What’s the Forecast for the Insurance Industry?

As insurers grapple with tough new regulatory and business environments resulting from the financial crisis, and the October AILA National Conference 2015 approaches, what’s the forecast for the insurance industry?

People are living longer, there are superannuation or pension deficits, and financial catastrophes seem to be emerging across the globe. All these factors are creating enormous opportunities and challenges for insurance companies.

What the CEOs are saying

Despite the challenges ahead, our CEOs remain optimistic about the future of the industry and their businesses.

In PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 43 per cent of Australian insurance company CEOs said they feel very confident about their ability to grow their organisation, 67 per cent see China as the top area for offshore growth, 62 per cent plan to enter into a new joint venture or strategic alliance, and 83 per cent see digital technologies creating value for internal and external collaboration.

So given this attitude, what kinds of trends, challenges and products can we expect to see emerge in the next decade?

Key mega trends and challenges

Another PwC survey of insurance industry leaders explores the key drivers for the insurance industry and examines changes from social, technological, environmental, political and economic perspectives in order to provide an important discussion tool to shape strategic thinking and direction for insurance practitioners and providers.

The five key mega trends, according to PwC, are the STEEP drivers:

  • Social: The rise of social media interaction and the balance of power shifting towards customers.
  • Technological: Advances in software and hardware that transform big data into actionable insights (i.e. growth in the use of smartphones and tablets, cloud computing, the explosion of computer power and storage, and the growth in active sensors and devices connected to the internet).
  • Environmental: The rise of more sophisticated risk models and risk transfer to address the increasing severity and frequency of catastrophic events.
  • Economic: The rise of economic and political power in emerging markets.
  • Political: Harmonisation, standardisation and globalisation of the insurance market.

The primary challenges for insurance businesses included:

  • Social: Distribution disruption where numerous internet and social media channels compete for customer interaction (less face-to-face interaction).
  • Technological: Insurers face data overload, increased quality and privacy issues and cyber-threats.
  • Environmental: With catastrophic events on the rise and insufficient information to accurately predict them, insurers may exit unprofitable areas.
  • Economic: The world moves from globalisation to regionalisation and insurers operate in and create specific products for those narrow boundaries.
  • Political: Governments in both developed and emerging markets enforce equally burdensome regulations on insurers, decreasing their profitability.

So as the world and industry changes rapidly, how can insurers be proactive and what solutions can they look to?

The future: Bring me solutions, not problems

Communication, specialised knowledge and technology will likely emerge as key themes as we edge closer to 2020.

According to an Accenture survey on the Australian insurance industry, 64 per cent of surveyed respondents use the internet to research insurance companies and products. So the more insurance companies can communicate their value to customers, harnessing the power of the internet and new technologies, the better position they’ll be in to attract customers and solve problems. And the more knowledge they have, the greater power they can wield in a shifting marketplace.

Other products, improvements and trends that are likely to emerge as solutions to industry challenges will be in the areas of:

  • Automated underwriting and assisted decision-making processes.
  • Streamlined processes and cloud computing.
  • Big-data analytics and the growth of internet-connected devices and sensors (which are projected to reach 50 billion by 2020).
  • Costs structure and pricing model reviews.
  • New products for the ageing population in the individual life, retirement and annuities sector, to name a few.

As an example, this PwC report predicts that insurers who have the ability and foresight to exploit the big-data and analytics trends for underwriting, better pricing and loss control underwriting will leap ahead of their competitors.

Those insurers who stay abreast of these trends and keep an eye on the horizon will be the game-changers over the next decade.

The Australian Insurance Law Association National Conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne from Wednesday 14 October to Friday 16 October 2015.

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