08/20/20

A New World with New Opportunities

By Ernst Renner

 

By now the world is growing accustomed to the changes that COVID brought upon us nearly six months ago. We have been forced to reconsider our most basic assumptions and rapidly adapt to the “new normal,” and the Insurance Industry is no exception. In fact, the industry has grown faster in the past five months than in the preceding ten years! Why has this occurred? Beyond the challenges this new world has introduced into life and annuity sales and servicing, it also yielded an opportunity for firms that are ready and willing to change.

New Opportunities

In the industry, what were once long-term strategic decisions have shifted to being critical, business-survival moves.

  • Digital end to end capabilities had already been increasing in demand, but COVID turned this trickle into a tidal wave. This previously longer-term strategy is suddenly table stakes.
  • Expanding distribution channels, also typically a calculated and structured multi-year strategic move, are now being introduced quickly in 3-6 month periods. Old reliable channels have slowed or dried up and an end-to-end digital experience and tailored products are the expectation.

This can be a challenge for the unprepared, but it is also an opportunity for organizations to shift to a more digital ecosystem – introducing new partners, efficiencies and dynamic capabilities in a near-zero interest rate environment, all while improving customer experience.

Part of this digital adoption is the expedited approval of e-signatures and digital payments. In a world where face-to-face encounters are discouraged and delivery services are inundated with demand, digital payments and e-delivery for insurance are the perfect solutions. More organizations are now approving applications and policies quicker than before using these previously underutilized methods, reducing the overall cycle time. This ultimately leads to greater customer satisfaction while reducing operational costs.

New Challenges

This digital world is not, however, without its concerns. It is commonplace to outsource functions, but security has become more of a concern with additional staff working from home and using customer data which was previously tightly controlled and distributed. As protected data is now passing through home networks, it is much more difficult to ensure there are not gaps in a security system that is outside the company’s control.

Thinking more broadly, as much of the workforce continues to clock in from home, even for those companies who were accustomed to remote work, the volume has reached previously unanticipated levels. The initial move to home was surprisingly seamless for most, but as this is looking more like a marathon than a sprint expanding capacity and usability of existing tech – Zoom, VPNs, etc. – becomes a more critical need and skillset.

Moving Forward

This, then, is the question looming in the background, eager to be answered – how do we make these changes sustainable? The recent disruptions the industry experienced enabled companies to adopt digital like never before, but it also strained existing systems, processes and communication channels. As we settle into this marathon, we need to ensure we are moving at a sustainable pace and do not overwhelm our key resources, especially our human capital.

Despite the challenges and the sustained state of crisis, there is light in the future. The industry is successfully adapting, even thriving, in this new world we live in – Life Insurance application activity just saw the highest YOY growth for a July ever! As long as we remain adaptable, vigilant and customer service-focused, there is opportunity to go farther than we’ve been before.

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