The recent market and economic crisis have been challenging to most insurers. Reduced sales volumes, lower investment returns, declining stock value and consumer behavioral changes are all evident in the property-casualty and life insurance markets.

As a result, insurers have had to realign their priorities for 2009, including restructuring their organizations, shifting business strategies and making hard technology decisions.

I'll be taking a look at such decisions during a session here at the conference on Monday, at 10:15 a.m., titled "Invest Or Be Left Behind: Staying Competitive & Innovating In Insurance."

Gartner research has found that there are four types of organizational responses to the current economic conditions. Insurers, based upon their strategy, product line, and financial structure, are taking different approaches to staying competitive.

The approaches are:

  • Maintain the status quo.
  • Focus on cutting.
  • Focus on agility.
  • Turn adversity into opportunity to overcome competitors.
  • The findings also show that most companies are taking the route of focusing solely on cost cutting and operational efficiency.

While this approach will serve short-term goals, such as reducing internal operations cost to drive greater profitability, it does not help to position the company long-term to be able to compete when the market conditions improve.

It is imperative that insurers invest in 2009 in areas which will allow them to respond to the market when it picks up again. Organizational agility can be created through improved infrastructure, legacy modernization, business process management and data/information management.

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