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Technology is just one piece of the digital transformation puzzle

How much has the way that you shop for clothes, buy books and insure your home changed over the past couple of years?

If the answer is that your first port of call is the internet, you’re not alone. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated consumers’ move to digital platforms: in India alone, 66% of respondents to a survey carried out by Swiss Re in 2020 said they would prefer to purchase their insurance online.

The insurance sector has previously been slow to adapt. But along with a rise in computational capabilities, a shift in consumer behaviour means that now is the time for the industry to accelerate its digital ambition.

The digital marketplace is driving new and more immediate routes to insurance – for instance, as an add-on to the purchase of a new smartphone or tablet.

It has also led to the development of digital-first players, who are challenging established industry leaders for customer attention.

What we all need is the right people, the right skills and the right culture to be successful in the online landscape.

This is how we can meet that ambition.

1. Harness data

Two trends have led to an explosion of available data: computers have become exponentially more powerful, with connected devices observing changing behaviour; and everything is accessible in the here and now, via smartphones.

These trends have the potential to revolutionise the insurance industry, bringing with them the opportunity to understand and meet customer needs in a more agile way.

Many things we touch or feel gives off data. The question is, how can we harness that in the right way to provide an understanding that leads to better risk profiling and improved services?

It’s something we’re already working on – for instance, by using risk modelling to better understand the threat of hurricanes, so that development is diverted from high-risk areas.

We’ve also used data to create a new risk score for vehicles. Capturing incremental safety improvements in each make and model of car, it enables more accurate pricing for car insurance.

2. Be purpose-driven

Of course, data is just part of the wider picture, because everything should link back to your corporate purpose.

At Swiss Re, our purpose is making the world more resilient, by reducing and eventually closing the protection gap. For example, we’re aiming to eliminate the health protection gap by enabling mobile payment platforms, so that no one gets left behind when it comes to coverage.

Our focus on solving the challenges our customers face is the key driver for how we use technology and data. None of it would be possible if we didn’t have the right talents, the right culture and the right way of doing things.

We believe in building teams that bring together the best of multiple generations, cultures, skill sets and thinking. It’s something we draw upon to understand our clients and markets, develop smarter solutions together and help the world to rebuild, renew and move forward.

3. Put the customer first

As an organisation, we’re also becoming even more customer-centric as we move to digital. How? By using data insights to help create more personalised products that mirror a customer’s life journey and events like buying a home, starting a family, or setting up a new business.

We constantly need to ask ourselves how we can make the process of buying insurance easier, by walking in others’ shoes and asking what pinch points need to be addressed.

Technology solutions can help insurers to better understand customer needs and their risk exposure and address them. But we are still aware that there may be points in the insurance chain where the first point of contact should be a human, not a robot.

It is technology and culture together that will help us to develop the right solutions at the right time.

4. Be nimble and adaptable

Culture change can be the most challenging part of any transformation. Often, your team will only fully grasp what they are being asked to do by doing it. Helping people to innovate is a critical part of embedding any new culture.

Trying new approaches is also key. A lot of people still think it’s not acceptable to fail at things. But you can choose to use experimentation as a learning experience: look at what didn’t go right and ask what you’re going to do differently next time.

Most importantly, delegate tasks and empower all your team members. This allows for more agile and responsive ways of working, rather than getting bogged down in every decision being made by a committee.

5. Build on your strengths

Any skills or knowledge gaps can be filled with partnerships that promote joint interests.

One area of focus for us is on upping our tech IQ and EQ, bringing in external speakers as part of a global event so the whole company can learn from outside expertise.

We have some successful projects that already show how well this can work, like our collaboration with Iceye to advance flood risk management, or our white-label insurance provider iptiQ, a digital insurance engine that facilitates comprehensive, bespoke coverage.

An appetite for digital change is growing at the same time as a rising need for insurance. Now it’s up to us to act on that momentum. Let's seize the opportunity. Once people start seeing the insurance industry can do this, they will believe it.

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