The LIMRA Annual Meeting, which gathers senior executives representing diverse sectors of the financial services industry each year, kicked off with an inspirational look at the past 100 years and a critical, yet optimistic look at what the future has in store. There were nearly 1,000 attendees across more than 20 countries when the conference opened Monday morning, and the first day was full of actionable insights on how to stay “future forward.”

Both Robert Kerzner, President and CEO of LIMRA, and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, set the stage for what obstacles we face today, both as an industry and as individuals. Current throughout: a continuous expectation to take the challenges we are faced with and come up with optimistic solutions to maintain relevance globally, for the generations of tomorrow.

Driving Demographics

Robert Kerzner started the morning discussion of one dichotomy of today: how Boomers and Millennials often provide contradictory pressures in terms of what they want for the changing way the industry works with its customers.

Today, challenges come from many places, most of which can be categorized in three distinct groups: technology, regulatory, and demographic pressures. With more connected devices, changing rulings surrounding sales of annuities, and increasing demand for products to be personalized and simplified, insurance companies may feel like they are often facing an uphill battle. But the industry can also take comfort in the fact that 70% of Millennial households own life insurance, 10% more than the same group when they were surveyed in the 2010 life insurance ownership study.

Free Markets, Free People

Dr. Rice brought her experience as a world leader to emphasize how past events can help inform future decisions. Speaking on the ideas around free markets and free people, Dr. Rice acknowledged that lately, there has been a shift in the mindset. As unrest, governance and financial crises erode optimism, how do we recreate and reaffirm these principles? In order to recreate or reaffirm we must first realize we are in a period of great innovation and, as a country, the United States has an impressive track record for the mobilization of human potential.

Through the lens of political and civil history, Dr. Rice highlighted a crucial message for the insurance industry as well. At crossroads in history, there is always an optimistic path forward, especially when focusing on the innovation and transformation of today, and the strengths of the individuals who drive the industry forward.

A few final thoughts for the road

  • The DOL rule continues to be top of mind for industry stakeholders as companies and agents adjust to the new normal. While the new rule may be the first domino that has a larger impact on mergers and acquisitions, costs, and consumer choice, it also provides an opportunity for carriers to implement the changes in a way that builds trust and engages consumers.
  • Market complacency and consumer frustration leave the door wide open for disruptors to come in and change an industry. As industry incumbents grapple with ways to compete, small innovative changes can help companies remain relevant.
  • Automated underwriting and systems changes must not be ignored in a time when user experience and customer acquisition remain the focus of many trying to innovate. Still, new data sources and further data collection allow for more sophisticated automated underwriting programs to be the focus in the near term. 

Stephanie Roy is the Director of Insights, Insurance at Mintel. She is responsible for providing internal and external stakeholders with insights and analysis on trends in the Life, Health and P&C insurance industries across North America.

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