Mobile insurance as a source of innovation

Mobile insurance as a source of innovation
The use of mobile in insurance is usually related to the self service capabilities insurers can deploy for agents and for upper income groups such as quote, bind, issue, claims and printing, all for which a smartphone is a better device than just a simple mobile. One trend we have recognized is that mobile technology is being used in emerging markets to innovate as a means of distribution and collection, especially to low income consumers through microinsurance products, as there is usually 70 per cent mobile penetration but insurance penetration is below 5 per cent. Mobile operators benefit as well, as they are able to turn ‘pay as you go’ customers into annual subscription contracts. Microinsurance aims to the base of the pyramid (BoP) population and has the potential to play a very important social and economic role by breaking the vicious circle of poverty and vulnerability that affects the low income segments of the population. It can also help local economies by redirecting funds to be invested into high-return/high risk assets, that otherwise would be allocated in low return investments or even kept without investing. For many insurers it is also the opportunity to position its brand in a population that eventually will demand more insurance products. While in 2006 only 78M of risks were covered under microinsurance products in Asia, Africa and Latin America, by 2011 this number was over 500M!  Latin America representing 10% while Asia had near 400M risks covered. The potential market for Latin America is estimated in 360M of people, with Mexico and Brazil concentrating around 55% of this market. A usual misconception is that emerging markets are behind most mature markets in terms of internet and mobile usage. You might be surprised to know that Latin America for example:
  • Had 231M internet users in December 2011 (10% of the world internet population);
  • Had 145M Facebook users in April 2012 (18% of worldwide Facebook users), and
  • Had +500M mobile connections as from March 2010 (86% of the Latin American population)
As for smartphones, clearly of more interest for deploying self service capabilities for agents and upper income consumers:
  • Brazil has more smartphone users than France or Germany
  • Brazil and Mexico together have more smartphone users than Australia has inhabitants
  • Argentina smartphone penetration (24%) is better than in Germany
  • 26% of Mexican smartphone users have made a purchase on their mobile
  • 45% Brazilian smartphone users have purchased on their computer after researching on their mobile
  • 82% of Argentinean smartphone users have researched a product/service on their mobile
The microinsurance market matches almost perfectly with the conditions for innovation as it is an under-served, untapped market that presents fragmentation and it is a high cost to serve market under the present business model for traditional insurance companies. Mobile is just one of the technologies available that could help insurers serve the low income market with a profitable model. Microinsurance strategies require an innovative approach in areas such as product, rates, distribution, claims and collection and it is a shared view among industry leaders that such innovative approach could afterwards be used in their incumbent markets.

Looking past the functional arms race

Looking past the functional arms race

In our recent work in Latin America, it is clear that in the process of selecting core systems for countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, Insurers have been more focused on delivery and support capabilities than in the product.

All vendors claim quick time to market, low TCO, quick ROI, strong product configuration capabilities and more. And when dealing with the top vendors, there is little material difference in features and functionality. Although functional requirements account for most of the items in a RFP the weight of non-functional requirements including delivery and support capabilities has matched and even surpassed the first. This is an approach that we have been advocating in other regions.

Functionality is now an arms race. Insurers, even in emerging regions like Latin America, must invest more in evaluating service and delivery capabilities.

With a plethora of new vendors in the region offering solid solutions proven elsewhere in the world, regional insurer have three important questions that vendors need to address:

1 . “Will the vendor have the capabilities to deliver and support the product in this region? “

2. “What will I need to change (people, process) in order to take advantage of these new highly configurable systems that promise to put everything, well almost everything, in hands of the business users?”

3. “How do I really validate that the product will support our lines of business, the products we sell and the channels and processes we want to have in place to better serve our distribution channels and customers?”

In response to these questions, there are several interesting points to make.

