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Challenges for North American Insurers


The Case for an Integrated Business Model for North American Insurers

The past few years have been challenging for the North American insurance industry. Insurers have struggled to cope up with an uncertain economic environment, continued low interest rates, regulatory changes, natural catastrophes, and threats from emerging economies. Although the U.S. economy saw some improvement in 2013 and the outlook for the current year looks promising, North American insurers will continue to face headwinds in the next few years.

There are three broad categories of challenges:

Economic: Weak investment returns and low interest rates will compel insurers to discover new ways to grow premiums and look for alternatives to organic growth. Strong performance by emerging markets pose another challenge; since these markets offer better investment returns, a majority of the insurance industry’s investment allocations are focused in these markets. In addition, leadership changes at the Federal Reserve have raised clouds of uncertainty within the industry

Regulatory: As the regulatory environment becomes more complex and stringent, many insurers will struggle to adapt and strengthen their risk management frameworks to meet solvency-focused regulations, Federal Insurance Office (FIO) rules, and other cross-border supervisions. In order to address these regulatory pressures, insurers must invest in data management, compliance, legal, and reporting functions.

Operational:  For the entire industry, the main growth obstacle since legacy systems and service issues. Insurers of all sizes must enhance internal operating fundamentals such as pricing and underwriting. Carriers will have to invest in people, processes, and technologies that can help them to streamline operations, improve their value propositions, and support robust growth strategies. Due to changing market dynamics, insurers will have to make their business models more customer-centric. Firms need to modify their products to meet evolving market needs, make them easier to understand, and revamp their distribution channels in order to better serve clients and improve profitability.

Economic uncertainty, regulatory pressures, and operational obstacles require insurance firms to transform their business models to combat current market turbulence and maintain profitability. There is a strong need for integrated business models that combine technology solutions with operational excellence and analytics-fueled insights. Companies that adopt a wait-and-watch policy will find themselves falling behind.