While I’m less optimistic than I was a week ago about the speed of a return to normal — a riot in the U.S. Capitol building will do that to a guy, as will a week of record deaths from COVID-19 and growing concerns about the rollout of the vaccine — I remain confident that we’ll get there some time in 2021 and that we all need to be ready for the next normal.
Having read everything I can find about how that next normal will take shape, I commend to your attention this article from McKinsey, which draws on surveys and on evidence from nations that are further along in the recovery from the pandemic than the rest of us. Among the predictions: that 20% of people could work the majority of time away from the office and that we are at the beginning of a new wave of innovative startups — while the risk of failure for established businesses has increased.
The McKinsey Global Institute isn’t saying that 20% WILL spend most of their time away from the office, merely that they could, while remaining just as effective. The McKinsey research arm says the switch to remote work will, in any case, be “a once-in-several-generations change.”
The authors add that a survey finds that business travel in 2021 will be roughly half what it was in 2019 and may never recover to 2019 levels.
Trying to take advantage of the disruption — not just in the work environment, but in shopping behavior, in supply chains, etc. — small-business formation is surging, the article reports. The authors acknowledge that the numbers surprised them. In the 2008-09 financial crisis, small-business formation tumbled, and in other recessions in recent decades it has risen only slightly. But 1.5 million new-businesses applications were filed in the U.S. just in the third quarter of 2020, nearly double the number in the year-earlier quarter. The number of “high-propensity” applications (those considered likely to lead to businesses with payrolls) grew 50% year over year. France, German, Japan and Britain have also seen surges in new businesses, albeit smaller than in the U.S.
The innovators are coming.
They will benefit from what McKinsey sees as a burst of “revenge shopping” once the vaccine kicks in and it’s safe to move around freely again. That burst will mostly occur in services, where demand has been hit so hard, and less so for physical products, which Amazon and others have delivered to our doorsteps in such impressive fashion. The authors cite Australia, which has largely contained the pandemic and where “household spending fueled a faster-than-expected 3.3% growth rate in the third quarter of 2020, and spending on goods and services rose 7.9%.” The authors say leisure travel will rebound quickly even though business travel won’t — in China, domestic travel is almost back to where it was before the pandemic, and what they call “high-end” travel is actually ahead.
The article does warn about what it euphemistically labels “portfolio restructuring.” Basically, that term means: You’d better be getting stronger in these turbulent times or… look out.
A McKinsey survey of 1,500 companies in October found that the top 20% had seen their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increase 5% during the recession, while those not in that top tier had registered a 19% decline. The article argues that those thriving will be able to lock in their advantage by buying weaker rivals.
Private equity is also on the prowl, looking for bargains. Firms are sitting on $1.5 trillion of “dry powder” that is ready to invest, and the authors say that “we don’t think the PE industry is going to keep its powder dry for much longer; there are simply going to be too many new investment opportunities.”
We still have to make it through these next weeks and months; at this point, I’ll be happy just to get to Inauguration Day on the 20th. But the next normal looks reasonably promising — as long as we stay among the innovators or that top tier of incumbents and don’t get numbered among the prey.
P.S. For those of you who’ve stuck with me to this point, here is a bonus, a thought-provoking piece about Brexit from Peter Gumbel, who is the editorial director of the McKinsey Global Institute and who was a longtime colleague of mine at the Wall Street Journal. I met Peter when, as a smart, young Brit with a facility for languages, he became a correspondent for us in Germany in the mid-1980s. I followed his career through other posts in Europe and more than a decade in the U.S. What I didn’t know until his piece ran last week in the New York Times is that Peter’s grandparents had fled Nazi Germany just before the outbreak of World War II. I also learned that, despite pride in his British roots and deep gratitude to the country that took his family in, he was wrestling with his homeland’s choice to withdraw from the Continent and was heading toward a gut-wrenching personal decision. (I won’t spoil his punchline here.) In case you find the piece as moving as I did, here is a link to the book-length ruminations he recently published on the topic, “Citizens of Everywhere: Searching for Identity in the Age of Brexit.”
