Reflections on Insurance Forum Austria 2020
Earlier this month, before the second wave of COVID-19 properly hit Central Europe, I was very excited and lucky to be able to attend my second live event of 2020: Insurance Forum Austria by Business Circle.
Organized in Rust near the beautiful Neusiedler See, we spent one and a half days enjoying a combination of keynote lectures from top management in the insurance business and smaller, more intimate roundtable discussions.
Traditionally, the Austrian insurance industry tends to look up to its bigger brother, Germany, where the larger market is more heterogeneous and a good testing ground for innovations. IFA greatly benefitted from idea cross-pollination from the German speakers who presented new ventures such as Neodigital.
The programme also included lectures from big players such as Zurich and Helvetia. As a millennial, I was pleased to hear that these traditional insurance providers are picking their brains about how to adapt to my generation’s expectations. This concerns everything from sustainability and green products to a strong online presence. The ability to provide insurance products within a few minutes without the annoying paperwork will make or break many insurance companies in the future.
Obviously, this poses a huge challenge for the local insurance business in Austria. However, research shows that Austrians are still very conservative in this area and are somehow a European anomaly (allegedly, only 2% of Austrian insurance policies are sold online—in comparison to more than ten times that figure elsewhere). Nevertheless, the digital trend is bound to continue.
In their quest for increased agility and flexibility, most companies struggle with legacy systems (we at Profinit know this all too well). Their maintenance is costly but their replacement even more so. Moreover, a lot of coffee-break discussions have evolved around agility. Is the current insurance business really suitable for agile software development? While many consultancies are pushing this agenda, it has been my impression that all is not that crystal clear behind the scenes…
During the session, it was also evident how much comparison websites have influenced the industry. In the German-speaking countries, the most important ones are Check24 (in Germany) and durckblicker (in Austria). Their introduction disrupted how insurance pricing is done nowadays, and despite some pushback, hardly any insurance company can afford to ignore their individual policy ranking on these websites.
Overall, I would like to thank the organizers for a great event. Safety precautions included COVID-19 tests upon arrival and assigned seats, all of which allowed those of us who physically attended the event to reap the benefits of face-to-face meetings during these difficult times.