It is clear that vendors in the region bring a wide range of different business models. Insurers in most Latin American countries have been used for decades to have local/regional support from vendors which acts as a high entry barrier for new participants. While some of the new players have decided to work through system integrators or implementation partners, they still need to demonstrate how successful those relationships can be to deliver in the short term and to supersede in the long term. Insurers are looking for credible relationships (between vendors and partners) and processes in place in advance for knowledge transfer. Domain expertise, sufficient trained staff and delivery capabilities in similar projects are key aspects they will consider when evaluating the local/regional partner. Finally, how involved is the vendor going to be in the implementation process is also under consideration. Vendors who are amongst the first to prove some track record in the region will be the vendors who succeed in the future.

When it comes to validating the product against the insurer business model, Celent points insurers to the process of the RFP. There are smart ways of validating and engaging with vendors early in the review process to strike a balance between what the solution is capable of and the organizations willingness to change its business model. This new approach focuses more on system review in early stages of the process and making stakeholders and users engage in the quest of understanding what is possible and the transformation required within the organization since start.

This focus on service delivery and business transformation over functional requirements is the new reality in Latin America and one that Celent will continue to support.

A holiday gift from Celent – Top 10 searched for terms and links to reports

A holiday gift from Celent – Top 10 searched for terms and links to reports
Last year we offered a Christmas Carol themed post summarising some thoughts on the past, present and future. This time around I figured I’d go for one of the end of year top ten style posts that pop up as folks take a moment to look back at the year. So here I present a view on the top 10 searches insurance folks made on the Celent web site. 10. Model Insurer (Click on the words to do the search) In at number 10 are explicit searches for the model insurer series of reports. We’re still working hard on this years but here’s some links to last years and the one the year before. This year we’ll be holding the Model Insurer event in Boston along with our insight and innovation day. The model insurer reports can’t be beaten for offering a view of successful investment in change and technology across the insurance industry. Also take a look at the Model Insurer Asia report and 2012 event. 9. Fraud Sadly as pressure increases on the financial system, on wallets everywhere then the propensity for fraud increases. 2011 has seen an unprecedented rise in ill-feeling towards the financial services sector as a whole so it’s no wonder that fraud is on everyone’s agenda. Look out for work by Donald Light and Nicolas Michellod in 2012 on modern fraud systems across the globe.   8. CRM or Customer Relationship Management Insurers have made great strides in moving from policy and agreement centric thinking to a more rounded view of the customer. With ever increasing ways of reaching customers and intermediaries, of simply transacting business this focus on technology to support the customer relationship is clearly still a focus. 7. Claims Clearly a key focus for any insurer, from the systems supporting claims to the latest trends in claims analysis. In 2011 Celent examined the impact social media was having on claims and how insurers are interacting with claimants. We also looked at location intelligence solutions and below are just some of the reports looking at various angles of this key function. Look out in 2012 for the XCelent reports on claims system vendors.   6. Outsourcing 2011 has seen a more pragmatic approach to outsourcing in the insurance industry globally. Strategic outsourcing is still a key tool for any large organisation and this is reflected in the term appearing in our top ten. The CIO survey series of reports (which will be refreshed in the new year) offer insight into CIO’s views on outsourcing globally.   5. Policy Administration Ah the big core system question. What was interesting to me was this wasn’t number one, still number 5 is pretty high up the list. Searches in this area were looking for advice on the core systems themselves, building a case for them as well as general trends. This year we published the 2011 reports on policy administration systems around the globe, each offering a different perspective on what’s available as well as what’s required.   4. IT Spending In at number 4 is IT Spending – how are folks splitting their hard earned currency between projects? A key question on the minds of CIOs and others. A key insight into this is offered in the CIO interview series of reports as well as our emerging technology report – aimed at identifying technology gaining interest and investment from the insurance industry – take a look.   3. Asia – or rather searches for India, China and Japan A significant number of searches were for specific countries, the three top countries were India, China and Japan. Asia is a very diverse market and there is a great deal of opportunity in the region, not only financially but also in learning how insurance problems are being solved in these very different markets. Personally, I find one of the great things about working for a global company like Celent is the breadth of view it affords.   2. Social Number two in our list is social, social media and social networks. Technology is helping people to interact and changing the way they communicate. Customers, agents and members of insurers staff all expect very different things from an organisation now in a Twitter and Facebook world than just 10 short years ago. In addition, the relationship between the insurance industry and the vendors and service providers supporting it is changing. In all this newly collected and aggregated information there lies privacy and brand-busting dragons but also great opportunity for those intrepid enough to sail the social seas.   1. Mobile I recently tried going around London for the day without my phone – it was hell! The debacle this year regarding the Blackberry outage created a wave of such feelings, although raised some counter blog posts as journalists recounted how they spent more quality time with their family without answer emails. Regardless of for better or worse, humankind has wed itself firmly to being constantly connected through mobile devices. This is a global phenomenon from geeks seeking the latest 4G android handset, executives and music lovers with their iphones or Kenyan farmers with simpler phones, mobile has changed the we communicate, interact with technology and each other and will continue to do so – the insurance industry is still feeling the impact and in many cases still leading the charge in changing peoples lives for the better through mobile technology.   So there it is, a top 10 for you. I haven’t included links to the webinars, peer networking events and other events through the year but the links to each of the search terms will provide you with those. It’s been a phenomenal year of challenges, change and interesting times. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year or indeed just a great season – depending on what you’re celebrating this Winter. We look forward to working with you in the new year and beyond. Oo, look, I wrote an end of 2011 post without mentioning the Euro crisis – oops…

