Data, as often happens, helps to understand. The online search for health insurance products has grown by 800% in recent weeks. There has also been a sharp increase in the search for cover for event cancellation from viral contagion risks in service activities (retail, tourism, transport), which has grown by over 650%.
Digital traffic on the offers of some products for the person and the family (home, life, health, pets) and inquiries (via email phone, chatbot) about these products increased by 30%. Similar interest was registered by companies in business interruption risk hedges.
Trends have been detected in the last three weeks by the YOLO platform. Foreseeable, given the exceptional nature of the health emergency we are experiencing, but perhaps also anticipating what we will see in the near future. For a simple reason: the awareness of people and businesses for risk protection will be much stronger, and for a long time, than we have known so far. A phase is therefore about to open up that will require new responses from the insurance industry, in terms of products and support services, which are likely to be characterised by the use of digital technologies.
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Acceleration of technological innovation follows crises
It is interesting to note that the two major crises of the 2000s (the bursting of the internet bubble and global terrorism in 2000 and 2001; the subprime crisis in 2008) have led to an acceleration in the digitization of life and consumption habits. Google, Amazon, Ebay and Paypal were born at the beginning of the 2000s, while the 2008 crisis paved the way for the development of fintech and the global spread of different kinds of services (Uber and Airbnb to name a few).
The crisis of these days has different origins (while respecting the ten-year periodicity) but the pattern could be repeated: sudden changes in the consumer mindset determined by the depth of the emotional impact, the emergence of a new demand and birth of services (enabled by digital technological innovation) capable of responding to changing conditions.
Will it be the same this time? It’s possible. The keywords of the new model will be disintermediation, e-commerce, AI, teleworking, digital health and this is to be expected:
- an increased demand for protection linked to the perceived unpredictability and intensity of risky events (the effects of Covid-19 will predictably leave an unforgettable trace);
- more intensive use of digital channels to identify and purchase the most appropriate products for the new needs.
It is clear that such a situation will seriously test the whole business personal services industry and that fintech and insurtech players will gain a key role.
The status of the insurance industry
In order to successfully tackle this new phase, the Italian insurance industry will have to work on two fronts: the offer, in terms of extension of coverage and customization (there has been evidence of this in the face of the demands of these days); the distribution organization, to make it better suited to the social and economic background.
The approach of a cycle like the one just described opens unexpected gaps. The rather minor penetration of insurance in Italy has long been motivated by an Italian culture with little appetite for preventive risk management. It may be. Of course, the mindset of families, businesses and professionals is bound to change: to meet this evolution the industry is going to be reformed.
Hence the urgency, for companies and intermediaries, to allocate resources to investments in technology and human capital (useful for the innovation of the offer and of the operating and distribution models) and to build strategic alliances to face the market, bigger than the current one, which will take shape after the crisis.
Hence, speed of intervention and investment capacity: these two elements, rather than the current competitive position, will determine the ranking in the insurance industry, just as it has occurred in other sectors (banking, retail distribution, information).
The agenda of priorities for the near future
In short: a new phase in the services market is about to begin; the Italian insurance industry has an opportunity to develop, which will be seized by accelerating innovation. The agenda, for operators in the supply chain, is made up of five priorities:
- Design business strategies based on the integration between insurtech and traditional models.
- Plan company investments in technological and human capital as well as developing alliances also for system investments (in training, for example).
- Quickly provide new professional and technological skills.
- Design a customer centric and mobile centric offer.
- Make system to promote a functional regulation for the distribution of new offers.
Should this agenda be respected, we will give an effective response to the new demands for protection and security of citizens and businesses, the industry will keep on improving the economic growth and, perhaps, we will no longer talk about an under-insured country.
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