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Amazon to go head-to-head with advisers

Amazon to go head-to-head with advisers

Amazon, the online retail giant, could soon become the world's biggest distributor of insurance products, putting it in direct competition with brokers and advisers.

This is the warning from insurance and technology specialists, in response to news that Big Tech companies such as Amazon and Google are building up their presence in the retail insurance market. 

Seth Rachlin, executive vice-president, P&C, insurance lead at Capgemini, told FTAdviser: "Amazon is well-positioned to enter the insurance market. There is a lot of room for continued innovation and we are already seeing the erosion of the traditional broker market. 

"Because of Amazon's existing captive market, they have relationships with millions and millions of customers, who interact daily with the platform."

This means it could select certain insurance providers, tailored for each domestic market in which it operates, to feature on its platform, giving consumers the option to choose from policies and providers.

This presents an opportunity and a threat: a chance for insurers to reach more people with their branding and product information - and a threat to brokers who know products and policies inside out.

"Amazon would effectively become the broker. The ability of the company to take 10 per cent or 15 per cent of every dollar of premium would be attractive", Mr Rachlin predicted.

Ian McKenna, director at Finance & Technology Research Centre (F&TRC), commented: "When we see genuine consumer-focused organisations offering life insurance, the traditional market is likely to be decimated and, in the short-term, this is a bigger threat to advisers than it is to insurers.

"In all likelihood, the first operations will be joint ventured between life offices and new entrants, and insurers' voracious appetites for new business will lead them to offer facilities to these new entrants that advisers should have had offered to them years ago."

He added: "Look how many insurers have set up special teams to address the so-called 'new distribution'. The insurance companies are to blame, but it is the IFA initially who will feel the pain."

Steve Andrews, head of managed services at Focus Solutions, agreed that Big Tech can really gain an advantage in bringing their "knowledge and experience" of how to use data and how to market to consumers into new markets. 

Mr Andrews stated: "Firms such as Amazon have not only become global superpowers; they have changed consumer buying habits forever. 

"Expectations on customer experience, speed of delivery, service, communication methods - all these have changed from the traditional model."

In August, Google announced a deal to help provide quality, affordable healthcare to Americans, with news that Google’s parent firm Alphabet has invested $375m (£295m) into insurance provider Oscar Health.

This followed an initial $165m (£129m) round of funding earlier this year. In addition, Google executive Salar Kamangar is set to join the board of Oscar Health, which was founded in 2012.