Revolutions always begin somewhere. The door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg with Luther’s 95 theses; the Swiss meadow (Rütli) where the oath that initiated the country’s search for independence was taken; and the tennis court near to the Palace of Versailles where the Third Estate, locked out of the Estates General, put in train the events that would shift power from the monarchy to the people.

Accenture Innovation Centre, London

Here’s where a more modest revolution perhaps started to gain some extra momentum—the futuristic Accenture Innovation Center in London, which is dedicated to making the future manifest in the present. Here, towards the end of March, the Accenture Digital Insurer Network was launched. The network—DIN to its close friends—brought together some 20 young and young-at-heart digital leaders from a number of Europe’s leading insurers; the next generation of insurance leaders. I was privileged to be one of the hosts of the two-day interactive forum.

While what was discussed at these meetings is obviously private, we all agreed that it would be appropriate to raise some of the broad issues in public forums so we could expand important conversations and even, who knows, recruit some new members the  network (if you are interested to join, please
contact me
) .

One important point was very obvious to me after a short time: there are a number of insurance orthodoxies holding back the digital transformation that everyone agreed was essential to keep insurers competitive in a rapidly changing customer landscape. These are:

  • Data must be kept within the organization. In fact, sharing data with partners could be the key to unlock new profit streams as the ecosystem model of insurance develops.
  • Products are everything. As the recent Accenture 2013 Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey shows, customers increasingly want personalized services: “products within a lifestyle context” if you will.
  • The corporate culture is established and can’t be changed. Well, culture change is about the hardest thing a company can undertake, but it can be done—and it is vital if insurers are to take full advantage of the potential offered by digital technologies to become truly customer-centric.
  • Price is something that insurers set, and there’s only one price. Interestingly, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s CEO Briefing 2014: The agenda for insurance for the insurance industry hints that insurance CEOs are already recognizing that price is somewhat more elastic these days. Many of us believe that digital technologies and the insights delivered from analytics will make it possible for insurers to price offers for individual clients based not only on risk but also on lifetime customer value.
  • The most pervasive orthodoxy of them all: the insurance industry will always be needed. Some of us worry that may just not be true, or that at best a very reduced role could be on the cards for insurers who don’t undertake a true digital transformation. The media attention and volume of enquiries from the finding, again from the Accenture 2013 Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey, that 67 percent of consumers would consider buying insurance from non-insurers, including 23 percent who would buy from online service providers like Amazon and Google.

And while drastic action may be necessary to inaugurate a revolution, there’s perhaps some chance that this won’t actually be necessary in insurance. While the CEO Briefing I alluded to earlier shows that while insurance leaders may not yet “get” the full scope of digital transformation—only 40 percent of them see this, lagging the industry average considerably—they are aware that a totally online (and thus digital) business is now a real possibility.

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