P&C Carriers Seek Improved Underwriting Profitability in 2013: Ernst & Young

In spite of the uncertain economic environment and limited investment income opportunities, property & casualty insurers will be able to pursue growth opportunities in 2013 through acquisitions, international global expansion, and product solutions that target new insurable risks and coverage, predicts Ernst & Young in its Global Insurance Center U.S. Property-Casualty Outlook. 

“Outperforming competitors will require insurers to maximize customer profitability and persistency by continuing to invest in infrastructure, systems, intellectual capital, and technology,” says David Hollander, Global Insurance Advisory Leader at Ernst & Young LLP. "Insurance carriers can seize growth opportunities by improving analytical and decision-making capabilities, cross-selling products, and using marketing data to increase customer retention and encourage business expansion. Growth and profitability strategies need to be developed across the enterprise and balanced against the risks they may produce.”

Ernst & Young believes the following market forces will drive U.S. property-casualty insurance companies’ priorities over the coming months:

  • Invest in the business for the long term, as a response to the difficult investment environment.  Consumers increasingly look to technology-enabled transformation to improve the insurance service experience. They want real-time solutions that can be delivered through mobile communication and other channels. Such expectations are difficult to achieve without substantial insurance technology upgrades that provide real-time insurance interaction with consumers. Technology can also enhance operational efficiencies, increase underwriting productivity and contribute to better oversight of the claims process. Early detection of potential adverse claims through analytical capabilities can sharpen an insurer’s competitive edge, while yielding cost savings in times of economic volatility.
  • Prepare for changes in the regulatory environment. In 2013, insurers will confront rising activity from state and regulatory authorities focusing on strengthening insurance solvency protection systems, such as Solvency II, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Solvency Modernization Initiative to view the U.S. insurance capital adequacy system, and the NAIC’s Own Risk Solvency Assessment. To prepare and address regulatory pressures to enhance risk management, insurers must increase their data management, reporting and analytical resources, and their organizations’ ability to integrate risk data across disciplines. This may require additional investment in education and other strategies. Given that much of the solvency framework is still in progress, insurers need to be flexible to stay on top of emerging regulatory trends, while preparing for escalating data, reporting and governance demands.
  • Exploit opportunities and address challenges with ‘Big Data.”  Insurers have an opportunity to integrate and leverage data capabilities across the entire value chain, from distribution and underwriting to customer service and claims. Explosive growth in the abundance and types and data, and the speed with which it is delivered, demand a new company operating structure and enhanced governance systems to address data security. Step one involves getting existing data management capabilities in order to extract meaningful information and integrate data from multiple sources typically housed in various functional areas. Insurers will need to invest in talent with the skill sets necessary to collect, analyze, disseminate and manage massive volumes of data.
  • Identify growth opportunities and begin to execute them. Acquisitions are one way for insurers to diversify and expand by location, product or distribution source. Premium growth opportunities in the U.S. may derive from insuring new or emerging exposures in cyber liability, nanotechnology and energy. Meanwhile, by using marketing data to target those consumers most likely to buy multiple insurance policies, insurers can leverage opportunities to expand their businesses and increase retention over the long term. Given the drawbacks to being concentrated entirely in one country, insurers can benefit by turning to emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, that offer lower insurance penetration rates and potential for economic expansion.
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