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Written by David Clamp, Managing Director, Merlin Digital Consulting Ltd.

I recently attended Connect Media Consulting’s European Digital Insurance Summit. This year’s event brought together over 50 senior insurance thought leaders, and its innovative and interactive nature (think tank challenges, working groups, and case study sessions) created lively and challenging debate about the future of digital insurance in an era of digital disruption. So what are the key challenges and opportunities that senior leaders in the industry face today? Here is a summary of my top three takeaways.

Data and Advanced Analytics

Data enables insurers to see customers as unique individuals with their own needs and requirements, allowing simplification and personalisation of the customer experience at every touch point. However, right now point of sale and claims processes are often over-complicated. So, how can insurers reuse data in a smart way so that they can better understand both the customer and their risk? Here, the use of predictive analytics to provide bespoke offerings tailored to the needs of customers, plus personalisation of the customer journey, will be key to delivering more accurate customer profiling. This will help reduce the need for repeat questions, duplicate requests or re-keying of information as well as enabling insurers to use existing data sources. But in order to do this, insurers need to build trust and demonstrate that the information customers are sharing is of real and timely benefit to them.

There is clearly no shortage of data, but as an industry, insurers are still struggling to get any meaningful insight that produces action-orientated decisions. In short, the industry needs to get back to a place where data is an enabler, creating a customer-centric culture and providing a platform for innovation.

Changing Business Models

New technology is disrupting industries and changing customer expectations and demands.  In the insurance sector, on-demand, usage-based, peer-to-peer and social-enterprise business models are emerging because customers believe they are getting less value from their conventional Insurance.

New competitors, ranging from many Insurtech start-ups to Amazon and Google, are now playing in this space, and their digital capabilities and resources do not respect any established industry boundaries. As a result, they have the agility and speed to adopt and implement change far quicker than traditional insurers.

Innovation is happening on a massive scale, so for large-volume insurers to remain competitive, they need to radically review their current ‘after-the-event’ proposition and look at what new products, business models, and capabilities they will need to fully support customers in a world of loss prevention. They certainly need agility to be able to quickly build new products and services and adapt existing systems and processes as customers’ needs continue to evolve.

Smart Mobility

Disruptive trends such as urbanisation, a diminishing emotional attachment to cars, and a move to a sharing economy coupled with technology are creating the perfect storm taking us into an age of smart mobility.

Ernst and Young confirmed that the race to autonomous cars is fully underway. Many mainstream manufacturers are aiming to have level 5, fully autonomous cars on the road by 2021. Multi-billion pound investments from Tesla, Ford, and BP Energy are driving this forward at a rapid pace.

That said, there are still a lot of unanswered questions keeping insurers awake at night. How do they assess the risk and failure of a self-driving algorithm? How can they address legal disputes over where and how the fault occurred? Who is the customer? This could result in lower frequency of claims but higher value claims due to expensive sensors and legislative ambiguity, not to mention the ethical challenges that are currently being debated (do you programme the algorithm to protect the passengers or the pedestrian?)

Using AI, chatbots, and machine learning, the claims handling process could look very different in an autonomous world. For example, an accident occurs and is detected by sensors. The chatbot communicates with the customer via SMS, a sequence of questions is answered, the chat transcript recorded, a claim set up and then the repairer is automatically appointed and authorised.

Data from autonomous cars will give insight beyond what insurers have ever had before. It could indicate everything from the behaviour of passengers (weight on seats), suspension conditions, the ability to identify potholes/ black ice spots, to prevailing weather conditions prompted by use of automatic windscreen wipers.

There is a wealth of data that insurers can use to provide bespoke quotes based on usage, but the biggest risk is that they currently do not have access to this data. Therefore, insurers need to be collaborating with manufacturers now to ensure this happens.

In summary, it was clear from the summit that the key pain points in the industry are speed, agility, and adoption. How can insurers react quickly to new and emerging trends and technological disruption; how can they make sure they have access to that all-important data?

OutSystems is a vendor I’ve been working with over the past few months. They attended the summit and certainly have what it takes to deliver the agility and digital foundation many insurers are looking for. Not only does OutSystems have a proven track record in the insurance sector, but its market-leading solution also combines low-code development with advanced mobile capabilities so that it can be easily integrated with existing systems. OutSystems concentrates on building a digital framework that can tackle the changing demands and expectations from both the insurer and the wider business, enabling insurers to scale as demand grows.

The summit confirmed that doing nothing is not a viable option. Now is the time for insurers to have clear leadership, fully grasp the great opportunities that digital, prolific data and changing business models will bring, and to innovate in new and exciting ways so they can continue to offer value to their customers.

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout



UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.

He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.

“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of State’s (Dowden’s) assertion that the government’s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.

It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.

Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)


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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit



Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.

“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.

Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.

Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.

The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.

“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”


Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)


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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF



G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 3

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.


Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)


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