Latin American Markets Are Hot for a Reason

Latin American Markets Are Hot for a Reason

Let me tell you this: I love Latin America!

Latin America is often viewed as a travel destination, with good reason. Just consider its amazing beauty, from Antarctica to Mexican Los Cabos. Its history, from the time of the Mayas, Incas, and natives to modern days. It has many locations that provide unique views of history, such as Machu Pichu and Camino del Inca in Peru; Tikal and Antigua in Guatemala; even in thriving Mexico City, where at one corner from “El Zocalo” you can see how civilization evolved with the clash of three cultures. Did I mention tasty wine and food and gorgeous beaches?

But another aspect of Latin America is bringing visitors: the thriving economy. There are some exciting things going on in Latin American business, and insurance is no exception.

In the not-too-distant past, Latin America was an afterthought for many global businesses. This was a rational approach, given the constant economic turmoil, weak democratic governments, and closed economies. But things have changed. Since the early ’80s democracies have become more mature. Economies have opened, and countries have invested in infrastructure. An increasingly skilled labor pool has increased Latin America’s export value.

Consider Brazil, the dominant economy in Latin America. Since 1939, reinsurance in Brazil had been solely the domain of the government, via the Brazilian Institute of Reinsurance (IRB Brazil Re). On January 15, 2007, Complementary Law 126 eliminated the state monopoly. Also, not too many years ago, Brazil had a strict policy toward importing IT, which resulted in most technology being produced locally, both parts and labor. Today in Brazil (or any other Latin American country), you can find most of the new electronic gadgets and technology available in the rest of the world.

In the last few years Brazil and Peru have been awarded an Investment Grade note, attracting a significant inflow of money to their economies.

Brazil and the group of countries from emerging markets known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have experienced phenomenal growth since 2002. Brazil drives most of the growth experienced by its partners in Mercosur (the economic treaty that groups most of the South American countries). BRIC countries are also important customers for most of the relevant countries in Latin America.

What we are seeing is that Latin America is experiencing more favorable international commerce than the industrialized world, which is experiencing very low growth rates.

Growth expected for the Latin American region in 2011 is 4.5%; the world rate will be 3.2%; and in industrialized countries, growth will only be 1.4%.

BRIC economies expect growth of 4.0%, 4.5%, 7.8%, and 9.0% respectively, helping emerging markets achieve growth of 5.8% by the end of 2011.

