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* Patrick Dixon has advised many of the world's largest insurance companies on global trends, opportunities, customer behaviour, fund management strategies and risk management.  Extract from his latest book: The Future of Almost Everything....

Insurance is as fundamental to a stable and prosperous society as banking, hospitals and schools. Yet more than 3 billion people have never heard of insurance, do not know how it works, and have no idea how to get hold of it. Most insurance today is sold to a mere 1% of the global population who own 50% of all the wealth.

Expect rapid growth, therefore, of basic insurance in emerging markets, where 85% of humanity lives, targeted mainly at the emerging middle class. Health insurance will lead the way, after insurance types that people are forced by law to buy, such as motor insurance. Expect a boost in many nations in sales of life or health products from tax rebates, especially where they are structured to contain an element of saving. Many who are unbanked today will gain their first insurance cover using a smartphone, or through micro-loans associations.

EU retail insurance dominated by home and motor

Most insurance sales in the EU will continue to be cover for homes or vehicles, with travel and life insurance following behind. Expect savage online competition from so-called aggregator sites that display competing quotes for the same risks from up to 200 different companies.

These sites are already seizing over 40% of the general insurance market in countries like the UK and we can expect a similar pattern in many other developed nations by 2020. Insurers will be able to win sales without offering the lowest price, but only by persuading customers of the value of a ‘favoured’ brand, to pay out when there is trouble, to handle a claim rapidly and sensitively.

Price comparison means fines for loyalty

Aggregators will provide a very precise mathematical tool for marketers to measure their own brand value. If the cheapest quote from an unknown company is $150, but the customer selects the third one down the list, which is a well-known brand offering a price of $230, then we know that the ‘added’ value of the brand to that person is $80.

European insurance companies often offer very low prices for new customers, making their profits in the following years by increasing prices for their loyal customers. Expect growing numbers of customers to switch companies every year – to whichever insurance company is the most willing to throw money away with such unsustainably low pricing.

Why many insurers will detach from banks

Many banks experimented a decade ago with their own insurance companies, hoping to ‘cross-sell’ insurance products to existing customers, but in most cases the results were disappointing. Most insurers will remain independent of banks, with partnerships and syndicates but all held at arms’ length. This is even more likely in future with different and complex regulatory requirements for each.

Re-insurance will be a vital part of the future of all large insurers, backed by huge corporations like SwissRe and MunichRe. These companies will be taking views on every trend and Wild Card in this book (see pxxx), how they interact, what it all means for, say, business disruptions over the next decade in a particular industry, or for the risks of New Orleans being hit by another huge hurricane, or Russia invading Kazakhstan.


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