Evolution of insurance distribution channels

Thanks to the increased technological sophistication of end-users, insurers must find more innovative ways to engage with their customers. Additionally, the growth of insurtechs has created a new market dynamic where incumbents must adapt or lose their relevance. According to Annalie Terblanché, product manager at SilverBridge, this has resulted in the diversification of insurance distribution channels.

“Fortunately, insurers do not have to reinvent the wheel. They can capitalise on the greatest asset at their disposal – the large amounts of historical data they have access to. While insurtechs are seen to be agile and more adaptive to change, the incumbents can draw invaluable insights from customer data to identify channels with the highest likelihood for success,” she says.

Already, some of the fastest-growing channels worldwide are affinity and retail partners as well as a burgeoning bancassurance (the selling of insurance products by banking institutions) segment. Furthermore, mobile and Web have become fundamental in reaching insurance customers.

“These are all areas where insurers can leverage their data analytical capabilities and carefully target existing (and new) customers using the channels most relevant to them. Of course, mobile and Web must be the foundation on which many of these engagements are built. But by starting to think outside the box, an insurer will diversify the number of channels it uses and how it uses them to drive the business bottom-line.”

Tradition no longer

Fundamentally, a distribution channel allows customers to access and purchase products in the most efficient way possible for the business. There are direct (i.e. call centres and the Web site) and indirect (a broker) channels available. However, as consumer needs change, there will be an increasingly reliance on going direct and cutting out the middle-man completely.

“The real-time nature of people’s lives mean they want immediate responses to queries, want their policies to suit their unique requirements, and want to be more in control of their policies than was previously possible. This can only happen if the insurer is willing to take customer data and analyse it for better insights. It must also be able to harness those learnings and offer people solutions that fit into the channels they are most comfortable with.”

Potentially, this could see the development of more niche products that cover specific risks for short periods of time. In many respects, this talks to the lack of brand loyalty many companies face today. It is all about capitalising on short-term gains while relying on an existing customer base for more long-term potential.

But tying all these channels (and distribution models) together is a reliance on digital technologies. An insurer simply cannot remain focused on what has worked for it before. It must be able to adapt to the fast-moving technology-led environment and reach customers more effectively.

“This is why insurtechs are finding such popularity amongst consumers. It is time for the incumbents to do this as well and build momentum with the Fourth Industrial Revolution around the corner,” she concludes.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 23 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

The state of digital transformation for insurers

Some consider financial services firms to be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to digital transformation initiatives. Although the emergence of fintechs have resulted in incumbents transitioning into a technology-centric environment even faster than before, the challenge many of these incumbents face is to identify the most relevant of the current innovations, and the evolutionary path of technology innovations in the future. Ben Burger, managing executive at SilverBridge, believes the customer will ultimately benefit from this more dynamic market.

“Of course, depending on the level of technology sophistication at an insurer, digital transformation could translate into vastly different things. The more advanced organisation could use digital as the enabler for wholesale change on how it engages with customers by using artificial intelligence data analysis algorithms connected to big data sources. Similarly, those just embarking on a digital journey might take a more phased approach, starting with something like taking away paper-based applications in favour of digital client onboarding.

Irrespective of how this transition is embarked on, embracing disruptive technologies is fast becoming standard business practice from an insurance perspective.

Shifting budgets

Insurers are gradually increasing budgets to find effective ways of harnessing technology innovation. This encompass everything from artificial intelligence to entry-level digitisation of sales processes.

The already blurry imaginary line between insurance and banking is also starting to disappear as technology is making it easier to re-use financial processes and skills across different disciplines. This means that certain new business models are easier to implement once understood.

“Some larger organisations are making additional resources available for strategic outreaches across digital platforms. These are considered integral to competing against smaller insurtechs and even fintechs for the hearts and minds of a wider and discerning customer base. However, digital transformation must be an organisation-wide initiative, and should be accompanied by a comprehensive internal adoption process to ensure that there is a golden thread tying all customer-facing approaches together, and that all staff understand how to leverage new technology.”

This unified approach is designed to integrate departments inside the organisation more effectively, enabling the business to grow in both volume and share of individual client wallet. Offering a more comprehensive solution is becoming essential in the retention of digital customers who grow ever more demanding.

Throughout this, it is important to remember that digital transformation is not a once-off process.

“If anything, an insurer should view digital as a continuing (and ever-evolving) strategy that is as agile as customers are demanding when it comes to bespoke solutions.

More than tech

One of the mistakes some companies make is to view digital transformation as a purely tech-centric exercise. The actual technology is only a piece of the puzzle. Real adoption of this technology throughout the institution, and the change in process that goes along with that, is equally important.

“Transformation talks to all levels of the business across the entire product (and customer) lifecycle. Ownership of these initiatives is no longer limited to just the C-suite. Instead, cross-functional, collaborative groups inside the insurer are helping drive a new way of thinking that is focused on long-term change.”

One of the exciting things throughout this is that digital transformation is no longer limited to simply being positioned as a transition to the cloud. Even though many of the disruptive forces taking place in the insurance market are driven by IT departments, human resources, financial, and administration all drive strategic directives to create a more digital-centric insurance environment.

