-time information from multiple systems across physical documents and activities which trigger processes like claims, payments and reimbursements faster and with greater accuracy. This saves the insurance company time and money while providing the customer with a better experience.

· Reinsurance: Within the reinsurance space, blockchain can provide accurate reserve calculations based on current contracts. This helps property and casualty (P&C) insurers who need to know how much money is available as they pay claims. Blockchain can ensure that they are rebalancing their exposures against specific risks. Insurance companies can now feel confident in their daily business operations.

The insurance industry must make investments now to be in a position to take advantage of efficiencies and opportunities blockchain technology can deliver long term. The insurance industry will still have obstacles to overcome, but blockchain’s ability to provide complete accountability, transparency and superior security will help insurers save time and money, as well as improve customer satisfaction. As higher levels of trust are established between the insurer and the insured, stronger relationships will be built as well.”

Q2: How do the costs vs. benefits of blockchain compare, from your experience?

“The blockchain potential in financial services is huge, and has several applications which span across payments, capital markets, trade services, investment and wealth management, securities and commodities exchanges. Blockchain technology can be considered as one of the main drivers to achieve a substantial cost saving. Distributed ledger technology could reduce financial services infrastructure cost between US$15 billion and $20 billion per annum by 2022, providing the possibility to decommission legacy systems and infrastructure and significantly reduce IT costs.

Firms will have the possibility to reduce the need for manual intervention in aggregating, amending and sharing data, and regulatory reporting and audit documents could become easier, requiring less manual processing. As a result, employees could focus exclusively on value-added activities. Post-trade reconciliation and settlement are clear examples of time-consuming and expensive processes that financial institutions could completely redesign by adopting blockchain technology. Financial firms would be able to share a common digital representation of asset holdings and to keep track of the execution, clearing and settlement of securities transactions outside their legacy proprietary databases, without needing the involvement of a central database management system.

Blockchain promises cost savings for BFSI so dramatic, it will disrupt many lines of business and core functions, including assets liability management, regulatory compliance, cross-product processing, and trade execution.

In fact, the report touts cost savings of 70% or more in these areas, with savings of over 50% for the entire finance function, as well as liquidity risk, complex finance, and other areas.

The general consensus on the promise of blockchain centers on disrupting – or even reinventing – how multiple parties execute transactions in various scenarios, from simple money transfers to complex real estate deals.

Simplifying transactions, however, isn’t where the big cost savings are, according to Me “Today, investment banks spend an estimated two-thirds of their IT budgets on legacy back-office infrastructure”. “Blockchain could lead banks to decommission much of that infrastructure and externalize key operational processes. It could completely change the cost dynamics in these organizations.”

Distributed ledger technology could reduce financial services infrastructure cost between US$15 billion and $20 billion per annum by 2022, providing the possibility to decommission legacy systems and infrastructure and significantly reduce IT costs.”

Blockchain is shaping up to be a reason for financial organizations to double down on their mainframe investments. In fact, mainframe leader IBM has made a bet-the-company investment on blockchain on its IBM Z mainframes.

An interesting application of blockchain technology in the insurance sector, is related to smart contracts.

A smart contract is a digitally signed computable agreement between two or more parties containing some business logic that is capable of initiating certain actions when predefined conditions are met. While P2P insurance as a business model is already being offered using standard technology, blockchain makes it even more transparent and trustworthy for consumers as no central authority controls its operation. As an example, we demonstrated a P2P flight insurance policy built on Ethereum blockchain with smart contracts. These smart contracts initiate payouts for insured flight tickets when the cancellations or delays are reported from verified flight data sources.

Blockchain helping us in Claims management process, ensuring that only valid claims are paid. The major benefit that this approach would achieve is a reduction – if not a full prevention – of fraud since multiple claims for the same event would be rejected by the network because the network itself already contains the information that the claim has been paid. Moreover, storing historical claims information on the ledger will enable insurers to identify suspicious behavior and improve fraud assessment.”

Q3: Will 2019 be the year of blockchain? Why or why not?

“The technology was “a revolution that was supposed to disrupt the global financial system” in 2017, but that it was a disappointment in 2018 — in light of the significant decline in the valuations of virtually all blockchain-based crypto assets and currencies.

On the start of the new year, many “innovative-sounding projects are still alive and even close to bearing fruit.” Together with several large corporations’ plans to launch major blockchain-based projects this year, 2019 is thus set to be “the year that blockchain technology finally becomes normal.”

For example, the improvement in smart contract technology that will enable its use in multiple legal contexts — making the crypto adage “code is law” one step closer to becoming an accepted reality.

This normalization of the technology and the sector will entail a significant reshaping of the ideology that gave cryptocurrencies and blockchain their first impetus.

