Microinsurance evolution, a Latin American perspective.

Microinsurance evolution, a Latin American perspective.
Microinsurance is referred to the type of insurance that aims to the base of the pyramid (BoP) population, generally those ignored by mainstream commercial and social insurance schemes. It emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs, preferences and characteristics of this target group: the low-income household, the working poor and the under-served. Microinsurance 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. The potential market for Latin America is estimated in 360M of people, and for many insurers it is a huge opportunity to position its brand in a population that eventually will demand more insurance products. When you look into these markets you can distinguish 3 clearly separate phases of evolution of Microinsurance:
  • Phase I: Easy products to administer, such as mandatory life insurance tied to micro-finance products.
  • Phase II: Products get more sophisticated providing more options and benefits, turning into voluntary schemes, usually based on health, life and funeral insurance type of products while adding distribution channels to reach a broader audience.
  • Phase III: More complex products with emphasize in adding value to customers and an extended network of multiple distribution channels.
Currently Microinsurance in Latin America is doing pretty well in Phase I and is walking through Phase II. The major challenge nevertheless resides in including more commercial oriented products which typically are developed in Phase III, such as index-based insurance products. Technology plays an important role in supporting microinsurance strategies as they require an innovative approach in areas such as product, rates, distribution, claims and collection. Agility, scalability and high volume-low cost processing are important features for insurers to consider in their supporting systems. In our experience most of insurers in the region struggle to obtain these features from their current systems and enabling those innovatives approaches, which by the way, are also desirable to serve the upper-income segment. Are your systems up to the task? Feel free to comment!

Innovation – What can the insurance industry learn from Steve Jobs and Apple?

Innovation – What can the insurance industry learn from Steve Jobs and Apple?
I’m guessing that somewhere in your strategy documentation will be an objective that states that you will succeed as an insurance company through ‘being innovative’. It may be presented up-front as a bold strategic theme or it may be hidden deep down in the depths of a key initiative. I’m also guessing that, for many of you, this objective may not necessarily be backed up by a statement of how you intend to achieve ‘being innovative’ or what ‘being innovative’ really means. So, what does it mean to be innovative in insurance?  Interestingly, when you search for a definition of being ‘innovative’ in insurance using Google, you’ll get back over 24 million hits. For fun, you can also read some of the entries in our competition to define what innovation is for our industry in advance of our Innovation & Insight Day in Boston on 27th February (see our LinkedIn discussion group with circa 115 entries submitted so far).   Finally, let’s not forget, that there is a whole industry of management self-help books out there online and in airport book shops (circa 39 thousand books listed in Amazon for innovation), plus academic research (639 thousand hits on Google Scholar for innovation and insurance) to help. With all of this information available, I guess it should be easy for all of us to know exactly what to do to be innovative and how to use innovation to be successful?  Mmmh. In my experience of running workshops with clients, innovation is rarely a well-articulated or understood concept.  In many instances, it is just another word for ‘new’, which rather than helping a firm to rally around a radical concept or idea, can underplay its significance.     So, when things start to get confusing or complicated, I personally like to learn through doing or by observation.   Over the holiday period, I finally got around to reading Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs: A biography” (one of the many books you’ll find in or near the Management Section of your airport bookstore). Apart from the biographical elements about his personal life (many of which were eye opening to me) and his dysfunctional people management style (this is a slight understatement!), I found myself identifying some of the themes that made Steve Jobs and Apple innovative in my eyes.  Here’s a quick round-up of my take-aways:
  • Adopting a heuristic approach.  Learning by doing, taking risks, accepting mistakes (well, some of them at least) and following instinct.  It would appear from the book that few product launches led by Jobs ever followed a formal plan or typical investment case procedure adopted by many corporates and that I’d recognise.    
  • Maintaining a pure vision. Jobs insisted on perfection.  New to the world products were frequently pulled back from their launch date in order to achieve the ‘insanely great’.
  • Separating out a small team.  Albeit not always by design, Jobs sometimes found himself creating a team outside of the main corporate organisation.  This had the effect of helping to focus minds as well as creating a distinct identity – even when this had the effect of creating a counter-culture to the parent firm.
  • Hiring the ‘A-team’.  Jobs claimed that ‘A-team’ players want to work with ‘A-team’ players, and that ‘B-Team’ players would only drain energy away.  Jobs was pretty ruthless in insisting on the best.  
  • Creating a unique value network.  Rather than making the best use of what’s out there already, Jobs frequently preferred to create a value network from scratch rather than compromise or find himself in a weak position of power.
Although often dysfunctional and extreme in the case of Steve Jobs and Apple, these observations are consistent with much of the formal management research on disruptive innovation and entrepreneurial success.  Being innovative often requires a firm to break away from accepted industry norms and values in order to create something new.   So, in an industry as old as insurance, are we ready to live up to our written strategies and ‘be innovative’? ______________________________________________________________________________________ Our competition for “Innovation in 6 words” is still open.  To take part in the discussion, join our LinkedIn discussion group (Innovation is…) devoted to the topic.  To participate in the challenge, e-mail your definition to Erica Ferguson at eferguson@celent.com using the subject line “Innovation is” along with your contact information. We will be announcing the winning entries during our Innovation & Insight (I&I) Day on February 27, 2013. Regular readers of our blog know that I&I is a flagship Celent event. As always, it will host a variety of Celent and non-Celent speakers and will be a great opportunity to network with the industry peers. If you’d like to see the full agenda and learn more details, please visit our registration site.  

