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Digitalisation driving growth in insurance industry

Intensive efforts for digital transformation and investment in information technology infrastructure have contributed to enabling business innovation within the health insurance sector


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Wed 16 Feb 2022, 9:21 PM

Digitalisation is driving a transformational shift in the insurance industry, and businesses that fail to meet the needs of a new age of customers, who prefer digital interactions over branch visits, will soon be left behind, experts said at the second edition of The Future of Insurance congress.

Organised by Khaleej Times, the event brought together a number of officials and industry experts who examined the state of the industry today and the changes that it is undergoing.

Alan Griffin, chief executive officer of Khaleej Times, described the event as a great opportunity for officials and experts to meet and discuss key trends in the insurance industry, as well as highlight the challenges that the industry will face in the near future.

“Technology and automation; changes in Human Resources in terms of flexible working; and even customer data and privacy are all challenges and opportunities that we face,” he said in his opening address at the event.

Fareed Lutfi, secretary-general, Emirates Insurance Association, noted that the environment is clearly shifting, and that the insurance landscape is becoming more challenging. A key reason for this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the digital shift.

“I believe that the pandemic helped the insurance industry get out of their acceptable market practice complacency, as companies were forced to actively jump into the present and start proactively looking forward. Covid-19 has accelerated the transformation of the insurance industry in multiple respects,” he said.

“New expectations regarding industry leadership in driving transformational change in environmental, social, and governments will continue to build across geographies including our region,” he added.

Hamad Al Mehyas, CEO of National Health Insurance Company – Daman, also highlighted how innovation is changing the industry, and that employing a digital first mindset across business is what has given companies an edge.

“Those companies that were best able to weather the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic were those that had already begun to invest in the digitalisation of their operations and embraced the process of digital transformation,” he said. “Over the course of the pandemic, customers demanded more and more digital services and favoured digital interactions over face-to-face or branch visits.”

This digital reality, he said, is here to stay. “It is our responsibility as business leaders to meet these demands by insisting on a digital first policy. At Daman, we have been long-term advocates of digitalisation, and we are committed to putting digital at the very heart of our business.”

Technology, lifestyle, and investment

Carole Khalife, GM of Strategy & Innovation at Al Futtaim Willis, pointed out that, moving forward, insurance solutions will have to focus on the lifestyle of residents, and using Artificial Intelligence to create a pay-as-you-go model. In this aspect, she described the insurance industry in the region as still being “a bit shy.”

“When we talk about insurance, the talk has to revolve around the person and their behavior,” she said. “The products have to revolve around their lifestyle, rather than a one-size-fits-all bulk solution. For example, if a person is eating healthy; if they regularly go to the gym; these are all aspects that will impact how their risk is perceived and their premiums set.”

When it comes to investments, Neeraj Gupta, CEO of Policybazaar.ae, advised companies to break their investments into different segments and then prioritise those which will ease their daily operations. A key factor in how the industry evolves in the future will revolve around cloud solutions.

“Technology is not going to give you results overnight; it is a long-term investment that companies need to make,” he said. “Cloud is becoming very important because it helps to make companies lighter, while protecting all the data that they are dealing with. It has become much more easier to scale on the cloud than it was a few years ago.”

Jerome Droesch, CEO of Cigna MEA and SEA, also drew links between technology and how it will have a role to play in monitoring our health and lifestyle moving forward. He noted that the number of people above the age of 60 will double by 2050, reaching over 2.1 billion people. In addition, he revealed that healthcare spending is growing faster than GDP; in most mature economies it is growing at a rate of 5.3 per cent a year.

Keeping all of this in mind, he said that finding solutions that support our physical and mental health will be a priority for companies in the coming years. “Every single day in the UAE you have 160 people reaching hospital and being on inpatient care because of stress-related disease; and every single day you have around 4,200 people connecting with doctors because of stress-related disease. Looking ahead, pharmalogical innovations, mental & physical health connections, and access to care, are three main trends that will have a significant impact on healthcare.”


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