The Covid-19 pandemic hit the insurance industry hard, with confusion over whether losses resulting from the pandemic would be covered, resulting in difficulties with customers, legislation, and within the business itself - along with the need to immediately move all operations online, which posed its own difficulties. So, two years on, how does the industry look and what has changed for businesses? It is clear that, whilst the crisis created significant difficulties, it did bring some benefits. The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities in the insurance industry, reinforcing the need for evolution and technological investment1. Looking forward, the necessity for the insurance business to find new and improved ways of operating is expected to be further compounded by the cost of living crisis and recession. As seen with the 2008/9 financial crisis, devaluations in investments and increasing inability for customers to afford insurance is expected to lead to consolidation and an increased focus on efficiency2. Therefore, the changes that insurance companies had to implement as a result of Covid-19 may actually prove to continue to help them weather future crises, forcing them to confront problems that have arisen from a lack of technological implementation and advancement, as well as an increased need to deliver on customer service and consumer expectations.
As the country locked down, the insurance industry, like many others, had to shift into becoming entirely remote. This coincided with a boom in enquiries and a heightened need for customer service, with policyholders looking to change coverage or wanting answers about whether their policies for business interruption, life, health, and disability covered the impact of Covid-193. Fortunately, the industry responded well to this shift, quickly switching to digital and tech-enabled options that facilitated employees working from home4. Since the pandemic, while employees have returned to offices, businesses within the industry have continued to invest in technology, looking to automation and AI opportunities to reduce manual processes in an effort to recoup losses and mitigate difficulties encountered during the switch to working from home during lockdown5.
It’s not only a shift in ways of working that is driving changes in the insurance industry, but customers’ expectations have changed as well. Increasingly, frustration around understanding insurance products and not knowing what is or is not covered has driven a demand from customers that insurers be more transparent, with insurers experiencing reputational repercussions due to ambiguity in wording when people were trying to make claims during the pandemic6. This has meant insurers have had to work hard to regain customer trust and be able to provide user-friendly policies, platforms, and processes that consumers can be sure that they fully understand7. Customers want to know exactly what is and isn’t covered, meaning the fine print has to become far more accessible (and legible!).
The nature of the pandemic meant that certain types of insurance were impacted more than others, with travel, events, and trade credit insurance leading to significant initial losses for the industry8. Subsequent increases in premiums and changes to contracts to exclude coverage for the impact of Covid-19 outbreaks, meant a downturn in purchases of these types of insurance, as, increasingly, customers began to feel paying for coverage that didn’t cover the leading cause of loss was pointles9. However, not all forms of business have seen the same downturn. Surveys showed that 15% of participants would be looking to take out life insurance as a direct result of the impact of Covid-1910. Another study found that 40% of people now consider life and health insurance more important and over 50% of small business owners value business interruption, group life and health, and liability insurance more highly11.
Insurers are increasingly trying to capitalise further on these growing areas of insurance by providing a more personalised experience, building up their customer base by providing the flexibility and customisation that consumers have come to expect from service and product providers across every industry12. Insurance companies such as John Hancock life Insurance, for example, have been partnering with healthtech companies to gamify wearable usage and utilise more precise health data to provide greater personalisation and reward policyholders who prioritise their health with lower premiums13. Using comprehensive online insurance platforms has also proved popular amongst providers, giving customers the ability to easily adjust the level of coverage and products that they need, enhancing the consumer experience and providing highly tailored solutions to their needs, without requiring additional work from underwriters14.
The pandemic drastically changed customer preferences and behaviours across all industries. No-touch sales and underwriting processes became the norm and digital became an increasingly important enabler across the board15. Care does need to be taken, however, that policyholders that have limited access to digital channels are still supported, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable, as online-only options can be exclusionary to those who need insurance the most16. The solution is clear – implementing omnichannel solutions that allow every customer interact with their insurance provider the way they want to17. Providing multiple points of contact, all of which facilitate great service, is key, ensuring that those who want to purchase their plan online have just as good of an experience as those who choose to purchase in-person or over the phone. Equally those purchasing in-person should be given the same range of options to pay as those who purchase online, providing consistency and choice at every level18.
It is clear that the insurance industry is shifting, with digitalisation redefining the way customers are interacted with and changes in ease of access and transparency19. Insurers must continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with disruptive technologies to reinvent how the industry operates to mitigate for the shifts that have occurred since the pandemic20. They must also look for new ways to stay relevant in a world where many customers felt their policies failed them by not protecting them from damages from the pandemic, forcing them to reconsider whether spending on insurance should be a priority, especially in light of the predicted increase in so called “Black Swan” events as a result of climate change and socioeconomic factors21.
2 Citi GPS
9 Citi GPS
15 HCL Tech
20 HCL Tech