As I noted in my first blog post in this series, insurance organizations have leveraged digital platforms from third parties for several years. Carriers and brokers were early to recognize the potential of leveraging Google’s platforms for advertising. And in markets such as the UK, aggregators’ platforms account for about 60–70 percent of new personal insurance premiums.

The challenge for insurance carriers right now is to embrace a more holistic strategy that balances tactical decision-making with strategic investing in the digital ecosystems that will encompass their long-term growth. This will allow them to position themselves at the heart of the emerging digital markets that will determine tomorrow’s leaders in every industry.

94 percent of insurers say adopting a platform-based business model and engaging in ecosystems with digital partners is critical to their success

Achieving this takes an innovation-led mindset:

  • Research and development
  • An open innovation approach
  • Investment in growth-stage companies to shape emerging technologies
  • Alliances with the right mature technology partners

Think of it as taking a leadership role in disruption. Insurance carriers will need to consider ecosystems and platforms across all internal departments when they choose third-party providers, technology infrastructure vendors or security partners. These decisions will affect future value chains as well.

Will your marketing partner work seamlessly with your agents and aggregators? Do your preferred auto repair shops use the same cloud services provider to simplify data exchange? Does the AI startup in which your company just invested determine the future of your front-end engagement to customers—and ultimately brand?

Accenture predicts in seven years time, an industry leader from today will have transformed into an ecosystem company spanning multiple markets. The enterprise will lie at the center of a disruptive ecosystem, holding no physical head quarters and few permanent staff. It's highest-valued asset will be a digital platform.

As insurers look to expand into the next generation of digital ecosystems, some may build platforms themselves and create ecosystems with their business at the center. Creating a platform can enable carriers expand into new markets, create compelling new customer experiences and monetize their customer relationships by offering third-party services in an extended ecosystem.

Others will find it cheaper and faster to leverage existing platforms as their means to enter new ecosystems. For example, some insurers have already built services for Alexa, the virtual assistant that is emerging as Amazons interface to its smart home ecosystem.

Such platforms give insurers rapid access to pools of customers and, in the process, can drive more sales, improve customer service, and create a better customer experience. In leveraging these entry points, carriers are no longer driving customers to traditional touchpoints used to build strong relationships, like their own apps and website.

They can also pursue both strategies for different lines of business. They could develop a platform for lines of business or geographies where they have a strong consumer-facing brand and advice-led sales, and leverage other platforms for products that are highly commoditized or to extend their reach into new markets.

Whichever route they take, insurance leaders will be thinking about how to take a prominent role in their customers’ future lives and create business models that keep their brands in the forefront of the ecosystem. The race is on, as companies across industries begin to forge the relationships that will drive their next waves of growth.

Read the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 report

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