Gartner don't often report on the little known world of Insurtech, so when they do it attracts a lot of attention. Here are the key insights to emerge from their latest research:
- digitalisation is or should be a key strategic priority for the insurance world.
- the majority of insurance business believe that they are "digital beginners or intermediate at best".
- the Insurtech world can "stimulate and accelerate innovation among incumbent industry players"
- most insurance CIO's ( and you can include in this the rest of the C suite) "are not familiar with Insurtech or their value propositions".
Can't fault with a word of that and of course it's music to the ears of those of us that earn our living in Insurtech. It's been obvious for some time to the likes of Munich Re, Swiss Re and the big composite insurers which is why they have been investing in both venture funds and accelerators. But why have C Suite in the majority of the incumbent players been so slow to follow suit?
Here is my diagnosis - and it's pretty prosaic stuff
1. Time - the most senior management in insurance businesses are so busy dealing with day to day operational issues, legacy, diplomacy (internal and external) and attending committee meetings they just have no time to engage with something new.
2. Money - there's no budget allocated to it. This is often blamed on the insurance cycle which never stops amusing me. In good times when decent profits are being made the observation is that there's clearly nothing wrong and no need to innovate. In a soft market when the squeeze is on there's nothing to spare!
3. Business case - the things that Insurtech brings to the table are not aligned with the traditional incumbent business case. Usually that's how much money will this save me in say a 3 year view? The Insurtech world is not about cheaper, but better. Better data, better distribution, better engagement with the client.
4. Knowledge - the huge majority of those that comprise the C Suite in the insurance industry have got there through experience, are in their 50's and 60's, are analogue thinkers and a decade or so from retirement. They don't really understand Insurtech and privately hope that they will be able to see out their careers without too much disruption from it.
If my homespun analysis is right (bear in mind that this is me not Gartner) then the way to get C Suite engagement just comes down to money and therefore funding priorities.:-
- it's money that buys more and better resource to enable the C Suite to free up some time
- it's money that enables proper analysis around business case and the true benefits of digitalization and InsurTech engagement
- it's money that buys in the relevant knowledge and skills, probably at C Suite level (think Chief Digital Officer)
- and it's money that you need to fund a genuine R&D mentality and to put behind accelerators and investment vehicles.
Assuming that the insurance industry will follow the rest of the world into digitalisation then incumbents then this is not a "nice to have" but a requirement. It's pretty Darwinian. Those who adapt best to the changing world will get the greatest benefits.
I can already hear the chorus of those saying "That's all very well, but haven't you seen how soft this market is - we genuinely can't afford it." I'm not that sympathetic. Very few incumbents are spending more than 3% of turnover on technology and in the London market it's usually less than 2%. That was fine in the analogue age when IT was a support function, but in the future technology IS the business.
Which leaves me with this final thought. Is there any point in spending afternoon writing this stuff, especially as it's implicitly critical of the same senior folk sell my services too. But if Gartner are right, I reckon I'm pretty safe. The C Suite won't be reading a publication dedicated to insurance innovation anyway!
Gartner has seen growing interest among insurance business and IT leaders in collaborating with insurtechs or making them part of their overall innovation policies, but the research has also found that most insurance CIOs are not familiar with these companies or their value propositions,