Opinion  

Time for insurance to move into the future

Paul Hately

Friday 13 November 2020, the flu has hit and you are fed up. You let the boss know and head home for a good lie down. Getting home, you crash into bed and sleep.

Some things will change in the future – a good old-fashioned November flu will always remain the same.

As you peacefully convalesce the afternoon away, your trusty, diligent, reliable smart phone starts to put the pieces together. You left the office early, but there is no event in your calendar. Your wearable device registered little movement, high temperature. When you wake to make a cup of tea, your health app is waiting with a gentle message: “have you got the flu? can I recommend your favourite chicken soup?”

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You press OK and your devices take over. The phone pings the fridge, the fridge checks the freezer, the freezer talks to the supermarket, the supermarket responds to the affirmative and voila. Around eight o’clock, you shuffle sniffling to the door where a friendly delivery guy hands you a bag with the ingredients for a weekend supply of your favourite chicken soup.

I can easily see myself in this future. The internet of things, wearable devices, big data, mobile communications – these are not in the realm of science fiction anymore and there are smart companies out there pulling the smart devices together into a smart future.

I believe that our industry can find a place in this future. In fact, I believe it must. As people digitise more of their lives, they also build trust with the technologies that makes their lives easier.

The recipe for success in the data and technology driven future will not be as simple as the magic chicken soup for a winter sniffle. On the one hand, the fact that we have great technology does not mean that we will automatically better understand the people who buy cover. However, it will help us to put the right offer in a place where they will be looking for it.

The insurance industry will also need to find the knack of creating products that combine new media and new ways of using data.

This may not necessarily be as invasive as the health app of the future that pings you to ask about ordering chicken soup – but it may very well be showing customers the value of healthy efforts to their insurance policy.

Then there is the way products reach customers. Currently, we are very good at serving the affluent part of the market, especially for those that can afford to pay the distribution costs as a fee, or wrapped into their premiums. I do not think the type of advisory services that serve the top of the market can serve the vast number of people out there who are in the middle market. The key areas for protection here will be providing access and increased operational efficiency, especially around underwriting.