Roger's Soapbox

A Blockchain Revolution?

By: | November 2, 2016 • 2 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Blockchain. You’ve heard the word, think it has something to do with bitcoin, have no idea what it does, vaguely fear it and hope it goes away.

Such was my attitude until I sucked it up and learned everything there is to know. I still don’t get it, but let’s pretend I do. The word is that blockchain will hit the insurance industry with the approximate force as did the internet.

Insurance took forever to adopt the internet, yet now it charges toward blockchain at full tilt. Perhaps I should say no more until I explain what blockchain is. I’ll do my best, but with this build-up, it’s going to sound silly.

Blockchain is an open public ledger in which transactions are permanently logged chronologically. Yeah, that’s it alright. It’s like the system banks use to track the millions of transactions that take place every minute — but that system is only available to banks.

Blockchain, with all its transactions linked to each other, will be available to all interested parties.


How will this help insurers? Take an automobile policy. It will be written on the blockchain, thus set in electronic stone. If the covered vehicle crashes, it will automatically alert the blockchain, which will then automatically pay a suitable claim to the injured party.

PwC says the new technology can save reinsurers $10 billion annually. Customers will be more satisfied, business made more efficient. Ta da: blockchain (plus or minus 5 percent).

Once blockchain accumulates real value, hackers will stop bothering decent people’s credit cards and start stealing from the kids on the blockchain.

There must be more to it. Doctors terminating patients will trigger automatic life and medical pay-outs. If your house disappears in an earthquake, its dying words would be delivered to your building insurance blockchain. If you’re not home, you’ll have the money before you even know you have no home.

I would agree with you that this doesn’t sound like an internet-sized change in our lives, but insurance people are holding conferences and getting all worked up about the blockchain. That kind of behavior, in my experience, signals the imminent doing of something that cannot be gainsaid. We’ll all be blockheads soon.

If I were a worrier, the security of the whole thing would give me pause. On the contrary, part of the reputed allure of the idea is the fact that it cannot be attacked by any traditional hacking method. The blockchain lives on everyone’s computer, not one central place, making hacking too arduous to pursue, we are told.

Poppycock and balderdash, say I. Hackers are too smart to invent ways of breaking systems that haven’t been invented yet. Once blockchain accumulates real value, hackers will stop bothering decent people’s credit cards and start stealing from the kids on the blockchain. That’s a given. Will they succeed? Place your bets.

Progress for its own sake bores me. Public ledgers, permanent records, automatic claims payments: These are all good ideas. Bravo. It’s about time. But blockchain as revolutionary change that will tear asunder the very fabric of society? Eyewash. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?


A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]