By building new platforms or leveraging existing ones, insurers will become future leaders of the digital marketplace.

In this blog series, I’ve looked at ecosystem power plays and what they mean for the future of the insurance industry. I’ve put forward the case studies of Ping An and Tune Protect Insurance as examples of digital ecosystems in the Asia region that are thriving through successful partnerships.

In this post, I’ll discuss the way forward for insurers in their quest to unlock the next wave of growth and to tap into and Unleash the Power of Us (to quote from our Technology Vision for Insurance 2017). How can insurers follow in Ping An’s footsteps and become leaders in the next wave of emerging digital markets?

Relationship-building is not a new concept in the insurance industry; in fact, I daresay it’s what most of our endeavors are based on. Think of the ecosystem power play, therefore, as relationship-building in the digital age. 

The challenge for insurance carriers is to embrace a more holistic strategy that balances tactical decision-making with strategic investing in the digital ecosystems that will enable their long-term growth.

What this means is that, although most digital ecosystems are still small—examples are to be found in the connected home, connected health and precision agriculture sectors—the time to build these strategic partnerships is now.

Insurers can choose to build their own platforms and invite others to join their new ecosystem, or to leverage existing platforms and enter established ecosystems. Communication platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat, or artificial intelligence intermediaries like Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri have the potential to give insurers access to a more connected consumer.

What can insurers do in the short-term? Our Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 recommends: 

  1. Conduct a market scan of the most relevant platforms for your customers.
  2. Determine the platforms your organization most relies on, as well as those that most depend on you. These are the ecosystems where your organization should hold its strategic and market strengths.
  3. Have a strategy summit with your closest partners to understand their goals for the future. Uncover shared goals and commit to developing a strategic plan for achieving them together.
  4. Evaluate your options—build an ecosystem around a customer need (transport, healthcare) or participate in someone else’s. Make the choice based on customer lifecycle events and the insurer’s role.
  5. Consider your organization’s future through the lens of the biggest disruptions shaping your market. Craft the role of your company in this future, and develop a list of partners who can help make it a reality.
  6. Develop metrics to quantify the results of ecosystem participation. These may include sales growth, application programming interface (API) requests, customer satisfaction and the growth of new partnerships.

For long-term growth, Accenture recommends that insurers take the following actions over the next 12 months:

  1. Extend a significant portion of a core business function to a third-party platform or digital aggregator. Build a bigger stake in an emerging ecosystem, bringing its strengths into your organization.
  2. Use an existing partnership to pilot building your own ecosystem. Make your selection based on complementary strengths, like mature platforms or digital services. Start with one joint offering, such as combining services into a single point of access.
  3. Prepare a foundation for expanding your ecosystem by making a significant investment in either a start-up or a joint venture that will establish a foothold in an area critical to your organization’s transformation.
  4. Appoint a cross-functional team and a C-suite sponsor to guide long-term ecosystem efforts.

This step-by-step approach will help you lay the foundations for your future digital value chains. This, in turn, will enable you to place yourself at the heart of the emerging digital markets. Tomorrow’s leaders are born today—so let’s get started on building those digital ecosystems.

For more information on ecosystem power plays and what your business can do to grow its digital ecosystems, download the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 and our report on insurance ecosystems.

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