Dual pricing, the GISC, ecommerce, single-digit commissions and mega-mergers are having a profound effect on the industry. It is easy to focus on how “insurance will never be the same again.” But rather than look back, you should embrace these commercial realities and concentrate on remaining competitive in a stressful marketplace.
It is not only the insurance industry that is undergoing change. Every industry has its variations on the themes as the internet and changing consumer expectations gain hold. Companies like Amazon.com and LastMinute.com may have created a perception that the new economy is more about spin than profit, but there are companies who have adapted and are successful.
Standing still is clearly not an option. The internet will change the industry beyond creating a new “Direct Line.” There will be fundamental changes to the way products are put together, sold and serviced – and if you don't do it, your competitors will.
Every few years, Charles Schwab actively sets out to destroy its own business. The stock brokerage has consistently exploited developments in technology, seeking to lower its operating costs and make the customer's experience more fulfilling. Each innovation is set the task of destroying the existing business – the internet business seeks to steal phone customers. This approach keeps the company fresh and a few steps ahead of the competition.
I've often spoken about the need to find new ways of generating more revenue from customers. Many insurance professionals believe they have a “god-given right” to do business, but smart companies are looking at the customer as a whole, not just as a consumer of insurance products. They want to own more of the “wallet share” – not less with cheaper policies.
Rather than just buying your weekly groceries online, Streamline will collect your dry-cleaning, return your videos and carry out a host of other services designed to make your life easier. While competitors fight it out by cutting cost to the consumer, Streamline differentiates itself with value-add services – and it can charge a premium.
Most people only hear from their insurance providers when they want money. There is little dialogue and scant value-add in the form of advice or guidance.
Countrywide Home Loans, a US company selling home loans, is using email-based newsletters to keep people coming to its site. The newsletter contains useful tips, updates and other information. It doubles traffic to their site, but it also keeps the dialogue going.
Perhaps the most telling difference between the new and old economies is attitude. Rather than complain about how they can't live on single-digit commissions, new economy leaders are finding ways they can. Somehow you need that same entrepreneurial spirit.
Ross Hall is founder of Garol Strategic Consultancy. He has produced a short guide to “The New Economy,” which can be obtained by emailing email@example.com, or calling +44 (0)20 8902 0618.