The hype is over. The adoption of this technology by the industry was less outspoken than predicted. Blockchain spending by companies went slower than expected, while many ongoing projects were stalled or even stopped. This had much to do with the turbulences on the crypto markets. And that is not that strange as many still see a narrow link between bitcoin and blockchain technology. The crypto markets lost more than 80 percent of their overall value from the beginning of the year.

It is thus time to give an insight into predictions for blockchain technology for 2019 and beyond. I know, it is always difficult to predict what is in store for the future. But here are a number of my predictions in 2019 concerning the blockchain technology that should be on their radar screen.

Blockchain has a bit of a reputation problem. It is believed that a lot of businesses are actually sceptical of blockchain and unwilling to adopt this technology just because it is too much associated with crypto currencies, and especially bitcoin.

The blockchain industry is expected to further try to work on its image in 2019, and separate blockchain from crypto in the minds of business. This in order for blockchain adoption to happen on a larger scale, it should be broadly communicated that blockchain technology can have numerous use cases that are completely unrelated to cryptocurrencies.

We will also see a shift in terminology. It is reasonable to expect that the term blockchain will be gradually replaced by another more neutral one: DLT or distributed ledger technology. This to send a clear signal to executive teams within corporates that their projects have nothing to do with the hyped world of cryptocurrencies

Another challenge for the blockchain industry is to solve the so-called trilemma problem. Despite the hype and huge investments in existing blockchain projects, the great promise of this technology has largely gone unfulfilled. A major stumbling block the industry faces is the imbalance between scalability, decentralisation and security. This seemingly intractable trilemma of technical barriers has undermined the trust and capabilities necessary for mainstream adoption and business relevance.

Much work is already being done to figure out solutions to this trilemma. Major research on possibilities to overcome the key shortcomings in existing architectures have been exploited, this to allow blockchain transactions becoming faster while preserving security and decentralisation.

This should enable developers to build applications that solve real-world business challenges. Though it took time to attain a consensus, scaling solutions such as sidechains are already showing promise. And as we move further into 2019, these solutions will become more and more sophisticated. Real breakthroughs in scalability and performance are expected to begin coming to fruition and the blockchain trilemma largely being solved in two to three years from now.

Moving further down the line, we will begin to see a separation between hype and reality. 2019 will be a year where the industry will shift its focus toward the real-world problems that blockchain technology could solve, with the goal of making “incremental and necessary changes to operations”.

Blockchain technology has long time be wrongly seen by many as a “magical way” to resolve all issues that we struggle with today. While it is true that blockchain can help with a lot of them, there are still numerous other problems that are better suited to be solved by alternative technologies, such as robotics, AI, and similar ones.

Companies are starting to move from proof-of-concept projects to real-world applications. There will be a particular focus on discovering not just where blockchain could fit, but to find places where it is the best fit.
We will therefore see a transition of enterprise interest towards identifying tangible, productive use cases for blockchain. Projects will thereby move away from a “blockchain-for-everything” approach to back-to-earth implementation.

In 2019, it is expected that blockchain technology will come off age. As technology and valuation start to converge at rational levels the stage will be set for the blockchain industry to enter the next phase of maturity. A level of maturation within the blockchain space, with sustainable blockchain projects on the rise as dedicated blockchain teams are steaming up their efforts to deliver “exciting” projects.

Blockchain technology is set to enter a new era in 2019, with many industry experts expecting the technology to be more widely adopted by mainstream companies. As more and more companies are moving towards this emerging technology, we can expect that investments in this technology will further rise.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently reported that many of its customers “are spending big money” on blockchain initiatives, and that blockchain spending should only keep growing. According to a 2018 Deloitte’s Global Blockchain Survey, 40% of respondents reported that their organization will invest $5 million or more in blockchain technology in 2019.”

Q4: What are you most looking forward to with regards to speaking at Blockchain for Business Summit, part of TechXLR8 and London Tech Week?

“The reason why I am looking forward to with regards to speaking at Blockchain for Business Summit is that I believe the industry needs a correction of course, as too much money comes too quickly. I feel too much focus is on the price of crypto and not on executions of projects. It’s important to think the force driving cryptocurrency shouldn’t just be money-seeking, but rather we should think how blockchain technology will bring about a fundamental shift in the way our trust system is built.

I am spending a lot of time working on the proof-of-stake and sharding protocols. I think that proof-of-stake and scaling are both really important and there has been a lot of progress on improving the algorithms and the development of multiple limitations over the last couple of months. I’ve also been looking at the economic analysis of transaction fees and how transaction fee algorithms can be improved to basically cut fees down and make the protocol alignment centers better and more efficient.

The amount of sustainable usage of blockchain is very low. Although it exists, there are a lot of people giving value to cryptocurrencies, yet the amount of useful stuff happening is still much lower than the $200 billion market cap makes it seem. The main challenge for the industry as I see it is basically understanding how to bridge that gap and get to point where there is $200 billion in some sense of actual final value being generated.

I am seriously looking forward to when the cryptocurrency community basically passes away with proof-of-work.”

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