Tech Concerns Fade Among Global Insurers

London Editor

Vienna, Austria

The challenge of technology and e-commerce is no longer the most pressing concern facing insurance industry executives worldwide. Indeed, it does not even rank in the top four except among carriers in the United States and Canada, a survey taken here by the International Insurance Society at its annual conference revealed.

Across the entire IIS survey sample of 115 respondents, the four issues rated most often as the top concern of international insurance executives were “meeting customer demands,” “competing amid consolidation and concentration,” “managing capital and risk,” and “keeping talent suitable for todays markets.”

This is a dramatic change from two similar straw polls taken during the IIS meetings in 1999 and 2000, when the attendees named “technology and e-commerce” as the leading issue affecting the industry. The category of “retaining and acquiring talent” ranked as the second most pressing challenge in last years poll, while the third-highest concern was “rapidly changing markets, products and services.”

The fact that technology and e-commerce has dropped below the top three or four concerns in this years survey except in the United States and Canada is reflective of the growing realization that while this is an important issue that will revolutionize “our lives in many waysits not so clear how you get there,” according to Andrew F. Giffin, a principal with Tillinghast-Towers Perrin in Northport, N.Y.

As a result, some insurance executives are examining proposed IT expenditures and projects with increasing caution, looking “very carefully” at the real value and real costs of tech and Web initiatives, said Mr. Giffin, a vice president of the New York-based IIS who discussed the survey results during a press conference here.

In this years survey, two new categories–”meeting changing customer demands” and “managing capital and risk”–were additions to the list of top issues facing the industry. The issue of “meeting changing customer demands” has moved up the list of concerns because the industry is withdrawing from its traditional product focus to more of a real customer focus, replacing rhetoric with substance, according to Mr. Giffin.

“Competing amid consolidation and concentration” and “keeping talent suitable for todays markets” are carry-overs from last year’s survey and continue to be very important issues, he said.

However, unlike 2000, responses this year were very mixed overall and by region, Mr. Giffin noted, explaining that there was a lot of difference of opinion among the group as to what they thought were the most important issues facing the industry.

For example, in the United States and Canada tech issues made the top three, as the highest-rated responses were “competing amid consolidation and concentration,” “technology investment and development,” and “managing capital and risk.”

However, in Europe, the choices mentioned most often as being the executives first-, second- and third-most important concerns were “keeping talent suitable for todays markets,” “managing capital and risk,” and “developing effective distribution networks.” In Asia and Australia, the top responses were “managing capital and risk,” “meeting changing customer demands,” “competing amid consolidation and concentration,” and keeping talent.

The IIS survey did not receive enough responses from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa to establish clear leaders, the IIS said.

Of the 534 attendees registered, 115 people responded to this years survey–a response rate of 21.5 percent. There were 44 respondents from Europe; 36 from the United States and Canada; 24 from Asia/Australia; five from Latin America; and six from the Middle East/Africa.

The survey did not break down the respondents according to their company affiliation–such as life versus non-life companies. Participants were asked to rank their top three concerns from 12 possible choices.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Property & Casualty/Risk & Benefits Management Edition, July 30, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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