“Inevitably, this will result in the establishment of a culture of innovation at an insurer. From teams to solutions, this innovation will permeate all aspects of the business to potentially deliver significant strategic value. As sophisticated technologies become more accessible to insurers at different stages of transformation, so too will the market harness the opportunities created through these technologies.”

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 23 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

Creating a learning organisation

Employees form the lifeblood of a competitive organisation in the digital environment. But more than good salaries and other perks, what can decision-makers do to ensure their people are taken care of, especially when it comes to development? Ruth Wotela, People Wellness Executive at SilverBridge, explains the importance of creating a learning organisation.

“This is a company that values the continuous learning and development of its people. It acknowledges that every person in the business can be a source of useful ideas. To this end, people must therefore have access to any information that might be useful to them.”

It also means that learning should flow either up or down to managers as well as employees. New ideas are encouraged and rewarded, and mistakes should be viewed as a learning opportunity. It comes down to giving people an opportunity to think and question how the business can do things differently, instead of only keeping the status quo in place.

“The idea is to teach and encourage people to review their current work habits and change the behaviour that limit their thinking. A learning organisation revolves around embracing a growth mindset,” she says.

Culture shift

Increasingly, companies are moving from routine and re-active learning to an approach that embraces continuous learning, experimentation, and feedback.

“Any knowledge-based organisation relies on its people to create, obtain, and apply knowledge in developing products and consulting with clients. Those companies that are the most successful at this see the creation of a culture that is conducive to and facilitates learning through individuals.”

Other aspects include giving people exposure and opportunities to work across the organisation, teamwork, knowledge sharing sessions, openness to suggestions, providing financial support as well as time for people to attend to learning and development initiatives, mentorships, and internships programmes.

“All these point to encouraging individuals to have a growth mindset and own their development. For managers, it is about providing support and guidance throughout the process. Learning requires openness to giving and receiving feedback. This provides valuable input into the what, why, and how learning and development takes place.”

So, beyond having regular one-on-one sessions where this can be discussed, a company can also structure its quarterly reviews to enable employees to give feedback to each other and their manager; for managers to give feedback to their employees, and for everyone to give the company feedback on company initiatives and objectives.

“Often, people get busy with their daily routine and neglect making time for training and development. Yes, it does require effort and for managers to lead by example. Allowing for learning and development to take place through a variety of ways (on-the-job training, online trainings, classroom trainings, attending conferences or seminars, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and so on) is critically important.”

Work evolution

People are integral in enabling a business to deliver and develop products and solutions to customers, building substantiable relationships with them, and helping it achieve its overall objectives.

“Companies operate in an environment that is consistently changing and requires new skills, competencies, and capabilities. This challenges people to continuously adapt, upskill, and innovate. It also means an organisation must constantly evaluate people’s skills, competencies, and capabilities to ensure its ability to meet current and future business requirements.”

Part of this evaluation entails defining how far along the business is in the process and where it wants to be from a strategic perspective. It should outline operational plans that enable the company to organise people and processes in the best way possible to support the strategy; ensuring the right skills, competencies, and capabilities are developed, and creating a culture that supports the strategy.

“Overall, learning should be continuous and relevant. This will help position the individuals (and company) strategically. As roles are set to change, being agile and multi-skilled are elements that must be promoted. If employees are up to date with the skills required for their job functions, the organisation will be at a significant competitive advantage.”

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 23 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

SilverBridge to present at exclusive Microsoft partner event

SilverBridge has been selected as one of only 20 Microsoft partners to attend and present at a Microsoft Middle East and Africa (MEA) partners event on 15 and 16 October in Dublin. This sees the African provider of insurance software solutions be given an opportunity to showcase its offerings.

“SilverBridge has continued to work closely with Microsoft as a strategic partner. This has resulted in our insurance product suite, Exergy, being selected as a Microsoft Prioritised Co-Sell Ready solution for the MEA region. This influenced the decision to include SilverBridge at this event and is yet another exciting development with our partnership.” says Lee Kuyper, group COO at SilverBridge Holdings.

In addition to presenting their Co-Sell Ready offers and solutions, the event gives invited partners the opportunity to meet the Microsoft SMB and Corporate sales teams as well as participate in business exchange and opportunity-sharing sessions.

“With more than two decades’ of experience in the insurance technology industry, SilverBridge has continually evolved to deliver on market requirements. More recently, we embraced a cloud-first approach that aligns with what Microsoft is doing globally to ensure our customers in Africa are ready for the new digital age, and what it has to offer. Our partnership with Microsoft not only enables us to create the best technology solutions for our industry using their platform, but also to take these solutions to market together reaching a range of companies that offer insurance in the MEA markets.”

This is not only a great opportunity for SilverBridge to get exposure to several insurance companies and banks that Microsoft work with, but also to position the organisation to key senior people within Microsoft. Additionally, the Microsoft Corporate sales team will get an opportunity to better understand what SilverBridge has to offer in order to identify where their relevant customers have identified needs that match these solutions.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ of experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our footprint extends to 14 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.