The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world – along with the high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) insurance industry – on its head.
The swift cascade of global lockdowns, border closures, and social distancing requirements dramatically curtailed the highly personalised, high-touch world of HNW and UHNW insurance broking.
To safeguard business continuity, many businesses, including ours, had to step up and act quickly to find new ways of doing business.
Supported by the best available technology, PCS rolled out virtual consultations, facilitated in-country medical check-ups and automated our documentation process, reducing paperwork and turnaround time by 30 to 50 per cent.
But for our highly bespoke and complex industry – one that’s been slow to adopt technology --innovation didn’t come easy.
How do we strike the right balance between high tech and high touch? How can we utilise tools to enhance the experience between clients and consultants?
Changing Mindsets and Skills
In the first wave of the pandemic, there was a tangible sense of “This is bad, but it won’t be long, we can wait it out,” and businesses disappeared in that waiting.
2021 will not be 2019. A foot in the past is unproductive, and innovation requires the mind to move forward, to accept that there is no going back to the old ways.
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New technology invariably demands new skills. Consultants in the industry, for example, must learn to be adept with and sell proficiently via digital platforms. Investing in reskilling and training is key, alongside a fundamental culture shift to embrace agility and adaptability.
But for the HNW and UHNW insurance industry to truly transform, mindset changes need to prevail across the eco-system, including regulators, banks, brokers and clients. Partnerships will be critical to ensure an end-to-end integration of digital processes, making the client experience a seamless one.
The HNW and UHNW insurance industry has historically been a very relationship-oriented business, but the pandemic has proven that we can maintain these relationships remotely.
This has allowed us to embrace new ways of working and push further for innovation as we reimagine business models and cost innovation, without compromising the personal touch.
As digital transformation flows through the organisation from the frontend with client interactions to the backend with task automation, it’s crucial to find the right balance in applying new technology and maintaining the human touch and empathy that our HNW and UHNW clients expect.
What we have found is by leveraging technology to minimise the time spent on routine tasks such as paperwork, we free up our consultants to focus on moments when clients need the human touch most.
At the end of the day, this is a business of trust. It’s about protection when a crisis looms and advice, today, is more important than ever, even though the way it is delivered has changed.
A Commitment to Invest
While the digital innovation witnessed during the pandemic has likely been driven by the need for survival, these changes, we believe, are here to stay. It’s about staying relevant to HNW and UNHW clients and an emerging next-generation with a growing appetite for digital approaches.
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As the needs of our HNW and UHNW clients evolve, so must we. Availability anytime, anywhere, as well as speed, ease of use, privacy, security, and transparency, are key success factors in using innovative technology to shape a digital experience that makes the lives of both clients and consultants better.
From client engagement and acquisition to helping clients define their goals and identify and tailor the right solutions, there is huge untapped potential in artificial intelligence, analytics and automation that would, at the same time, help the industry operate more effectively and efficiently.
But to realise those opportunities, it takes the courage and vision of early adopters who align the capabilities of emerging technology with strategic opportunities.
The Future is Digital
Adopting a new digital approach in a traditional business like ours is not an easy task, but there’s almost no chance of reward without a little bit of risk.
The pandemic has opened a window of opportunity for industry players like PCS to make a leap of faith to new platforms and solutions to stay ahead of the curve.
And it’s just the beginning. While technology can never fully replace personalised consultations and bespoke solutions, especially for HNW and UHNW individuals, there is plenty of opportunities to tap digital tools for always-on client engagement, dynamic product recommendations, improved efficiency by relieving consultants of routine tasks and automation to manage costs.
To win in this digital world, companies can no longer sit on the sidelines, but need to act now to lead the change and shape the future in their favour.
Joseph Low is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Private Client Services by Mercer. He plays an active part in the development of the overall strategy of the Group while continuing to lead the expansion of the North Asia business in China and other markets.
Private Client Services by Mercer provides risk management propositions, with a focus on integrated life insurance solutions for High Net Worth (HNW) clients with their wealth planning needs in mind. With offices across Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, China Mainland, Geneva and Zurich, it works in close partnership with major private banks and trustees globally to serve HNW clients in over 50 markets.
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