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In my first two articles of this three-part series, I analyzed how individual consumers and business customers relate to the insurance industry: What are their problems? What are their basic needs? And what are the key factors in order to satisfy those needs? In this third and final article, I will show in abbreviated form how consumers (individuals, companies and their employees) relate to the industry in similar fashion, have similar needs and the same key factors to satisfy this needs apply to both of them. I’ll also offer some key insights on how the same solution or business model can apply to both individuals and companies.
How do Individuals, Companies and their Employees relate to the Insurance Industry?
Individuals from all walks of life, companies of all sizes and types and their employees, throughout the world, relate to the insurance industry through three types of relationships: as a product mandated by law, as a benefit, or as a product bought through their own decision. Sometimes customers can choose if they want to buy direct, through a broker or agent or bank or other distribution channel, and from which carrier. In other cases, customer can’t make those decisions—they can only accept them. On top of all of this, keep in mind that we are dealing with a very complex industry that is mostly conducted with analog technology.
What are the needs of Individuals, Companies and their Employees?
Individuals, companies and their employees have two basic needs: autonomy and control. Consumers want the autonomy to consult information (for example, knowing what products do I have and where do I have them) and perform a transaction (Buy, Pay, Use, Modify, Renew) without having to consult a third party.
What are some of the key factors in order to satisfy these needs?
The two main factors in order to satisfy consumers needs are technology and the roles both brokers and carriers have to play.
Here I want to make reference to two specific articles, one by Caribou Honig, “The Road to success in the insurance industry” (2018), and a second one that I wrote: “API’s=The True Democratization of Insurance Distribution” (2019) that touch on the strategic importance of APIs. Web services/APIs—and especially open web services/APIs—will be the true game-changers in the insurance industry. We are only talking about changing the means in which we exchange information. It’s the only way a consumer can have autonomy and control.
Brokers’ & Agents’ Roles
When we are talking about consumers (individuals, companies and their employees), it is important to keep in mind that brokers and agents have a strategic advantage over the rest of the players in the industry because they have two roles that are very important for consumers moving forward, they can act as an advisor/consultant and as a distribution channel. This is even more relevant as we start looking at the insurance industry from the consumer’s perspective.
Moving forward it will be key for carriers to work in conjunction with brokers and agents in satisfying the needs of consumers. We must keep in mind that specifically with individuals, if they have a 360-degree view of all their products and the right advice from a broker/agent, they can realize they might have overlapping products or protection gaps. Building flexible products that can adapt to the different relationships a consumer has will be key. Also, when it comes to small and micro companies, developing products that fit the needs of these companies will be key.
Key Insights on a common solution for all consumers:
- It’s the best moment to start looking at the insurance industry from the consumer’s perspective. Digital adoption is at an all-time high. It’s imperative for all industries to put the consumer at the center of any business model.
- The pandemic has been a booster for both digitalization and the consumer wanting and demanding autonomy and control.
- Consumers need and demand autonomy and control. They want to be able to consult information and perform a transaction.
- All consumers, be they private individuals or companies and their employees, relate to the insurance industry in similar fashion, have similar problems, similar needs and the same key factors to satisfy those needs apply to all of them.
- 80 percent is the same everywhere; 20 percent is where the secret sauce is. Yes, there is a secret sauce.
- Web services/APIs, and especially open web services/APIs are key, there are no technical barriers, there are just political barriers.
- The two roles brokers/agents have as advisors and as a distribution channel give them a strategic advantage.
So, the question for incumbents and new entrants is “How are you going to differentiate yourself moving forward?”