Tim Hardcastle, CEO and Co-Founder of INSTANDA, looks at what will be in the minds of insurers in 2021 and why technology will be critical.
Insurance is the industry of risk. But the depth and breadth of COVID-19 – its impact on society and the economy – was not in insurers’ near-term planning models this year. Insurers and their customers enter 2021 in a world transformed. Physical and mental barriers have deteriorated. Walls separating businesses from customers have collapsed, with the discovery that digital can strengthen customer relationships.
As we enter this new world, insurance must reboot and reenergise. Reboot their business development plans, by investing in sophisticated digital tools and partnering with organisations that accelerate innovation. Reenergise their propositions and offerings, so their products continue to excite and stimulate customers.
In practice, this means focusing on two areas: personalisation at scale and differentiation through digital engagement. Think Netflix and Disney plus, but in insurance.
There is a more urgent pressure behind this need: cost. To avert another drop in earnings, insurers need to accelerate their digitalisation plans so they can take full advantage of reducing costs to industry leading levels of less than $1 per policy.
What surprises could 2021 have in store? A potentially unavoidable one is the rapid acceleration of contextual or immersed insurance. Where customers buy insurance through another retail or business interaction – say, a new TV in Tesco – and insurance is embedded and sold through that. This not-so-surprise will bring new businesses challenges that only digital platforms can help solve.
Another area which is exciting in the year ahead is the industry’s appetite to develop wider service-based offerings, such as pet and cyber insurance which provide extensive service wrappers. A pet wrapper, for example, may include advice on pet health and best practise to keep your pet healthy, with the aim to reduce bills and the insurance claim. This reflects the recognition of serving customers with a wider proposition than simply the claim pay-out.
Our own business has adapted to respond to the challenge’s insurers faced this year. We’ve accelerated our plans to add more capability to the platform, such as launching our integration marketplace and digital billing and claims. We’ve done so in anticipation of a greater need from insurers to be braver in their approach to meet customer demand.
Finally, I think the industry can expect a rebounding next year. There has been a downgrade in analysts’ predictions of 2020 results for several major players, as revenues slipped and claims increased. But we are also seeing rate increases in other segments so we anticipate 2021 earnings will rebound.
2020 has brought a year of surprises to an industry that has dealt with some of the worst kinds of surprises, for centuries. A lesson it has taught – as surprises often do – is the necessity of adaptability; to be able to respond to customer demand and regulation, quickly.
To prepare for this new year, organisations need to look at their existing infrastructure and business models and ask themselves: am I ready?