Article Synopsis :
Industry experts realize insurance must reinvent itself with major revisions needed in operating models, processes, propositions and customer relationships. Digital transformation is doable, but not without a substantial cultural shift — at both the company and industry level.
“Digital and cultural transformation in the insurance industry” from Spencer Stuart, based on interviews with several insurance executives across Europe, presents five specific leadership challenges and their solutions.
- DATA MANAGEMENT AND ANALYTICS: New data from new sources (e.g., IoT and UBI) creates challenges for mainly legacy insurers, burdened with legacy mainframe systems. The report recommends tackling the problem in iterations, rather than one big gulp. Incorporating things such as hackathons can bring fresh thinking and new tools and solutions to old problems.
- TECHNOLOGY DEBT: Insurers were early adapters of technology back in the 70s and 80s and many of these investments remain active today, running core processes and transactions. The bad news is these systems are inflexible and not prone to digitization for the purposes of mobile apps and data analytics. The report suggests utilizing new tools to extricate data from old systems—rather than trying to ‘lift-and-shift’ everything. New analytics tools with insurance applications are appearing all the time. Keep your eye on the market.
- BOARD SUPPORT: How to educate the board on the opportunities and threats brought by digital? One suggestion is to recruit at least one new board member with a digital background. Another recommendation is to boost technical competency across the whole of the organisation, including at board level, with the board updated and engaged on digital topics no less than twice a year.
- CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION: Digital demands cross-functional collaboration, flattened hierarchies, and the development of processes that make it easier to incorporate new ideas into the architecture in future. It’s not something to be bolted onto a company, but woven into its very fabric. Change starts at the top with total CxO commitment. Formal learning and development programs play a key role. Operational silos must be replaced with cross-functional teams working jointly on digital transformation initiatives.
- TALENT BOTTLENECKS: Insurance, let’s face it, isn’t a favourite destination for top digital talent. Recommendations include running contests such as hackathons in targeted technologies (e.g., data analytics, DevOps), and graduate programmes in data science as well as IT and digital leadership. Aggressive hiring outside of insurance is often a must, requiring unique approaches to candidates.
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Digital Insurer's CommentsWe agree with this report that attracting top digital talent begins with creating a work environment and work methods that reward innovation and focus on new possibilities over incumbent processes. Digital talent insists on creating new and better ways of serving customers. Just filling a seat, clocking time, serving the machine? Sorry, not interested.
Cultures, we realize, don’t change overnight. As a possible interim solution, dozens of companies serving the digital needs of insurance carriers have emerged over the past few years. We know over 90% of InsurTech startups are aimed at serving (rather than competing with) incumbent carriers. Do you know who they are? Are you reaching out to them? Are you taking advantage of the full range of digital opportunities made available by them? There’s no reason not to.
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