When you compare this growth to the 1.4% average in industrialized countries, you start to understand why many companies are looking into Latin America and emerging countries in general as a place to invest, and not just opportunistically.

To understand the impact this will have, we might want look at global share of GDP. Emerging countries had 35% of global share of GDP 10 years ago. Today they have 40%, and 10 years from now they could have 50%, equal to the developed markets.

The increase in economic activity in the region will create more opportunities for insurers because enterprises will need to protect their assets, properties, and employees. Personal wealth growth will create opportunity for insurance products related to wealth management and protection, investment, savings, and capital accumulation.

Of course there is still room for improvement to make the Latin American market even more attractive. Economies, investment policies, and money flows should be more tightly assembled and coordinated with other countries from inside and outside the region. But in general things are moving in the right direction.

At minimum, most insurers and vendors should be thinking about the potential for Latin America as an expansion market.

It's A Small World, After All

It's A Small World, After All

It was in 1964 that Walt Disney first told us in song that “it’s a small world, after all.” As we apply the concept to insurance in 2010, it is clear that Walt was well ahead of his time. The opportunities and challenges for today’s insurers around the globe seem to transcend time zone and cultural differences.

I recently spent a week in Tokyo, in part for the Celent Insurance Roundtable. (No, I did not go to Tokyo Disney.) To be successful, a trip like this has to include some very fresh sushi, and a flurry of fresh perspectives. Thankfully, I found both.

In our roundtable discussion and in my conversations with Japanese clients I was struck by how similar Japanese insurer concerns are compared to those of North American insurers. Common themes included finding the right levers to drive company-level growth despite flat industry-level demand, concerns over outdated IT approaches, and the challenges associated with optimizing short- and long-term strategies simultaneously.

Comparing Tokyo consumers to their counterparts in North American cities of similar size is also interesting. Looking around a Tokyo Starbucks, I saw that same curious mix of eccentric 20-somethings and 40-something professionals that I see in New York. Most were on laptops or smart phones, enjoying high speed connectivity to stay in touch with friends or to crank out emails from their virtual offices. The Japanese may still have more affection for their keitai (cell phones) than do North Americans, but the gap is clearly closing.

Another symptom of our rapidly shrinking planet (where is Al Gore when you need him?) is that global competition is no longer limited to the manufacturing sector. Looking at the names on Tokyo buildings tells the story. IT services firms are aggressively building out their presence in new geos. Insurers are buying companies halfway around the world. Software vendors that got their start in one country are now reaching critical mass in others. While I typically preach focus for any firm that haven’t mastered its “home” domain, I think that expanding the vision to new countries is essential for successful firms that have high growth ambitions. Good ideas, powerful tools, and game-changing strategies are welcome visitors to just about any country.

As a futurist and as an entrepreneur, Walt Disney dreamed big dreams. We may not be commuting to work by personal jet pack (yet), but otherwise Walt had it about right. It’s a small world, indeed.

Opportunities for solution vendors in China?

Opportunities for solution vendors in China?
China’s new insurance law will take effect on October 1 2009. The revised law strengthens protection for policyholders, the insured, and beneficiaries. However, it adds operational requirements for insurance companies. For example, the revised law adds a two-year incontestable rule to protect the insured party. It is a very common clause in Western countries, but not in China. The revised law also requires insurance companies to pay or decline a claim within 30 days; if more documentation from the claimant is needed, the insurance company has to inform the claimant about all the documents needed at one time. All these requirements aim to settle the problem of the “easy to apply, hard to claim” environment. I see end customers’ preferences are changing from investment type products to protection type products. A simpler claim environment is crucial for the development of China’s insurance industry. That’s why regulators emphasized claims when revising the insurance law. For insurance companies, I think this is a double-edged sword. Will “easy to claim” lead to “easy to defraud?” It reminds me of my conversation with a local insurance solution vendor. He said that China has a non-trust environment: people do not trust each other, so the risk management function in his company’s solution is very strong. Some of my thoughts are: insurance companies might need to upgrade claim solutions to make filing a claim easier; second, they might need to upgrade underwriting solutions and antifraud tools to strengthen their risk management function. Are these real requirements for insurance companies? I’ll continue to follow the market.