P.P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:
It’s the relay runner’s nightmare: You just can’t seem to catch up. Maybe you’re in the lead, but you can’t shake the person on your shoulder. How do you get ahead and stay ahead?
In insurance, whether you’re looking over your shoulder or trying to catch up, you need to know as much as possible about the market and the competition. That’s why Majesco helps insurers assess their technology positioning with our Strategic Priorities surveys. Here are some highlights from this year’s report:
Competitive Position — Recognizing Leaders, Followers and Laggards
Too often, strategic planning does not yield the bold changes needed because insurers do not rapidly move into a leading position by going from knowing to doing. This year’s research shows an ever-widening gap that is defining a new era of leaders.
The June 2019 McKinsey article, “How to win in insurance: Climbing the power curve,” emphasizes the gap between leaders and followers or laggards. McKinsey’s research shows that the capital allocated to each business unit from one year to the next is nearly identical – rather than reallocating capital to make bold changes for the future.
Capital shifts indicate priority shifts. They also point to investment strategies. This is consistent with the growing Knowing-Doing Gap emerging in the industry, highlighted by our Strategic Priorities research over the last five years, a gap that is putting some companies at risk given the pace of change and limited resources. Investments aren’t necessarily being made where they are most needed. Many insurers still aren’t recognizing that investments today may result in long-term reductions in the need for technology investments due to platform efficiencies.
Taking decisive action around strategy is crucial, particularly with the pace of change and rapidly evolving competitive landscape. As the McKinsey article points out, strategy is about playing the odds, increasing the amount of “doing,” even if some plans fail, to ensure overall success. Insurers must focus on both optimizing today’s business and boldly creating tomorrow’s business – a two-speed strategy.
Strategic Priorities Report Highlights
This year’s research highlights how leaders have replaced legacy, expanded their channels, introduced products and business models and produced higher growth. Even more important, they see greater growth over the next three years.
If your organization isn’t currently in the leadership position, you CAN catch up. If you know where leaders’ investments have been paying off, you have a guide for transformation, optimization, innovation and growth.
Here are some key insights from this year’s report:
When we asked insurers about the state of their business (growth, systems, products, models and channels), last year was challenging for laggards, which had a 41% gap to leaders, and for followers, which had a 15% gap.
Leaders are laser-focused on both speed of operations and on speed of innovation. This is reflected in their work on legacy replacement, channel expansion, new products and new business models; followers and laggards are primarily concerned with speed of operations.
Leaders’ replacement of legacy core is greater by 75% than laggards, and by 20% than followers – putting leaders at a clear advantage.
Leaders are creating products and business models nearly 55% faster than laggards and 20% than followers – enabling leaders to capture market share and revenue more quickly.
Leaders are expanding channels at a staggering rate of 19% higher than followers and 88% higher than laggards – expanding leaders’ market reach and their ability to acquire and retain customers and revenue.
Over the next three years, laggards and followers will drop even further behind leaders.
Bold moves to optimize today’s business and create the future business substantially increase an insurer’s potential for success. Leaders are blazing trails with new business models, channel expansion, new products and core system replacement while followers are attempting to do a few things and laggards are primarily watching.
Platforms, Production and Products
One of the most fascinating portions of the Strategic Priorities report is what Majesco found regarding platform planning, development and use. We wanted to understand where insurers were in their core system transformation, defining four answers within two simple concepts: Platform and Non-Platform.
Platform was defined as cloud-enabled, API and SaaS-based solutions or next-gen that were cloud-native, API and microservices solutions.
Non-Platform was defined as old, monolithic, legacy and modern on-premise solutions.
Consider these two, related findings.
P&C and L&A and group insurers are operating with Non-Platform core solutions at a staggering 60%, affecting their ability for innovation, speed and agility.
Insurers introducing new products and services are more likely using Platform-based solutions in the range of 60%-70%, a complete flip from the existing business and reflecting the growing focus on greenfields and startups.
So, many insurers are missing out on agile product development processes that can be found through platform vs. traditional core systems.
