Insurance Insight: “Product innovation in European insurance firms is widespread”– where is the evidence???


Hmm, I’m not so sure I’m buying any of this!

In fact, I don’t, entirely, agree with the headline OR the presumption that insurers are willing and able to offer the “peace of mind” that customers, rightly, expect from the coverage, products and services available to them.

A mixture of technical, organisational and market factors naturally constrain how expansive insurers can or should be in terms of developing new products. Most obviously, missing information can give rise to adverse selection or moral hazards and lead to amplified losses. Read more of this post

Five Reasons Companies Fail at Business Model Innovation – HBR


Several years ago when I first read these words from Clay Shirky they really resonated as far as my own industry [insurance] was concerned.

“It is easier to understand that you face competition than obsolescence”

In the intervening period a great deal has changed…not necessarily for the better. But too much has remained the same. As I read recently “Nowadays, competition is mainly taking place between business models rather than just between products and services…”. It is true.

Business models that are unsustainable but still function in the current environment, are now showing the outward signs of frailty. Fragile businesses lack the agility to adapt for survival in a post-critical financial landscape.

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Warren Buffett urges more insurance underwriting discipline…


Is this just another opportunity for UK insurers to determine that such warnings, obviously, DON’T apply to them!?

“At bottom, a sound insurance operation requires four disciplines:

(1) An understanding of all exposures that might cause a policy to incur losses

(2) A conservative evaluation of the likelihood of any exposure actually causing a loss and the probable cost if it does

(3) The setting of a premium that will deliver a profit, on average, after both prospective loss costs and operating expenses are covered

(4) The willingness to walk away if the appropriate premium can’t be obtained,”

the letter states. “Many insurers pass the first three tests and flunk the fourth. The urgings of Wall Street, pressures from the agency force and brokers, or simply a refusal by a testosterone-driven CEO to accept shrinking volumes has led too many insurers to write business at inadequate prices. ‘The other guy is doing it so we must as well’ spells trouble in any business, but none more so than insurance.”

via Warren Buffett Urges More Insurance Underwriting Discipline, Fewer “Testosterone-Driven” Decisions.

This is a much bigger issue than even WB appreciates

When “the Oracle” speaks he tends to worth listening to and this pearl is no different. However, the dire warnings of, such as PwC and Citi have previously been ignored and there is little evidence to suggest that this is about to change! Have insurers (and the wider industry) failed to learn anything from their (rightly) vilified “cousins” in banking?

Do they not realise that, whilst Banking institutions were deemed TBTF (see below), insurers most certainly are not.

I wrote, recently, about the differing views of insurance and systemic risk on the two sides of the Atlantic. For my money the UK view is dangerously naive and has little basis in evidence. The precarious state of global FS and the, tightly-coupled, national economies that rely upon them, are such that the failure of an insurer or, for example, a major consolidator in the broking sector, could trigger a new financial collapse.

As we know from recent economic history, systemic risk in FS moves at lightning pace. BUT, when (not if) the impact of a new and avoidable crisis cascades into social and cultural domains  – adding to the existing financial burden WE are having to live – this could prove to be the “death knell” for FS greed-mongers and inept Political Klepocrats.

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