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The Big Round Table – Navigating Uncharted Waters

On Wednesday 5th May 2021, the Camelot Network gathered around its virtual “Big Round Table” once more to collaboratively explore transformation – in particular, regarding new pressures for change – in insurance.

A number of experts, including ex and current C-suite insurance leaders, came together to discuss important lessons the industry must learn in order to meet the modern needs of the customer.

The Topic in hand:

“The Future of Insurance – Navigating Uncharted Waters” – what are the new pressures for change in insurance, and what are the best strategies to respond to them?

It’s a subject area with near unbounded potential, so we decided to ground the discussion with the help of three wonderful guests: Paulo Cuomo, Parul Kaul-Green and Maarten Ectors.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the three main takeaways from a very collaborative conversation.

  1. To get an advantage over uncertainty, be comfortable with it

The Covid-19 pandemic has simultaneously unearthed new secrets whilst also challenging industry professionals in how best to adapt to a new pace of change.

In the words of Paulo Cuomo – we’re increasingly part of a ‘VUCA’ (volatile, unpredictable, changing and ambiguous) world. This has raised a number of key challenges, the prime one revolving around how we react to such uncertainty, much of which has been heightened by the global health crisis.

While it may seem like an extra, unnecessary layer of red tape, adopting a considered approach to decision-making (for instance, Paulo referred to the OODA (Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act) Loop)) can be the difference between quick reactions in a shifting global context or stagnant, restrictive processes.

With the end goal – making your company stand out against your competitors – remaining one of the few constants of a post-Covid-19 world defined by ambiguity, it’s important to embrace those individuals who see unpredictability as a challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle.

In other words, the advancement of insurance is dependent on ‘uncertainty advantage’ – those who can react most confidently to change and ambiguity, with flexible processes and technology designed to enable successful adaptation.

To read the full summary of Paulo’s talk at the Big Round Table click here.

  1. Develop ‘evergreen technologies’

Returning back to the impact of the pandemic on the insurance industry, the sector has been forced to discover and revisit certain uncomfortable truths.

With regard to the former, that profit margins are feeling the squeeze due to factors like ‘reduced economic activities from clients’1, and in relation to the latter, that the lack of investment in technology continues to slow down progress within the industry.

The two are, of course, very much linked and have fundamentally become more inter-reliant as a direct result of the pandemic. More specifically, Covid-19 has encouraged increased innovation, further highlighting the need for the insurance sector to overcome its outdated models in a bid to realise immediate and long-term benefits that will boost margins and allow companies to meet the needs of customers.

Lagging behind other industries in technology adoption, however, has meant that insurance organisations are facing a piling mountain of technology debt.

That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom, with evergreen technologies providing the industry with a lifeline, ‘adding, tactically, certain capabilities’1, in order to address the clear disparity in technology use compared to other sectors.

1 – Parul Kaul-Green ~ Big Round Table, 5th May 2021

  1. Find the RIGHT problem to fix

While it’s extremely useful to consider where we are now, in light of the effects of the pandemic, it’s worth bearing in mind how exactly we got here and, ultimately, how the challenges (and solutions required) have evolved.

The shift from pre-digital to a digital world brought with it new rules, including market fit and speed. In other words, customers need to feel that they are being given the product that satisfies their requirements.

Drawing on Parul Kaul-Green’s concerns, it can, and will, be extremely difficult for the sector to address the challenges of tomorrow if it is unwilling to address its mounting technology debt today. Underwriting, in particular, is an area identified as being in desperate need of automation as insurance looks to play catch up with other industries in the adoption of innovation.

As Maarten Ectors notes, insurers who fail to embrace innovation and the rules of the digital world will risk becoming ‘the next Blockbuster in the world of Netflix’2.

There has been an increasing emphasis on strategies necessary to navigate past ever-changing global circumstances and challenges as businesses hope to emerge from the health crisis unscathed and, hopefully, successful.

It was important to note that merely being willing to face ambiguity and uncertainty is only one rung in the ladder to business success, with it becoming increasingly apparent that the sector must look to embrace innovation wherever possible and be open to learning from the mistakes of other industries.

To read the full summary of Maarten’s talk at the Big Round Table click here.

2 – Maarten Ectors ~ Big Round Table, 5th May 2021

What else did we learn?

Going a step further when it comes to the lack of confidence, mainly at an executive level, in implementing innovation, a resistance to adopting new ideas was a clear focal point from which numerous strands of frustration streamed off.

With regard to the ideation process, a constant source of bafflement permeates from those championing innovation in terms of the lack of fresh blood, so to speak, in organisations.

That’s not to dismiss the knowledge on offer from experienced industry professionals but rather highlights the need for the insurance sector to draft in younger minds. Ultimately, the insurance space is in dire need of fresher ideas and perspectives, as the pandemic has revealed. In other words, individuals who can furnish their companies with the aforementioned uncertainty advantage required to meet the challenges of an ever-changing global context.

Going back to the common theme of cultural/structural obstacles, however, embracing innovation against the backdrop of executive inaction shouldn’t be considered a war of attrition fuelled by the supercharging of innovation generation.

The culture has to first change industry-wide in order to facilitate strategies designed to respond to emerging pressures. Merely identifying the mismatch between waterfall thinking and agile thinking is only the first step, with it perhaps being necessary to compartmentalise big concerns into manageable goals that executives feel comfortable signing off on.

Change doesn’t have to feel like a daunting process, though it is absolutely necessary – certainly if persistent bugbears in the industry, from a perceived lack of customer centricity to monolithic processes, are to be vanquished.

As Gary Nuttall aptly noted with his restaurant to online delivery analogy, there is plenty of inspiration to be spotted across other industries in terms of adapting to the ‘new normal’.

Further reading:

Want to join us for the next Big Round Table?

The Camelot Network’s next Big Round Table event is Thursday July 1st, 4-5:30pm. Registration link coming soon.

What would you like the topic of debate to be?