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Suncorp warns of disruption, regulation ‘pincer movement’

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Financial services incumbents face a two-pronged assault from regulation and disruption, Suncorp CFO Steve Johnston says.

In a speech on global disruption to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, Mr Johnston warns the digital economy will break down established institutions, market structures and business models.

But while dealing with agile start-ups and disruptors, companies face the threat of tightening regulation as governments react to voter sentiment, he says.

“Financial services is a case in point: under attack from fintechs but simultaneously facing a tsunami of government-imposed regulation.”

Mr Johnston says Suncorp is dealing with the challenges, transforming from a preoccupation with threats and risks to “an opportunity mindset”.

He highlights driverless vehicles as an example.

“In isolation, they could be seen as a major threat to a business model reliant on accidents, repairs and car insurance. However, assuming a digital and opportunity mindset, how can we capitalise on our current market-leading position to be a major part of the digitised vehicle and the digital attention that will be unlocked in an automated driving world?

“A similar argument can be made for home insurance, where the connected home will be a key digital platform for the future.”

Mr Johnston also warns that dealing with governments “is about to get a whole lot harder”, as populist leaders come to the fore.

“The society created by the disrupted globe has established a vulnerable and impatient electorate, one seeking simple solutions to complex problems.

“This, in turn, has created perhaps the most volatile electorate in history – one likely to continue to install into higher public office those unlikely or ill-prepared to lead and, in my view, to potentially render as extinct the two to three-party structure as we know it today.

“For those relying on established means of influence and policy development, you had better find a new playbook.”