Insurer Ecosystems: Of Ponds and Frogs?

Knowingly or unknowingly, most of us are already customers in ecosystems. And this is definitely not a matter of ponds and frogs. For a long time now, companies such as Apple and Amazon have known that they should not only offer their customers a product, but also an entire product portfolio featuring relevant services - a strategy that has often had a disruptive effect on the entire industry. In this way, the companies are able to continually expand and update their value chains. Their services are often quite deftly geared toward products that are close to our heart, in exactly the right form, at exactly the right time, and usually at exactly the right price. As customers, we provide the necessary information to the companies ourselves - including our usage behavior, our interests, and our previous purchases.

Insurers are having difficulties.

However, what works very well for some companies seems to pose a greater challenge for other industries. In the insurance sector, one often searches in vain for established ecosystems. For the most part, large companies have so far only been left with a participant role in ecosystems run by companies outside of the industry. Although large insurers generally offer products for all areas and phases of life, have large amounts of data on their customers, and generally have a direct line to their customers through their sales channels, they themselves find it difficult to develop and establish corresponding product ranges or ecosystems. But where are the difficulties?

Let's build an ecosystem!

Before giving more thought to the topic, it should be clear from the outset around which topic you want to base your ecosystem and what strategy is necessary to implement it. Even here, established insurers in particular are encountering their first difficulties. It is not uncommon for topics that an insurer also focuses on to already be sufficiently covered by other companies. New non-insurance niches are reluctantly tackled. The all-time insurer classic of "health" is for this reason a natural choice. Admittedly, this is also the area where the best performing ecosystems have already been established by insurers. A wide range of services are available, such as the electronic patient file, video consultations and prevention applications. From a composite perspective, the first topic to become the focus of attention is "mobility." But here, too, the basic conditions are difficult. This is due to the fact that mobility today still generally implies the emotional product "car," and there are already many offers from manufacturers regarding this topic. It is precisely because of the emotional attachment to the product "car" that it is often difficult to place oneself in the hands of a single provider who is not a vehicle manufacturer and who does not deal with all matters relating to "the German's favorite child".

Deviating from the familiar paths

Once they have found a niche around which they would like to base their ecosystem, many companies then face the next hurdle. At this point, it is necessary to deviate from the familiar paths found within the framework of product development. It is not uncommon to have to understand customers and their needs not only in terms of insurance or financial products, but also with regard to creatively grappling with products and services outside of one's traditional offerings. This raises the following questions: "What life situations are my customers in?," "What added value do they need, and when and where?" and "What is the most intelligent way to incorporate or link my existing product portfolio?". The keyword is "big data." Here, insurers often enter terrain that is still unfamiliar to them. And not only the development team itself must navigate through it - they also bring known stakeholders along on the journey, the sales department especially. It is also important to build up expertise or to find experienced "guides" to be advisors at your side.

The technical infrastructure is at least as important as the subject-specific aspect of product development. In the past, platform solutions have proven to be the tool of choice here. Through this architecture, ecosystems can be successively assembled, expanded and made accessible to the customer. The focus here is on enabling third-party providers to integrate their products via the platform and to perfectly model the processes based on the customer's point of view. Unfortunately, many insurers are reaching the limits of their capacity in this regard. The company onpier has an interesting approach that, together with insurance partners such as HUK-Coburg, LVM, and HDI, offers a platform solution that makes it very easy for affiliated insurers to offer non-insurance services.

Support needed

But how can it still work despite all the adversities described above? From the insurer's point of view, it would certainly be appealing to have a partner who, on the one hand, has the technical expertise to initially design ecosystems and connect products and services, and, on the other hand, has the technical expertise to connect platform solutions to the core systems - such as the portfolio management or claims system - in a "plug and play" manner. Ideally, the insurer then "only" needs to select the products and services to be offered on the platform, as on a marketplace, and superimpose an appropriate design. The time for development, technical integration, partner acquisition and maintenance is minimized.

A brief summary of the key findings:

  • Ecosystems for insurers are not about ponds and frogs, but building and maintaining them can be just as complex.
  • Ecosystems offer companies the opportunity to offer additional services alongside their established products, thus sustainably expanding their value creation.
  • Developing functioning ecosystems is hard - often even harder for insurers due to the nature of their products.
  • Help with setup and technical connectivity is important and often necessary.

Here you can find webinars on the topic of "Insurers as Players in Ecosystems."

Would you like talk about the future of digital insurance and learn how in|sure software helps make ecosystems a reality? Then please get in touch with our expert Karsten Schmitt, head of Business Development.

Do you have any questions or comments? Then please leave us a comment.

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