How Insurers Gain Competitive Advantage by Better Addressing Society’s Needs
At its core, insurance inherently benefits society by protecting individuals and organizations from adverse events. When insurance companies cover the cost of medical treatments, protect farmers from extreme weather, provide an income to families of deceased breadwinners, or rebuild destroyed infrastructure, they are, as recently described by The Economist, acting as ‘Guardians of the Future’. By monetizing economic, security, health, and other risks, the insurance industry directly benefits when societal conditions improve. Reducing accidents, improving health, helping organizations better prepare for the economic risks they face, and decreasing harm in numerous other ways all improve the profitability of insurers. When insurance is available, individuals and companies can take on risks that enable them to be more innovative and productive.
Studies have shown that when smallholder farmers obtain crop insurance, for example, they plant riskier but more valuable crops, increase their incomes, and send their children to school. Evidently, insurance is the ultimate shared value industry, where social impact is integral to economic success. Despite this, many insurers remain stuck in a passive, actuarial model rather than pursuing shared value, thereby overlooking many opportunities to enhance outcomes for both the company and society. Insurers benefit more than almost any industry from societal advances, but have lagged in proactively tackling the societal conditions that will most affect their businesses.
Three Reinforcing Strategies to Create Shared Value
Strategy 1: Prevent risk and dynamically reward risk reduction
- Know and own the problem
- Design a comprehensive prevention scheme
- Incentivize uptake
- Deepen propositions and inclusiveness
Strategy 2: Close the protection gap for the underserved
- Identify the under-served
- Build trust and insurance literacy
- Create simple and affordable solutions
- Add tangible/short-term benefits
Strategy 3: Invest assets in prevention and protection system
- Including “prevention” as investment criteria
- Deploying “soft” capital
- Reaping synergies across the three shared-value insurance strategies
Spotlight on Prevention: Discovery Vitality
Discovery, a South African financial services group founded over 25 years ago that offers health, life, and short-term insurance, aims to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives. Discovery developed Vitality to improve health outcomes through behavior-change incentives focused on health promotion. The model leverages advances in behavioral economics such as rewards and discounts, personalized technologies including wearables and smartwatches, and data analytics to facilitate changes in health behaviors. Discovery’s Vitality business model has been shown to lower morbidity and mortality rates and, therefore, the cost of claims through independent research.
Spotlight on the Protection Gap: IAG
IAG reached out to 2,500 customers and stakeholders beyond the customer base to understand their most pressing needs. Broader community breakdown was identified as an issue that also impacts IAG’s bottom line, because strong community ties drive stronger disaster resilience. To increase relevance and connection to and resilience within communities, IAG developed the ‘Good Hoods’ program. It encourages people to take a first step of connection and interaction by listing existing neighborhood initiatives and encouraging the launch of new ones, ultimately aiming at a more resilient “nation ready for anything.”
Spotlight on Investment: Skandia
Skandia zeroed in on Virgin Pulse, a company in the Virgin conglomerate that develops technological tools to address employee and workplace wellness. The asset management team, knowing about Skandia’s interest in preventive work for health, brought the Virgin app investment to the attention of the health team. The two teams jointly analyzed the opportunity, and in 2016 decided to make further direct investment of SEK 100M (US$11 million) in Virgin Pulse, leaving Skandia with a 2 percent ownership stake in the company. As part of this investment, Virgin Pulse has developed an app for Skandia to measure employee health and fitness levels.
Societal Needs Reframed as Innovation Hot Spots
Richer and Healthier Working Lives (health, life, pension insurance)
The nature and pressures of working life are evolving as people need to adapt to multiple and frequently changing jobs, self-employment through the “gig” or “sharing” economy, or new technology. People suffer from increased general levels of stress, mental illness, and other diseases, while public welfare support generally is on the decline due to budget constraints.
Healthier, Independent, and Fulfilled Aging (health, special care insurance)
The aging population is a global phenomenon. For instance, in Europe the 65+ population will grow to 53 percent in 2060. With longer lives come significant opportunities to keep people active, healthy, independent, and feeling a sense of purpose.
Healthier and Safer Urban Living (health, life, property and casualty insurance)
Over 54 percent of people across the globe lived in urban areas in 2014. The number of people living in cities will double to some 6.4 billion by 2050. The opportunities urbanization brings are vast, with some 60 percent of all urban buildings that will exist by 2050 not yet built.
Greater Disaster Resilience (property, casualty, life, health insurance)
As climate change progresses further, extreme weather events will increase in frequency and severity, exposing more and more communities to disasters. Global losses and damages caused by extreme weather events, including hurricanes and flooding, have been estimated at up to US$200 billion a year since 1980.
More Secure Rural Livelihoods (crop and health insurance)
Both small and large farms will play a critical role in achieving food security and secured rural livelihoods as global population grows more than ever. Evidence shows that insured farmers switch to higher risk/return crops, invest 24 percent more in fertilizers, and 13 percent more in farm cultivation and preparation in comparison to their uninsured peers.
New Capabilities for Execution
Mastering behavioral sciences:
Any shared value strategy focused on prevention will demand customers and value-chain partners to think and behave differently. Bolstering internal capabilities in behavioral science (including behavioral economics and psychology), sharing data across the value chain, and being willing to experiment with different incentives is the new frontier.
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No company operates in isolation; each exists in an ecosystem where lack of value-chain services, weak government, and civil society relations and distrust may curtail its potential. Success in creating shared value requires companies to work on three levels to influence broader ecosystems change.
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