Insurance Reimagined : Global Issues- Asian Insights

| 21 Jun 2019

The Global Insurance Forum featured a diverse delegation of executives, regulators, academics, and policymakers from all areas of the industry as well as regions from around the globe. Here are some key highlights from the distinguished list of speakers at the forum.

International Insurance Society (IIS) CEO Mike Morrissey opened the 55th Global Insurance Forum – the fourth time the event has been held in Singapore – with a strong message: “Asia is where growth and innovation are more robust than anywhere else on earth.”

Mr Morrissey went on to outline the major themes that would dominate the following days of the conference – driven in large part by the findings of a research project involving 2,200 senior insurance industry executives that IIS had carried out in conjunction with The Institutes.

The conference themes will touch on life, health and pensions as well as non-life and particularly P&C – but all with a significant backdrop of, “the dynamics of the new customer experience.”

“What does the new customer look like?” asked Mr Morrissey and suggested that insurers and reinsurers need to answer this question sooner rather than later - before they can begin to tackle the main growth opportunities facing their businesses.

Mr Morrissey ended by intimating that IIS and The Institutes aim to make this major research project an annual event that will inform future agendas of the Global Insurance Forum in the years ahead.

The greatest concerns of the C-suite

A survey conducted by The Institutes showed that cyber security, economic development, healthcare, regulation and digitising customer relationships are the issues of greatest concern to global insurance executives.

“We believe that insight always leads to opportunity,” said The Institutes president and CEO Pete Miller as he presented survey findings that served as the blueprint for the agenda of the Global Insurance Forum 2019.

The survey asked C-suite executives what were the biggest concerns in insurance around the world. The findings were then broken down into five categories: Economic, political and legal, operational, technological and social and environmental concerns.

Economic concerns

Economic development and low-investment yields were the top two economic concerns, with 52% and 41% of respondents respectively viewing them as great concerns. Recession and inflationary environment followed at 25% and 17% respectively.

Mr Miller said that there was regional variation with more APAC respondents than NA respondents concerned about economic development (63% vs 40%) and low investment yields (49% vs 32%).

He also pointed out that while The Institutes had expected economic development to be of relatively greater concern, it was “probably reflective of a long period of economic expansion”.

Meanwhile, the concerns of low investment yield were linked to ongoing concerns surrounding the current state of interest rates.


Social and environmental concerns

Healthcare (65%) was the greatest social and environmental concern and Mr Miller said that comments from the respondents hinted at a lack of confidence in government-led efforts to resolve these problems.

An important finding of the survey was that aging and changing demographics (52%) were growing concerns among the respondents. The fact that natural disasters (44%) and climate change (44%) were not close to the greatest concern was rather surprising considering 2017 and 2018 registered the highest and fourth highest CAT losses on record.


Asia has big role in closing protection gap

There is still a yawning insurance protection gap today, with the retirement gap standing at $70tn globally while the growing healthcare gap is at approximately $2tn today.

In a panel discussion which sought new ideas in closing the protection gap in Asia, panellists shared their organisations’ approaches to increasing insurance penetration.

AIA group chief strategy officer Mark Saunders spoke of how his organisation tries to align social and business objectives in order to make a more profound impact. From a life insurance perspective, the fact that more people are outliving their savings, while also generally being less healthy, are societal concerns which have a business implication as well.

Hence, AIA intends to drive the conversation around people living not only longer but also healthier lives.

Likewise from the life perspective, Prudential Singapore CEO Wilf Blackburn touched on the importance for insurers to help people accumulate adequate savings for their retirement. He cited statistics which project that two-thirds of the world’s middle class will be in Asia by 2050, and amid rapidly aging societies, the region naturally presents a big opportunity for life insurers to ensure more people get protection.

Closing the protection gap requires a joint effort from both the private and public sector and in that regard, Singapore’s move to tie-up with the industry in launching the Global Asia Insurance Partnership (GAIP) is a positive move, said the panel.

International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) former secretary-general Yoshihiro Kawai, who chaired the discussion, has played an important role in the formation of GAIP. He highlighted the importance of not only having a platform in Asia which brings together industry, government, and academia to address issues of protection and resilience; but that it was important for Asia to start having a greater voice in global discussions around these matters.


Delivering for the customer

The tone needs to be set from the top for any organisation intent on delivering great customer experience, said Swiss Re CEO for Asia Jayne Plunkett at yesterday’s panel discussion on driving success through customer engagement.

She reminded the audience that it is easy for an organisation to be side-tracked by internal processes and metrics, thereby shifting the focus away from customers.

McKinsey senior partner Bernhard Kotanko, who chaired the discussion, had earlier set the scene when pointing out that public opinion of insurance is still not great despite the increased focus on customer-centricity amongst insurers. He also drew upon the mantra of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who described his obsessive compulsive focus on customers rather than the competition.

Another panellist, DBS Bank Hong Kong head of bancassurance Terry Li, meanwhile drew upon his bank’s catchphrase of ‘bank less’, which may seem counter-intuitive at first. However, it was not necessarily about increasing customer interactions, but rather about knowing the customer well enough to time the contact to suit the customer and to make it in the medium of choice for the customer.

Ms Plunkett also echoed the point of truly understanding customers and giving them what they want, rather than pushing products which the insurer thinks they might want. From the B2B angle of a reinsurer, it was important to understand the people making the decisions on the client side and what their risk appetite is, rather than just the risk appetite of the company.

For photos of the event, you may find the album here.

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