The start of a new year always puts me in a more reflective mood. Time to consider whether 2017 has lived up to our expectations and whether we have met the goals we set ourselves at the start of the year.
At the start of 2017,I wrote that I believed this was the year that automation would take a quantum leap. It turned out to be an understatement, if ever there was one, with huge advances being made in the world of technology.
2017 certainly turned out to be a technologically transformative year in Exaxe, with our first SaaS customer going live and the introduction of our new automated-advice solution, Advice Plus. And throughout the industry I see a greater acceptance of the need for constant innovation and increased use of technology to transform, rather than just to increase efficiency.
I believe 2018 will continue this trend with the rapid pace of technological change driving the life and pensions sector to re-invent itself and enable new levels of customer-centric services and products to be delivered. Technology, far from making us all like robots, is increasing our individuality and enabling life and pension providers to deliver personalised services like never before.
Of course, increasing levels of automation require higher levels of protection to be built in to protect the customers. In this context, the GDPR, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, is a huge advance for the provision of data privacy for personal data and is to be warmly welcomed. Providing greater security for personal data is key to delivering more personalised services, and is particularly important for the life and pension industry.
Given the nature of the data we hold on our systems it is vital that the public can feel confident when disclosing such personal information. Compliance with the GDPR will demonstrate just how seriously we, in the life and pension sector, take the issue of data privacy. In terms of ensuring consumer confidence, the GDPR is to be welcomed and will provide a level playing field across the EU for the management of personal data.
This will also impact UK firms just as heavily as the rest of Europe, for whilst the UK is leaving the EU, the UK government has committed to implementing the GDPR in its own regulations to ensure that there is no interruption to data services across the EU. Whilst Brexit is still too protean to be able to estimate its impact life and pensions, preparing for the effects of the final settlement is likely to absorb a fair chunk of corporate investment over 2018.
In Ireland, the Central Bank has begun the process of consultation for the introduction of an Irish version of the Retail Distribution Review by seeking to restrict the use of commission to distort sales recommendations whilst trying to avoid the introduction of an advice gap. We can expect the results of this to be heavily based on the UK’s regulations and to have the same level of impact on life and pension business models that the RDR had in the UK. And with the OECD chiding Ireland for not yet having auto-enrolment, it appears likely that the government will make an early move in this direction too. Fun times ahead, indeed, in Ireland.
However, the biggest driver in the industry will remain the same as it has been for the last two years. The increasing digitization of everyday life will drive innovations in business strategies and the transforming of how consumers interact with business will continue apace. Innovation, innovation, innovation, to paraphrase a former UK prime minister, should be the watchword of all of us in the life and pensions sector. Here at Exaxe, we will not be resting on our laurels but will be focusing on the digital transformation space in 2018 with the same vigour and thirst for new ideas that drove us forward in 2017. Innovation is not a destination, it’s a journey.