Insurance Outlook: Just Right of Center

On Tuesday June 21st, PwC lead a session at the International Insurance Society meeting in Toronto focused on the opportunity in insurance.  The scenarios focusing on globalization, regulation and new areas of insurance opportunity were well defined and thought provoking, but the most interesting part of the session was the audience participation.

PwC used a favorite strategic planning tool of mine, scenario planning, to highlight the important financial, political, social and technological dimensions that impact the insurance industry. Using wireless polling keypads, the audience was able to participate in scoring a range of possibilities across each dimension using a 1 to 5 ranking; 1 being generally negative or highly pessimistic scenarios and 5 being very positive or more confident scenarios. The results were then displayed on a screen with a line or "center" in the middle. "Left of center" was defined as being highly cautious and conservative, while "right of center" was defined as a more optimistic outlook for the industry's future.

This session was attended by insurance carriers' senior leadership, leading insurance academics, senior regulators, and the occasional insurance technology executive. In general, the average answer fell just right of center, i.e. a little more positive or optimistic than center. Three years ago, after the 2008 financial crisis, I suspect the answers would have skewed more sharply to the left of center. This sense that things are generally getting better for insurers and that there is the potential for positive change pervaded the conference. There is still caution and concern around economic factors, regulation (especially the potential pitfalls of regulatory convergence with banking) and talent management, but in general, the industry outlook is more positive than it's been in several years.

Chuck Johnston is vice president of industry strategy, Oracle Insurance. 

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