Response to Regulatory and Rating Agency Developments
This year, Majesco added an area of focus to cover insurer responses to the rapid advancements in the regulatory arena during 2019. The adoption of the AM Best innovation rating and the introduction of sandboxes by state regulators to test new products in a more rapid, managed manner, are certain to have a growing impact on insurers’ innovation timelines. The question we asked was, “How actively is your company responding to these recent regulatory developments?”
For the most part, we found a lack of understanding and planning around these highly important changes within certain market segments. For example, L&A and group insurers lag significantly behind P&C and multi-line insurers in preparation for the AM Best innovation rating, with a gap of nearly 30%. Multi-line insurers outpace both P&C and L&A and group insurers by upward of 35% in the use of sandboxes. For more insight, check out the replay of this webinar, titled, “The Future of Insurance and Regulation: Optimization, Growth and Innovation” that features individuals from AM Best, Ohio Insurance Department of Insurance and a former first deputy commissioner for Iowa. Their insights highlight the growing need for insurers to be innovating.
Insurers must gain clarity on how to succeed in the future of insurance, which is coming faster than most realize. Insurers must lay the groundwork of a new digital insurance business model that embraces customer, technology and market boundary changes with vision, energy and speed.
How do your strategies align to what leaders are doing? What specific plans can you take to improve your odds of success? How can you rapidly move from knowing to doing?
Your answers will determine your readiness in a new decade and the future of insurance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are finally beginning to experience a long-awaited revolution in the insurance industry. Historically, insurance has been one of the last and slowest industries to embrace technology as a means of modernization and process innovation. The insurance industry is fragmented, without common standards, and until very recently did not attract many investment dollars, which exacerbated the general lack of incentive to modernize. However, in the past few years, we have seen signs of revitalization in the industry, and it is becoming an exciting time to be a part of the insurance community.
According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, “Healthcare costs in the U.S. now account for 16% of the country’s gross domestic product, and per capita healthcare spending is approximately twice that of other major industrialized countries. Inefficiencies persist within the healthcare system because—in contrast to other economic sectors in which competition and other economic incentives act to reduce the level of waste—none of the healthcare system’s players have strong incentives to economize.”
It has been said that 40 manual workflows make up 25% of an insurer’s cost of doing business. A recent report by Newsweek–sponsored by Salesforce and Deloitte, which included a survey of 300 C-level insurance IT executives–found that in the quote-to-enroll process, only 4.5% of new business is “mostly” or “extensively” low-touch. About 52% of the processes used are achieved manually. When taking time to dive deep into their process, John Hancock discovered that even for one line of coverage, 120 steps could be condensed to seven and turnaround time reduced from several days to a few minutes.
Those of us who have been in the industry for some time are all too familiar with the time-consuming processes that have been used for decades, and there are a variety of players who have decided to do something about it. The past few years have seen an unprecedented amount of investment money flowing into the insurtech industry, which is beginning to change the market outlook as well as boost competition, which in turn is motivating startups and established companies alike to embrace change. We are beginning to see new partnerships and the building of the infrastructure necessary to overhaul the industry, enabling a new focus on user experience and connecting APIs instead of the endless custom work typically required in this industry.
There’s a new optimism in the insurance industry that is catching fire. According to a recent report by Accenture, “In five years, nearly all the insurance executives in our survey expect the industry to be transformed by digital technologies.” Further, the report found that 90% of insurance executives state they have a coherent, long-term plan for technology innovation in place. Quicker turnaround times, automated processes and good user experience translate to more new business, higher retention and lower employee frustration and, arguably, could help bring down the costs of healthcare overall.
There are at least three areas that need to be addressed to help the insurance industry to modernize and innovate. Insurance professionals would agree that the most common problems in the old processes are the incessant need to copy and paste, the aggravating issue of double entry and the frustration of having to cross-reference multiple sources to get accurate information. We need to break down silos, open up data and replace legacy systems to get these processes running more smoothly and quickly.