Failing is the first step of Innovation

Failing is the first step of Innovation
Most cultures reward and encourage success. Growing up, we learn quickly to highlight our brilliance and down play our mistakes. The corporate world we operate in only reinforces that. Do you remember how many times you had to fall off your bike before you could ride it successfully? You had to fail before you got it right. Had you been laughed at or criticised in those moments of lying on the asphalt would you ever have picked yourself up and tried another time? Being an innovator or supporting innovation in your organisation requires a willingness to embrace failure.  And I mean really embrace it. It means allocating money to ideas that have no apparent business case. It means creating certain spaces for staff to experiment with no fear of retribution (think Google’s 20% idea). It means falling of your bike, again, scraping your knees, in the knowledge that at some point, something might come of the endeavour. From failure comes huge learning for the people and the organisation. Failure uncovers a gold mine of information that you had no access to before you started. Many readers will nod sagely at what appears to be obvious. But my experience tells me that most of us go out of our way to avoid failure. We have been institutionalised to only ever succeed (or at least be seen as succeeding) at every step and at every endeavour. Don’t believe me? Here’s my challenge for you – write your own failure CV. Look back on your career, and write up each failure and what you learnt from it. My own experience and that of friends shows me that putting pen to paper to outline our failures is remarkably hard because of our conditioning. And this is symptomatic of our unwillingness to see failure as the necessary stepping stones of innovation. I remain convinced that we need to face failure head on. Failure is good. Embracing failure will allow us as leaders to unlock the innovation potential that currently lies dormant in our companies. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Our competition for “Innovation in 6 words” is still open. We have received over 110 submissions so far! You can check out your competition here. To take part in the discussion, join our LinkedIn discussion group (Innovation is…) devoted to the topic.  To participate in the challenge, e-mail your definition to Erica Ferguson at eferguson@celent.com using the subject line “Innovation is” along with your contact information. We will be announcing the winning entries during our Innovation & Insight (I&I) Day on February 27, 2013. Regular readers of our blog know that I&I is a flagship Celent event. As always, it will host a variety of Celent and non-Celent speakers and will be a great opportunity to network with the industry peers. If you’d like to see the full agenda and learn more details, please visit our registration site.

Calling all UK General Insurers with a cool tech story!

Calling all UK General Insurers with a cool tech story!

Once again, Celent has teamed up with the Insurance Times for the 2012 Technology in Insurance Awards. These awards are the only dedicated insurance technology awards in the United Kingdom for general insurance. Last year’s awards were a huge success in recognising some terrific successes in our industry. We had 140 people attend a cocktail award’s ceremony in the iconic Gherkin building. LV=, Chartis, Ingenin, and HOV Global services were just a few of last year’s winners. Judges included Google, CEO of RSA, Editor of Insurance Times, and your own Celent analyst, myself.

This year, we have a two new categories which reflect the changing nature of technology:

– Best use in Social media

– Best use of analytics

So the important dates for your diary are:

We look forward to this year’s interesting and exciting nominations, and recognising the superstars and stellar effort that is made every year in our industry. Good luck!

Understanding the EMEA life and pension Policy Administration System market dynamics

Understanding the EMEA life and pension Policy Administration System market dynamics

My colleague Jamie Macgregor and I have published the Celent’s regular report profiling policy administration system (PAS) vendors in the life and pension space in Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) back in November 2011. This report profiles 34 systems offered to EMEA insurers on the market. Beside this research we thought it would be valuable for our subscribers to understand our view of this market. To do so we have decided to add three other pieces of research, whose objective is to explain the dynamics of the life and pension PAS market in EMEA:

1. Deal trends: First of all we have tried to have a deeper look at past life and pension PAS deals in EMEA and to evaluate how this market might evolve in terms of size going forward. In the frame of this analysis, we have identified which vendors were having good traction in the recent past and evaluated PAS provider’s market shares. The EMEA life and pension PAS market is highly fragmented with a downward trend in terms of new deals. Therefore we expect the market to rationalize going forward.

