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AI in Insurance Is Officially “High Risk” in the EU. Now What?

AI in Insurance Is Officially “High Risk” in the EU. Now What?

The new EU AI Act defines AI in insurance as “high risk.” Here’s what that means and how to remain compliant in Europe and around the world.

5 min read
Alex Schmelkin

Last month, the European Parliament passed the EU Artificial Intelligence Act, a sweeping regulatory framework scheduled to go into effect in 2025.

The Act categorizes AI systems into four risk tiers—Unacceptable, High, Limited, and Minimal—based on the sensitivity of the data the systems handle and the crucialness of the use case.

It specifically carves out guidelines for AI in insurance, placing “AI systems intended to be used for risk assessment and pricing in [...] life and health insurance” in the “High-risk” tier, which means they must continually satisfy specific conditions around security, transparency, auditability, and human oversight. 

The Act’s passage is reflective of an emerging acknowledgment that AI must be paired with rules guiding its impact and development—and it's far from just an EU thing. Last week, the UK and the US signed a first-of-its-kind bilateral agreement to develop “robust” methods for evaluating the safety of AI tools and the systems that underpin them. 

I fully expect to see additional frameworks following the EU, UK, and US’s lead, particularly within vital sectors such as life insurance. Safety, governance, and transparency are no longer lofty, optional aspirations for AI providers, they are inherent—and increasingly enforceable—facets of the emerging business landscape.

Please be skeptical of your tech vendors

When a carrier integrates a vendor into their tech stack, they’re outsourcing a certain amount of risk management to that vendor. That’s no small responsibility and one we at Sixfold take very seriously. 

We’ve taken on the continuous work of keeping our technology compliant with evolving rules and expectations, so you don’t have to. That message, I’ve found, doesn’t always land immediately. Tech leaders have an inherent “filter” for vendor claims that is appropriate and understandable (I too have years of experience overseeing sprawling enterprise tech stacks and attempting to separate marketing from “the meat”). We expect—indeed, we want—customers to question our claims and check our work. As my co-founder and COO Jane Tran put it during a panel discussion at ITI EU 2024:

“As a carrier, you should be skeptical towards new technology solutions. Our work as a vendor is to make you confident that we have thought about all the risks for you already.” 

Today, confidence-building has extended to ensuring customers and partners that our platform complies with emerging AI rules around the world—including ones that are still being written.

Balancing AI underwriting and transparency 

When we launched last year, there was lots of buzz about the potential of AI, along with lots of talk about its potential downside. We didn’t need to hire pricey consultants to know that AI regulations would be coming soon. 

Early on, we actively engaged with US regulators to understand their thinking and offer our insights to them as AI experts. From these conversations, we learned that the chief issue was the scaling out of bias and the impact of AI hallucinations on consequential decisions.

Sixfold CEO Alex Schmelkin (right) joined a panel discussion about AI in underwriting at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s national meeting in Seattle, WA.

With these concerns in mind, we proactively designed our platform with baked-in transparency to mitigate the influence of human bias, while also installing mechanisms to eliminate hallucinations and elevate privacy. Each Sixfold customer operates within an isolated, single-tenant environment, and end-user data is never persisted in the LLM-powered Gen AI layer so information remains protected and secure. We were implementing enterprise AI guardrails before it was cool.

I’ve often found customers and prospects are surprised when I share with them how prepared our platform is for the evolving patchwork of global AI regulations. I’m not sure what their conversations with other companies are like, but I sense the relief when they learn how Sixfold was built from the get-go to comply with the new way of things–even before they were a thing.