Breaking down silos
In Accenture’s report, “47% of survey respondents also say lack of collaboration with the IT function is preventing them from realizing their technology investments’ value.” From our own experience and years working in the benefits industry, I cannot tell you how many hours, days and months have been lost simply copying and pasting information from one Excel file into another, having to log into multiple systems to manually log information or to simply verify that the information needed to accomplish the task at hand is indeed accurate. Unlike other industries, there are very few APIs available that allow systems to communicate and connect with each other. Because of this lack of connectivity, many employees at insurance companies end up using up to five to 10 systems simply to complete their everyday tasks.
Once there begins to be a focus on modernizing and upgrading core systems, a carrier can begin to think about real efficiencies, including automation. Automating even a few of the top 40 manual processes would increase productivity and performance. Imagine the ability to:
Automate the confirmation of group information for a master data store to automatically verify its accuracy
Auto-ingest census information by machine reading
Consolidate account information into a single record
Provide one point of entry to populate multiple systems
Automating these processes not only leads to quicker turnaround times and better efficiency, but it also enables insurance professionals to close more new business and gives them a competitive edge and a way to stand out from those companies that may be slower to adapt to new technologies.
Working with possible competitors, as well as vendors, is becoming increasingly important, and new levels of collaboration are necessary for companies that wish to thrive in the digital economy. There is no one system that does everything that an insurer needs; it simply does not exist at this point and may not exist for several years. McKinsey says that “ecosystems will account for 30% of global revenues by 2025” and that, “to succeed in ecosystems, insurers will have to take a hard look at their traditional roles and business models and to evaluate opportunities to partner with players in other industries.”
We are still facing an uphill climb to transform the insurance industry from stodgy to streamlined, but there are signs of a renewed energy and drive that show promise. As more and more insurance companies and partners see the value of digitization, automation and collaboration, everyone will benefit from a more connected ecosystem, and the insurance industry will do its part to make healthcare a more manageable, and possibly even satisfying, experience for the consumer.
P&C insurance carriers have witnessed a lot of changes in the past decade, but few have been as surprising as the shift of power currently taking place across the industry.
According to Dennis Chookaszian, the former CEO and chair of CNA, carriers maintain only 40% of profits today, representing a drop of 20 to 25 points from the 1960s. An equal share now goes to the distribution system, as carriers line up to acquire and maintain more customers.
What’s behind this shift in profitability can’t be summed up in a single word, but increasing competition, new market entrants, improving technology, changing customer expectations and continued consumer price sensitivity all play a role.
To remain competitive, carriers will need to gain more control over distribution, a goal that even Chookaszian admits will not be easy to achieve.
Why the Power-Shift Toward Distribution
In the mid-part of the last decade, insurance carriers required two primary competencies to operate: data and capital. Because neither was easy to acquire, competition was less robust, and incumbent carriers found greater profitability, taking in roughly two-thirds of insurance transaction profits.
Today, data is everywhere, and through the use of analytics, simpler than ever to understand and use. Capital is also easier to acquire, as is evidenced by the growing number of insurtech players in the industry. According to Willis Towers Watson, $2.3 billion was invested in new insurance tech companies in 2017.
According to Chookaszian, the core competency for insurers now lies in distribution and control of the customer.
“It’s become so competitive that the carriers basically are always out looking for new accounts,” Chookaszian says.
That means higher commissions are paid to agents as carriers battle it out for market share, resulting in shrinking margins.
“Given the shift in profitability to distribution, the carriers that will be better off will try to regain some control over distribution,” Chookaszian says.
Admittedly, that is not an easy thing to do. The agent enterprise is part and parcel of most insurance operations. Directly selling insurance to consumers will require insurers to set up their own distribution systems, while still supporting their vast networks of independent or captive agent forces.
When Benjamin Franklin started the first successful U.S.-based insurance company in 1752, he was dealing with a localized Philadelphia population, but, by the end of the 18th century, citizens were moving westward, making it necessary for insurers to expand their distribution networks.
The Hartford made the first foray into direct distribution by offering insurance through the mail, but few consumers of the time were willing to give up the personal services of an agent when it came to purchasing something as critical as insurance. Carriers of the time faced a similar dilemma as carriers do today: how to acquire customers in a changing marketplace.
According to the J.D. Power 2018 US. Insurance Shopping Study, insurers are aggressively courting customers with new options and amenities as auto insurance rates remain stagnant and the number of consumers seeking coverage declines.
