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December 20, 2019

Insurers’ Imperative to Modernize

Summary:

Meeting modern consumer expectations is a business imperative; exceeding them is how insurers can stay relevant and competitive.

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McKinsey recently published a paper titled IT Modernization in insurance: Three paths to transformation, in which the report authors say: “Insurers too often treat systems transformations as IT projects rather than acknowledging them for what they are: overall business transformations.”

For insurance, the transformation at hand is moving from a disconnected, product-centric sale to a hyper-connected, consumer-centric buying experience. The challenges are well-known and include analog processes, siloed data and a distribution strategy — consumer-adviser-insurer — that has traditionally left carriers one step removed from their own customers.

As McKinsey said, overcoming these challenges takes more than an IT project or two. Insurers need a framework for evaluating opportunities to modernize, and the best place to start is by taking a deep dive into the market drivers: customer acquisition and retention, as well as operational effectiveness and cost reduction.

Consumers Are the Key

This observation comes as a surprise to no one, yet a survey of insurance customers by Accenture found that declining loyalty and poor customer service has resulted in $470 billion in insurance premiums “up for grabs.” Clearly, our ability to meet modern consumer expectations is a business imperative.

There are two sets of consumers to keep top of mind as the insurance industry takes steps to modernize: the customers you already have and the consumers you are trying to convert. Both types are online (90% of adults in the U.S. use the internet, according to The Pew Research Center), so leveraging digital channels in our efforts to acquire and retain customers is a classic no-brainer.

Customer acquisition in the digital age presents an unprecedented opportunity to deliver an online, consumer-centric buying experience no matter what channel the sale converts through. In fact, agents continue to have a very important role to play in the insurance buying journey, so the more we can arm them with consumer data, collected from online interactions, the better. Moreover, by tracking client behavior and measuring conversion, companies are also learning about what works, and what doesn’t, which is increasingly imperative to maintaining competitiveness.

Likewise, digital channels and data are critical to retaining customers and building brand relationships. For example, car insurance companies track driver behavior, and health insurance companies are providing fitness trackers BECAUSE THEY WANT THE DATA to help manage and reduce risk. At the same time, these trackers are also enhancing customer relationships with the brand and potentially benefiting the customer by reducing rates based on behavior – a classic win win.

See also: Thinking Big for True Transformation  

When it comes to acquiring and retaining customers in the digital age, building relationships is critical, and data is how it’s done. Today’s consumers have different expectations, and there are typically many more touch points, resulting in more data that can be put to work in service of these relationships.

Operations: Managing Risk and Reducing Costs

Cost reduction and operational effectiveness are, for many businesses, the main driver for modernization, and the insurance industry is no different. When evaluating opportunities to modernize operations, consider where you are likely to get the biggest return.

Insurance professionals are in the business of reducing risk, so it stands to reason that risk management is an integral part of the business of insurance as well as a great example of where modern technology can deliver meaningful ROI. Data analytics makes it easier to identify riskier populations and customers, improve product development, targeting and underwriting and ultimately share risk more effectively. Data that isn’t available and actionable slows the pace of business, increases the chance of human error and limits the ability to make data-driven decisions.

Other opportunities to modernize and deliver savings include tackling distribution challenges, specifically reducing the cost of customer acquisition and improving agent efficiency. Another McKinsey report noted that the individual insurance companies that will outperform competitors over the next decade will do so, in part, by “using analytics to build competitive advantages in distribution.” Superior distribution networks enable insurers to reach new customers while keeping costs low to ensure profitability.

Next Steps

Perhaps you are on one (or more) of the three paths McKinsey describes: modernizing the legacy platform, building a proprietary platform or buying a standard software package. When the question is build vs. buy, conducting a thorough build-vs.-buy analysis is a great way to compare costs, timing, flexibility and user experience. It’s an effort, but worth it when you consider the cost of missed opportunities.

For example, insurtech disruptor Lemonade wrote $57 million in premiums in 2018 thanks to its consumer-centric buying experience — a $57 million missed opportunities for carriers that sell renters and homeowners insurance. Another much larger example is the middle market opportunity, which Accenture estimates to be around $12 trillion in missing coverage potential and $12 billion in revenue to be gained by serving it.

See also: How to Evolve the Business Model  

For some companies, the build-vs.-buy choice is easy. Partnering with an insurtech to address critical opportunities is typically much faster and less risky than other approaches. Regardless of the modernization path you choose, start with your top business challenges and identify opportunities for quick wins. Remember, modernization isn’t an IT project. Meeting modern consumer expectations is a business imperative; exceeding them is how insurers can stay relevant and competitive.

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About the Author

Ian Jeffrey is the chief executive officer of Breathe Life, a provider of a unified distribution platform for the insurance industry.

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