Innovative insurers have been swift to adapt to the new rules of the digital economy. Key to success in the fast-growing arena of digital services is the ability to partner with allies (aka ecosystems) within and outside the traditional insurance industry. A willingness to share resources and delivery platforms, and even customers, is essential.

The latest edition of the Accenture Innovation Series, a six-monthly review of innovation in the global insurance industry, highlights the growing importance of partnerships. Extending ecosystems and capitalizing on the culture of sharing are two of the biggest innovation trends in the insurance industry. Partnerships feature strongly in both these trends. They are also prominent in the three other major trends – the Internet of Things (IoT), new market opportunities, and the customer and user experience.

Several major insurers have recently teamed up with new allies to extend their digital ecosystems. They aim to enhance their distribution and marketing channels and use these new avenues to deliver new products and services.

Generali – The Italian insurer has acquired full control of British start-up MyDrive Solutions. The company will form the core of Generali’s data analysis hub that will serve all of the insurer’s business units. The carrier has also signed a deal with Obi Worldphones that will result in its proprietary mobile app appearing on the home page of around 10 million of the telecommunications firm’s smartphone customers.

BNP Paribas Cardif – The French insurer is backing the PoliHub in Italy in the launch of an innovation hub, Cardif Open-F@b, to encourage digital innovation.

MS&-AD – The Japanese insurer is using IBM’s innovative Watson artificial intelligence system to analyze customer claims by means of a combination of voice and text data. This alliance is already reducing the burden on MS&AD’s call centers.

UniSalute – A partnership with cosmetics firm Nivea is enabling the Italian carrier to promote its products and services in retail outlets. It used the theme “Protection at all times for you and your family” to increase consumer awareness about the importance of insurance.

The rapid growth of the sharing economy, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, has encouraged several innovative insurers to forge new alliances to capitalize on this trend.

AXA – The French firm is partnering with BlaBlaCar to provide insurance cover for drivers using the ridesharing service. The product complements the drivers’ existing insurance policies and also provides access to emergency and assistance services.

Centraal Beheer Achmea – The Dutch insurer is supporting the sharing economy by providing insurance cover for goods that are shared or lent on the Peerby digital platform. The insurance is available to borrowers of goods obtained using the Peerby service and covers potential damage.

Pan Africa Life Assurance and MicroEnsure – The two carriers have forged ties with Airtel Kenya to provide customers of the telecommunications firm with life, accident and hospital insurance. The benefits increase with greater usage of the mobile phone network. I particularly like this one as an example of microinsurance based business models that may find their ways also to mature markets in the rest of the world (see our studies on microinsurance and small ticket insurance market potential)

The traditional boundaries of the insurance industry are fast fading. The new digital economy offers enormous opportunities to insurers prepared to reach out into untapped markets and forge alliances with new partners.

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