The insurance sector in our country is facing major changes. That is again the main conclusion of the 15th DECAVI Insurance CEO Event that takes place today in Brussels. At this meeting, organized by DECAVI in collaboration with service provider KPMG, the Belgian CEOs of AXA, Allianz and NN ‒ each representing an important market share ‒ will give their views on the future of this sector.
Today, the Belgian insurance sector has to deal with a range of simultaneous and mutually reinforcing changes
- Continued low interest rates and volatile financial markets are forcing both life and non-life insurers to increase their cost efficiency and improve risk acceptance in their core businesses.
- As is the case in other consumer sectors, insurance customers expect a high level of online and mobile services. Investments in new technological and digital administration platforms are therefore not an option but a necessity.
- Car insurance is in danger of losing its relevance in the near future due to the rise of the autonomous cars.
- Product portfolio expansion with additional end-to-end insurance services (prevention, protection and repair) becomes necessary in order to remain relevant and competitive in the relatively saturated
- The introduction of and compliance with new and stricter regulations such as the Solvency II capital requirements, IFRS accounting standards, increased product transparency, privacy procedures, insurance distribution and guidelines to combat money laundering, which together significantly increase expenses.
Jef Van In, CEO of AXA Belgium, considers the digitization of insurance distribution and permanent product innovation as the most important responses to the rapidly-changing needs of Belgian policyholders:
"Those who think they are witnessing a revolution in the insurance sector will be disappointed. However, it is a fact that we must remain alert to current developments so that challenges can be turned into opportunities to improve our service to customers and brokers. Our online car and fire insurance offering is a good example of this: we offer the best of both worlds by allowing the customer to fully register for his or her insurance online, while benefiting from the advice of a broker. Everyone wins. Even with the advent of digital, brokerage still has a bright future ahead of it, contrary to what the prophets of doom think," says Van In.
Jan Van Autreve, CEO of NN, sees customer focus and a constantly evolving and innovative response to customer needs as the most important challenges for the insurance sector:
"The Belgian insurance market has always been somewhat conservative in a sense, but is now working on accelerated investments in order to keep up and have the right answers in a highly digitized and data-driven world. Each player realizes that customer focus will make the difference between the winners and the losers. This can be perfectly translated through different models in which the more traditional distribution partners can also play a not-insignificant role due to the need for personalized advice. However, how we are going to act in a world where 130 years of age is more the norm than an exception, property is gradually being replaced by shared use and in which we no longer make essential decisions ourselves but may possibly entrust them to technology. It is certainly not clear, but undoubtedly there are also opportunities here.”
Wilfried Neven, CEO of Allianz, considers far-reaching innovation and the setting up of new, more collaborative models as a necessary recipe for the current drastic changes in the sector.
“As other industries, the insurance industry is facing radical and accelerated change on different levels: the financial and economic situation, the evolution of demography and client behavior, the appearance of new risks to be covered, the development of new technologies and the rise of new players that might disrupt the industry. The speed of change will require other recipes, a different type of innovation and the setup of new, more collaborative models. The future is to those parties who react quickly and with determination to this changes.”
Pieter Herremans, Insurance Practice Leader at KPMG in Belgium, also subscribes to these important trends in the Belgian insurance market:
"An accelerated wave of consolidation is underway among Belgian insurers. As a result of the new European solvency requirements, unprofitable insurance portfolios are being divested and bought by conglomerates that can achieve greater economies of scale. Consolidation and professionalization are taking place, not only among insurers themselves, but also among insurance intermediaries as a result of the stricter legislation and guidelines on insurance distribution."
"Existing insurers will have to work more closely together to jointly create a more customer-friendly and relevant image for the Belgian insurance sector. Digitization plays a crucial role in this and will not so much be used from outside the sector, but first and foremost by the traditional market players. Unlike other consumer sectors, insurance remains an extremely complex and highly regulated category that cannot be quickly copied. As a result, the current, traditional insurers have an immense competitive advantage over potential new entrants.”