Playing it Safe vs. Creative Thinking

Playing it Safe vs. Creative Thinking
I recently saw an interesting article that seems quite appropriate for the times we live in. This article was based on a report published recently by Robert Half International, a staffing service. Condensed versions and commentary on this report have been available via a number of search engines in recent weeks. These days we are bombarded with stories of gloom and doom. Stock market prices are dropping, wealth is eroding, jobs are becoming scarce, unemployment is rising, and the future seems more complicated than it has ever been. We are inclined in times of uncertainty to turn inwards, start playing safe, protecting what is there in the hope that time will heal all and that things will go back to the good old days. The article (in abbreviated form) advocates exactly the opposite when it comes to business practices. “Playing it safe” is put forward as being one of the top three mistakes managers make in times like this. As the article suggests, “being boring” is not a strategy for survival because losing your competitive edge is a likely result. This does not suggest that risks should not be considered, but rather that innovation and creativity are still ways to gain ground. The second main mistake is to discount or discourage innovative thinking at all levels in an organization. Innovative thinking, the article suggests, is more likely to help an organization survive; many ideas can be put into the pool to not only assist the organization but also encourage a sense of joint survival among all employees. Rewarding such behavioral thinking is an added encouragement. This concept can only thrive in an environment where managers actively encourage this and do not feel threatened. Managers should therefore actively participate in this process. Here in China, we are not unaffected by the issues that have been making page one news all over the world. We have seen many businesses close and unemployment levels rise. We too have recently seen a large injection of government capital into the economy to both boost and revitalize industries. Creative thinking and behavior at management levels to avoid the sometimes obvious mistakes could be another path on the way to revival and survival.

The Challenge for a CIO in Africa (or Middle East)

The Challenge for a CIO in Africa (or Middle East)

Visiting South Africa recently, I was struck by the insurers’ frustration of the lack of vendor commitment to the country. My conversations were with large insurers – and I mean seriously large companies tipping billions in premium — and it appears even these companies are unable to attract vendors to make the serious investment. Those vendors that have, appear to have local operations that are not able to deliver to the standards of their international parents.

This is a story that is repeated across Africa, and the Middle East. These are small but growing markets but in terms of potential, merely amount to rounding errors in global premium when compared to markets such as India or China. It’s understandable that suppliers choose to chase the big markets (but not why local operations offer poor service). So where does this leave the CIO of an insurer in Africa or the Middle East?

I’ll stick my neck out here and propose something for consideration – offshoring. Labour arbitrage and cost savings are typically the headline benefit of an outsourcing deal and admittedly, there is little labour cost saving to be had between Africa and India. But there is a lesser talked about benefit – one of a vast pool of skills.

Celent has been researching outsourcing recently and I am impressed at the level of commitment from providers to the insurance domain. You know the figures of the number of IT graduates in India and China each year and that many of them are choosing the outsourcing world. The large outsourcers offer tremendous career opportunities and a certain cache on the resume.

I’d challenge insurers in poorly served countries to think laterally to solve this problem. Outsourcers have offered staff augmentation for many years. Now add to that a deep understanding of insurance and of the vendor solutions on the market, and a maturity of the delivery model and the proposition looks all the more appealing. Outsourcers in India and China also understand about poor communications infrastructure and will be in a position to offer innovative solutions.

I’d challenge outsourcers to look at Africa and the Middle East as interesting expansion opportunities. South Africa has always been interested in looking outside of the country for innovation, best practice and skills and I imagine other parts of Africa and Middle East are similar. Revenue from these regions will not offset the 2009 slowdown in contracts in Europe and North America. However, a revenue stream from these regions is likely will to be a little immune to the global insurance cycle and provide a small buffer in future down cycles.