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Life insurers must rebuild businesses to survive: PWC

Australian life insurers must focus more on market segments than being all things to all people, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) industry report.

If they do not change their business models, they will become unsustainable, it warns.

The report says insurers must differentiate to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“This is also essential to addressing the affordability challenge that must be met in tackling underinsurance and low penetration,” PWC says.

“Insurers will take advantage of the new opportunities that arise from the blurring of traditional geographic boundaries, as well as the capabilities that can be imported from other markets.”

PWC says this is already happening in Asia through the use of technology and innovations by companies such as Alibaba, with direct-to-customer models and customer engagement platforms.

Insurers must be willing to work with innovative third parties to develop changes to distribution and pricing models, better placing themselves in customers’ eyes and creating competitive advantages.

PWC says life insurers must focus on the customer by consistently capturing and disseminating their insights, while delivering a different value proposition to engage them. This can be used to improve lapse rates.

Insurers need to embrace customer, operational and financial data from a range of sources, including third parties, transactions and wearables.

They must employ analytically minded staff that can collaborate with analytics teams and derive insights to make business decisions.

PWC Insurance Leader Scott Fergusson says the challenges facing the industry are unprecedented.

“Life insurers need to make the hard calls to be sustainable and successful during the long-term; simply tinkering at the edges will lead to an orderly but inevitable decline,” he said.

He says the industry’s current return on capital of about 13% is likely to become about 10% due to competitive dynamics alone.

“I’m convinced there is a bright future for incumbents that challenge long-held beliefs and focus on their best way to deliver on their ‘noble purpose’ for customers,” he said.

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