Fukoku Life Insurance Mutual Company has cut 34 jobs, instead using IBM’s artificial intelligence bot Watson to take over assessing medical insurance claims over the phone.
Starting from January 2017, the Tokyo-based insurance company is handing over the roles of 34 human insurance agents to IBM Watson Explorer, which is a cognitive search and content analysis platform that uses machine learning and language processing to analyse data for trends and patterns.
This will mean customers making claims deal directly with the AI, rather than a real human. The upfront cost to the insurance company is not cheap, with an outlay of $1.7m to set up Watson and then a yearly running cost of $128,000.
The move is forecast to result in savings of over $1m a year on staff salaries, according to a report in local paper Mainichi, giving the company a return on investment in two years.
The company said it has already used Watson to analyse customers’ voices and complaints and understand different financial values assigned to different levels of injuries being claimed for by customers and that this gave it the confidence to move to a full deployment.
A report by the World Economic Forum last year found that the rise of robotics, AI and other technologies will result in a global loss of five million jobs by 2020.