2. Insurer’s perception: It is difficult to comprehend the dynamics of a market for a PAS provider without understanding what customers think and what are the differences of perception across regions. In this report, we identify how customer satisfaction and perception of IT vendors capabilities as well as life and pension PAS has evolved recently in three geographies: UK, Continental and Eastern Europe. Through this analysis it appears clear that PASs are not uniformly used across regions and that a core feature for a specific insurer could just be perceived to be a simple support function for another one conducting business in a different geography.

3. Functionality and technology trends: The last piece of our work around life and pension PAS in EMEA consists in providing our views on solution’s functionality and technology aspects. While the deal trends and insurer’s perception rely mainly on factual data, our view on the future of PAS in terms of functionality and features as well as technology is an extrapolation of what we have been seeing on the market over the past few years based on our discussions with IT vendors and insurers.

Jamie Macgregor and I are going to present a webinar on the functionality and technology trends tomorrow. If you are interested in joining us then do not hesitate to register here: http://www.celent.com/node/29433

Technology, innovation and insight in insurance

Technology, innovation and insight in insurance
Last week we held the innovation and insight event in Boston where we discussed creative disruption and emerging technologies and their effects on the insurance industry. Since coming back to the UK a few press releases and blog posts have caught my eye that feed well into this discussion. The first is from Robert Scoble, among other things a technology commentator and blogger. His post, 2012 brings a pause in the disruption sounds contradictory to our view but a quick read of his post provides a great view of the level of change we’ve seen in the last 8 years. Think back 8 years, to the phone you had, the way you interacted with the Internet – with the TV even. In the last 8 short years we’ve seen the birth of the social web, the rise of the smart phone, of apps (and their stores and markets), of gesture based interactions (the Wii and then Kinect were launched in this timescale) and now the IPO of facebook which launched in 2004. The pause in disruption points to a lack of jaw-dropping disruptive technology at the start of 2012 and a consolidation in the industry, a refining of these hugely disruptive themes into concrete business models and a maturing therein. I have to agree. CES 2012 saw bigger TV’s, TV’s with gesture control and further merging of mobile, tablet and laptop devices. Even Apple, the great innovator, presented the iPhone 4S as something they could ship in huge numbers rather than go for massive change. One technology I would watch is 3D printers, which are still gaining ground slowly but mostly in geek and maker communities – given another decade and cheaper prices I think this will seriously disrupt insurance and retail models. For now, we may be waving phones to make payments and having screens we can bend and see through – but consumer electronic developments in the last 12 months lack the technological disruption of past years. This pause is good news for the insurance industry in that makes this the perfect time to step back, take a look at the opportunities and possibilities these great waves of change have on our business models, our products and the way we interact with customers. Insurers across the globe have already made great strides in interacting with customers through social networks and understanding how to leverage them. Insurers are also experimenting with apps, mobile and connected devices. Telematics looks set to enter the mainstream in many markets, where the question is less how should we do it but now which method. It was interesting also to see these articles regarding AXA, repositioning it’s brand as innovative within the UK, making use of social technology and games to educate businesses on the value of insurance. Perhaps not the first insurer, but the articles are indicative of recent and continued investment in this theme from the insurance industry. The recent past – whether you call that 8 years, a decade, two decades – this short time has been an incredible period of change, insurers are already disrupting their industry and Celent contends there is no better time to review how the industry can leverage adoption of emerging technologies to creatively disrupt not only their internal perceptions and process, but the entire market.

Stirring The Creative Disruption Pot

Stirring The Creative Disruption Pot


One of the great things about being an analyst is that you’re expected to challenge the status quo on behalf of the companies you work with. The analyst-as-gadfly model was on display at Celent’s Creative Disruption workshop in Boston last week. Someone later told me, “You looked like you were having fun!” I surely was.

Celent’s message of “healthy discomfort” as a driver of positive change seemed to resonate with attendees, both carriers and their vendors. It came into virtually every conversation in some way. Here are a few nuggets I noted throughout the day.

  • Disruption is generally respected but only lightly pursued. Like “change” and “agility,” disruption is a term with positive connotations for most people. But when you ask companies what they are doing to make it a reality, you mostly hear the sound of crickets.
  • Agile methodologies are enabling change. And they’re not all about technology. They seem to serve as a signpost that corporate cultures are changing, giving staff a reason to rethink their traditional behaviors.
  • Vendors have an important role to play in driving change. This is well understood, by players on both sides of the vendor/carrier relationship. But it’s easy to revert to old models, where vendor and insurer interests are in opposition rather than being aligned.
  • Leadership will determine where disruption can thrive. Front line staff are thirsty for productive change. Being part of something bigger and more exciting is on most people’s wish lists, even if they don’t know it yet.  But absent some passionate vision from the top, “big D” disruption projects are doomed.

You can expect more coverage from Celent on this topic in the coming months, as we think it is vitally important. Your ability to keep operational concerns and creative, disruptive thinking in a healthy balance will be essential for you to get to the top of a competitive heap.