“We’re entering an era of consumer-centric insurance that will likely be marked by a surge in new digital offerings and serious efforts by insurers to improve the auto insurance shopping experience,” says Tom Super, director of the property and casualty insurance practice at J.D. Power.
This shift is happening across all lines of coverage, even small commercial.
While citizens on the new 17th-century frontier may have been hesitant to buy coverage without the guidance of an agent, many 21st-century buyers have no such qualms. Nearly half of consumers responding to a survey conducted by Clearsurance said that they would purchase an insurance policy online, while 65% believe this will be the primary channel for purchasing coverage within the next five years.
According to research conducted by Accenture, consumers are open to a number of new possibilities when it comes to buying the policies they need:
Power in the form of profits may have shifted to distribution, but consumers are making a power play of their own, demanding greater service and amenities and taking their business to the carrier most capable of meeting preferences and price points. In a world of shifting power, creating an active, online distribution channel puts more of the profit back into the carrier’s bottom line and allows it to attract more customers in three distinct ways.
Cutting Transaction Costs
According to a report from the Geneva Association, the leading international insurance think tank for strategically important insurance and risk management issues, 40% of P&C premiums are absorbed by transaction costs, leading to inflated policy pricing that drives away potential customers. PwC pegs distribution as a heavy culprit, reporting that 30% of the cost of an insurance product is eaten up in distribution.
On the other hand, Bain predicts that insurers could cut the cost of acquisition by as much as 43% through digitalization. Underwriting expenses could drop as much as 53%.
Reducing these costs allows insurers to present a more attractively priced product to consumers, an important consideration given that 50% of customers base their loyalty with an insurer on price.
To understand how costs are reduced through digital distribution, it helps to understand how a leading digital distribution platform works to raise efficiency. According to PwC, up to 80% of the underwriting process can be consumed by administrative tasks that require manual workarounds, such as re-entering information into multiple systems.
Much of this re-inputting of data is due to the siloed nature of insurers’ administration systems. Digital distribution platforms create a layer between the front-end online storefront, where customers enter application data, and the back-end systems used to store information.
As consumers enter their personal details into the online application, all back-end systems are populated automatically, eliminating the need for manual work-arounds. Everyone across the organization has the same view of the customer and access to any information that has been provided.
Digital platforms are also masters of straight-through processing, automating the quote-to-issue lifecycle and reducing the need for manual underwriting. By automatically quoting, binding and issuing routine policies, insurers reduce costs and also provide a more “informed basis for pricing and loss evaluation,” according to PwC.
As costs drop, insurers are also able to more competitively price insurance coverage. Lower prices win more customers allowing insurers to take back some of the profitability of distribution.
Improving Customer Experiences
When it comes to insurer-insured relationships, there is a gap between what consumers want and what insurers provide. Consumers rate the following points as very important aspects of the insurance buying experience:
Clear and easy information on policies
Access to information whenever it is needed
Ability to compare rates and switch plans
A wide range of services
But few consumers agree their insurer is meeting these expectations:
27% see clear and easy information on policies
29% report access to information whenever they need it
21% say there is the ability to compare rates and switch plans
24% see a wide range of services
The customer experience is becoming a key differentiator across the insurance industry. McKinsey reports two to four times higher growth and 30% higher profitability for insurers that provide best-in-class customer service, but here’s the rub. Only the top quartile of carriers fall into this category.
Becoming a customer experience leader requires insurers to understand that the separate functions associated with policy sales and distribution appear as a single journey to consumers. They expect to quote, bind and issue multiple policies through a single application, using as many channels as they feel necessary to get the job done.
While 80% of consumers touch a digital channel at least once during an insurance transaction, 45% of auto insurance shoppers use multiple channels when making a purchase. They expect to be recognized across these channels, picking up in one where they left off in another.
The multiple back-end systems employed by most insurers present a strategic dilemma here, as well as in the area of cost containment. Without transparency between channels, consumers are forced to restart a transaction every time they change their engagement method.
