A future where customers make their own policy alterations, where call centres use television links to do business and where new customised products are constantly being offered – these are among the predictions of industry leaders in a future-gazing survey published in Insurance Times this week.
Cees Schrauwers, CGU Insurance managing director, says consolidation of the UK insurer market is not over. "RSA and CGU will need the market share and financial muscle to compete globally," he says. "Worldwide operations will become a key battleground."
Because of that, Bryan Jenkins, Hill House Hammond's managing director, predicts "a significant future for the high street office" and says HHH will be adding another 25 offices to its 260-strong branch network next year.
He explains: "The worldwide consolidation of insurance will have a knock-on effect in the high street and we believe that the smaller brokers will be acquired by the larger organisations, unless they specialise.
"Events have shown that the intermediary channel can compete with the new methods of distribution for financial services. We believe the channel will thrive in the new century ahead."
His ultimate boss, Patrick Snowball, Norwich Union General Insurance UK's chief executive, backs Jenkins' view, saying: "The future of the insurance industry will be shaped by the fact that everything can be connected to everything else. Consumers will be overwhelmed by choice, making the intermediary's skill in advising customers on the best choice for their needs extremely valuable."
Insurer consolidation can lead to less choice for brokers, but Mark Cliff, Axa Insurance' director of commercial and intermediaries, says "Insurers will look to create better products for increasingly well-informed and cynical consumers. So although choice of insurer may be restricted, underwriting flexibility will prove a necessity, albeit through a shorter list of product lines."
- For more on these views, and to see the predictions of Michael Bright, Quin Lovis, Max Taylor and Ian Chippendale, turn to the bound-in supplement following page 24.