Count down to RDR – How ready is the UK Life & Pensions Market?

Count down to RDR – How ready is the UK Life & Pensions Market?

With less than 400 working days to go until ‘go live’ for the UK Retail Distribution Review, many Life and Pensions companies are deep in the middle of planning their implementation. Due to start on 31st December 2012, this legislation will introduce major changes to the way that new long-term savings and investment products are sold across the UK.

Its broad aims are to improve professional standards of investment advisors, improve the clarity around how firms describe their services, and to address the potential for commission to influence advice decisions. Practically, this means subscription to a new code of ethics including new definitions for advice, raised levels of professional education, and an end to traditional ways of charging commission for investment related products in favour of transparent fees.

Many industry analysts and commentators are already predicting structural changes within the market once consumers, armed with new information about how much they are being charged for advice, begin to shop around and start to ask tough questions about the value they are receiving from both the advisor for the advice fee paid and the performance of underlying products.

Technology has a critical role to play in helping organisations remain fighting fit in a post-RDR world.

Meeting the basic compliance needs

  • Ensure that underlying systems are able to manage both fee based services as well as commission. Both of these approaches will need to run in parallel post-RDR as the legislation only applies to investment related business transacted after the ‘Go Live’ date.
  • Ensure that only RDR compliant propositions are available for sale post 31st December 2012. Web-sites, other channel systems and channel partners all need to be changed.
  • Ensure that Platforms comply with the final set of rules on charging and rebates due to be released in Q3 this year, and offer essential services such as re-registration.
  • Update internal management reports and operational controls to track performance of business initiated both pre and post RDR.

Demonstrating value and positioning for growth

  • Developing new propositions including new channels to market, such as D2C, and access to new funds.
  • Employing innovative uses of technology to build stickier relationships with the end consumer (such as improved UIs, online tools, mobile apps and social media).
  • Transforming the cost base to compete head-on with new entrants, such as greater use of straight through processing and strategies to isolate or remove the legacy to prevent it becoming a drag on resources.

Navigating the change

  • Balancing competing priorities between now and ‘Go Live’ date – such as Solvency II, the EU Gender Directive and other internal strategic change programmes.
  • Being ready to react once the final set of rules on Platforms are published in Q3 2011.
  • Securing the investment and the team – including the right mix of capabilities to exploit the opportunities for growth.

Over the coming months, Celent will be researching the impact that RDR will have on technology strategy for organisations and evaluating the readiness of the market to implement the change. For more information or inclusion in this research, please feel free to get in contact with me.

And for those of you outside of the UK looking in thinking that this does not apply to me, beware! The European Community is revising its plans for the Insurance Mediation Directive (IMD) and Packaged Retail Investment Products (PRIPs) initiatives, and no doubt will look to see what lessons it can learn from the UK’s RDR. So, watch this space!

Insurance and Japan

Insurance and Japan
One might naturally assume that the tragic events in northeastern Japan would also be devastating the Japanese insurance industry. By the beginning of April some 320,000 P&C claims related to the disasters had already been filed with insurers. After the Kobe earthquake of 1995, when many home and business owners discovered their policies did not cover the damage, people got in the habit of buying earthquake / tsunami insurance. So fortunately more properties were insured on 3/11 than may have been otherwise. In conversations with Japanese carriers, however, Celent has found that insurers are remarkably sanguine about the likely effect on the industry here. Firms say they have adequate reserves set aside precisely to cover an event of this magnitude, which has long been predicted. As a result, Celent expects that major Japanese insurers will continue to invest in strategic initiatives to boost competitiveness and lower costs in this very crowded market. IT spending growth at Japanese insurers, which has been close to flat for years anyway due to the maturity of the market, will suffer a modest dip in the short term. Smaller insurers are likely to put off renewal projects for a while. Pressure to merge will increase at some firms, but again the industry has seen a spate of consolidation activity in recent years already. The recent events are likely to encourage Japanese insurers to accelerate their international expansion efforts, which are already underway. Carriers have been looking abroad for growth opportunities, especially to the Asia Pacific region but further afield in the Americas and Europe as well. In Tokyo, along with the concern, there is a new competitive spirit in the air. April is the start of Japan’s fiscal year and businesses look determined to find ways to grow even as the economy is forecast to contract. The insurance industry would be no exception. For example, the past year has seen the emergence of new internet and mobile based distribution models and products, approaches which seem almost tailor-made for the post-3/11 era. Technology suppliers will want to know that amplified interest in business continuity is leading insurers to think seriously about cloud computing. The blooming sakura and early spring sunshine might be distracting me from some of the harsher realities of 21st century Japan. But certainly a little optimism is not misplaced in what is after all one of the world’s major insurance markets.