“It amounts to a great deal of frustration for the consumer,” says Tom Hammond, president U.S. operations, BOLT. “You start an application online and then call the customer-facing call center, and they can’t see what you did through the online storefront.”
Hammond explains that digital distribution needs to be omni-channel distribution, seamlessly integrated with a single view of the customer. It’s the only way to meet consumer experience expectations now and into the future.
Thanks to advances in analytics and artificial intelligence, the amount of data that is available to carriers has grown significantly, and consumers expect that information to be leveraged for their benefit. Eighty percent of consumers want personalized offers and pricing from their insurers.
Progressive is one of the 22% of carriers currently making strides to offer personalized, real-time digital services, having recently released HomeQuote Explorer. From an app or computer, consumers can enter information once and receive side-by-side comparisons from multiple homeowners insurance providers. According to the company, they leverage a network of home insurers to make sure customers can find the coverage they need at a comfortable price.
Oliver Lauer, head of architecture/head of IT innovation at Zurich, believes these collaborative networks are an integral part of the digital future of insurance.
“Digital innovation means you have to develop your insurance company to an open and digitally enabled platform that can interface with everybody every time in real time – from customers to brokers, to other insurers, but also to fintechs and insurtechs,” Lauer says.
Using a digitally enabled market network, insurers can fill product gaps and even meet customer needs when they don’t have an appetite for the risk. The premise is simple. By offering coverage from other insurers, they maintain the customer relationship and reap the rewards of loyalty.
As society changes and consumer needs evolve, the ability to personalize bundled coverage to the needs of the individual will become increasingly important. Consumers are now looking for coverage to mitigate risk in previously unheard-of areas, such as cyber security, identity theft and even activities related to legalized marijuana.
When an insurer is unable to provide the coverage a customer needs, it risks forfeiting that relationship, and any other policies bundled with it, to another carrier. But when the carrier takes part in a market network, it can bundle the appropriate coverage from another insurer with its own products, personalizing the coverage to better fit the needs of the customer.
Digital platforms offering market networks also set the stage for insurers to offer ancillary services, such as roadside assistance, that make their insurance products more attractive to consumers. We see this happening with increasing frequency as carriers seek to improve the customer experience and lift their acquisition efforts.
DMC Insurance, a provider of commercial transportation insurance solutions, recently announced a partnership with BlackBerry Radar. The venture would provide transportation companies with real-time data on vehicle location, as well as cargo-related information, such as temperature, humidity, door status and load state. Information like this will help companies better manage risk.
In the personal lines market, insurers are partnering to offer services that enhance the life of their customers. Allstate’s partnership with OpenBay allows consumers to review repair shops and schedule an appointment from an app. Allianz is helping home owners safeguard properties by partnering with Panasonic on sensors that monitor home functions and report issues. Customers can even schedule repairs through the service.
Digital Distribution Benefits All
J.D. Power reveals that digital insurers are winning the intense battle for market share in the insurance industry, starting a shift that could help level the profitability field between distributors and carriers. In a recent insurance shopper survey, overall satisfaction was six points higher for digital insurers over those that sell through independent agents. This lead grows to 12 points when compared with carriers with exclusive agents.
According to research by IDC, digital succeeds on the strength of its data. The ability to collect and analyze the vast stores of data available through these interactions, including such variables as the time of day the consumer shopped for coverage, the channel the consumer used, and stores of information collected from third-parties as part of the automated application process, provides the key to improved customer service.
“By analyzing this data, insurers can understand each customer’s lifestyle, behaviors and preferences in order to engage with them at the right time and place, offer personalized service and offers and more,” says Andy Hirst, vice president of banking solutions, SAP Banking Industry Business Unit.
As insurers create omni-channel engagement, they’re strengthening distribution from every angle, giving consumers the option to quote coverage online when it’s most convenient for them, and then buy it right then and there or to seamlessly call an agent to discuss their options and their risk.
Customer experience is rapidly becoming the foundation of success in the industry, and digital distribution provides the first link in building that base of core customer satisfaction. By providing consumers with multiple channels of engagement and the ability to meet more of their needs at any time, day or night, carriers are taking back the lead on profitability.