The insurer leaders’ panel at The Digital Insurer discussed the digitalisation of insurance, and what insurers need to do to survive in the digital era

The Digital Insurer

The concept of a digital insurer is still being defined, according to speakers at the Insurance Times Digital Insurer event.

When asked their views on what a digital insurer would look like, panellists taking part in the insurer leaders’ debate said they were still unsure as to what would define insurer in the digital era.

AIG chief operating officer for EMEA and interim managing director for the UK Nicolas Aubert said insurers were at the beginning of a story when it came to the definition of a digital insurer.

“We need to be very humble and curious,” he said. “Nobody can state precisely what it means to be digital today, because this is just the beginning of a very long story. But for me, the insurer that is digital is the insurer that is very capable at smartly using data.

“It’s about establishing how to take appropriate actions and decisions from the data to better service our customers. It is an overall chain of information, behaviours and decisions that are going to be taken at all levels of the business leading to a new relationship with the client.”

And fellow panellist Peter Hubbard, group chief executive at UK General, said digital insurers would be defined by the customers they serve.

“The customers are the ones that are going to drive what we have to do,” he said. “What we are seeing emerging is new forms of creativity. Increasing numbers of customers are starting to work out they can have an insurance transaction in a very different way to they’ve done it before.

“We have to look at where are the points of creativity in the UK market, and how do we support those in terms of the things we do to support newly created ways [of selling insurance].”

The panellists also said that insurers would need to offer a variety of different routes to market, and different channels for policy holders to contact their insurer if they are going to succeed.

And the mobile internet channel is one area where insurers are lagging behind, according to BGL Group chief executive Matthew Donaldson.

“If you look at the UK market, nearly 50% of customers access a price comparison site via a mobile device,” he said. “If you look at how many insurers on those price comparison sites that have a mobile optimised journey, it’s just 5%. This is just how far behind insurers are in the UK, and if you are under 33 the main device you are going to buy things on is your mobile phone.”

“It’s a real cultural shift,” he added.

But Hubbard said it was important not to get carried away with launching digital products too quickly.

“The danger is rushing around like headless chickens saying we have to launch all of these new products and services in a way that means we’ve gone so far ahead of the user that they don’t use it,” he said. “Fundamentally it’s about: do we understand what they want today and tomorrow but not in three years time? It’s about today and tomorrow, and if we can do that we can survive.”

Aubert said it was about adding value to the customer journey, not just launching a new product because you can.

“The point is not to launch some new sexy tools, the point is to have tools working for the customer, adding value to the interaction,” he said.