Executive insight

One small step…leads us closer to 2030

So, let’s contemplate life in 2030. Why 2030 you ask? It is still far enough away to allow science and technological advances to mature to the stage where they will likely transform our lives, but close enough to provide a sense of urgency to act. This dateline also forces us to confront the future and ask ourselves what do we need to do today to ensure we are fit for purpose tomorrow?

When at Ageas we started to work on our 3-year strategic plan “Connect21” we asked ourselves this exact same question. We considered the environment, demographics, technology, science, the economy and evolutions in customer behaviour, but we then took a leap of faith into the unknown. Our goal was to better understand the things we cannot yet see – the unpredictable. We had no preconceptions. Nothing was out of bounds.  And we considered a wide range of what ifs. 

What if there are no government safety nets and we live in a world where individuals must take care of health and pension coverage themselves? What if customers move away from individual risk towards a sharing economy? What if these collective risks are taken over by the biggest insurers leading to global consolidation? What if the banks become obsolete? What if artificial intelligence and robotics dominate our lives as customers and our processes as an insurer? Based on a range of extreme scenarios, we made our own choices, reflecting the common ground we discovered across all scenarios, the so called ‘non-regret’ moves. 

We concluded that we need and want to be hyper-relevant to our customers, which means that our offering and the customer experience need to be highly personalised and constantly evolve in line with customers’ changing circumstances. Accenture’s 2017 Global Consumer Pulse Research found that 76% of consumers would re-evaluate their choices if a new company would excel at relevance compared to their current one. We want to be in that space. 

We chose to leverage the growth opportunities in Life and Health and we recognised that the transformation in the Non-Life space will open up new routes for revenues in services. This means going beyond the traditional areas of activity for insurers – protect and prepare – towards prevention and assistance – which in turn means the evolution of a business model that over time will fundamentally change the relationship between insurers and their customers forever. Brand new partnership models will begin to emerge, creating opportunities for alliances across distribution, related services, business expansion and M&A, eventually growing into full ecosystems around the customer. Across all potential scenarios, technology will remain front and centre both as a critical enabler but also as a differentiator. And finally, we remain convinced that even in the long-term, an important part of the insurance activities will remain fundamentally local. Being on the ground and truly integrated into local society allows insurers to identify the local customers’ needs while enabling the insurer to participate in all aspects of the customer journey. 

Insurers are now at a crossroads where they need to decide which path to take based on where they see opportunities in the future, and the role they want to play in the lives of their customers. The choices are to carry on doing what we do today, ignoring the potential for massive disruption in the industry, at the risk of being marginalised or at worst deemed no longer relevant. Or recognise that under all scenarios, action needs to be taken today to ensure that insurers keep pace and stay relevant to their customers tomorrow.  

There are many research studies out there that seek to predict life in 2030 and beyond. As with all predictions, some will prove to be accurate and others will prove to be works of fiction. But can we really afford to do nothing at all? At the same time, predicting the future is not a one-time exercise.  For companies like ours, stepping into the future will be fully integrated into our “business as usual” processes, allowing us to predict, assess and adapt our strategy as our customers and technology evolve. 

Regardless of where you see insurance evolving and how the role of an insurer is ultimately defined, one thing is clear, the time to think 2030 and to act is now.