When former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was asked what his top three priorities would be if he won the 1997 election, he responded “education, education, education”. In the fluid technological world that we inhabit with new business models and products emerging at an ever-faster pace, it would be appropriate for Life and Pension CEOs to borrow from the Prime Minister and establish their top three priorities as being “innovation, innovation, innovation”.
Yet, as we can see from Majesco’s recent Strategic Priorities survey, many CEOs still don’t have it as their number one priority- “the issue that keeps them awake at night”. This is despite the huge transformation in how consumers are behaving in many other sectors. The approach to travel, tourism, shopping, communicating with friends etc. has changed dramatically in a very short space of time, fuelled by the most dramatic developments in technological capability ever known to man.
As consumer behaviours change, their demands change, and the life and pension industry need to be able to adapt to these demands. Life and pension companies need to get ahead of the curve in creating new services and products that will attract the next generation of consumers. CEOs need to drive an innovative spirit throughout their organisation if they are to make their companies the winners in the 2020s.
The capacity of organisations to adapt to an innovative approach should not be underestimated. Too often, senior management underrate the ability of their staff to rise to a challenge. If we can learn anything from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that the capability of people to adapt to new ways of working, indeed new ways of living, is amazing. And the pace at which that change was made is quite astonishing.
It shows that when a challenge is set, people can rise to it. Many businesses whose normal operations were completely undermined by the need for social distancing, for example, have reinvented their approach and developed a new angle to their business – innovation driven by necessity. So, top-class restaurants, shut by the need for social distancing, are now managing to provide delivery services. Colleges are providing their courses online to their students. Stores that only operated as bricks and mortar propositions have developed online presences and are finding new ways of customer fulfilment never previously in their repertoire.
Undoubtedly, this spirit is also being unleashed in life and pension companies throughout Europe, and indeed globally, during these difficult times to maintain services to their clients. Senior management must recognise that this capability was always latent in their organisations and when we emerge from the current crisis, the ability of staff to innovate at all levels will still be constant.
Once the crisis is past and we come out on the other side, the key aim should be to foster that innovative spirit by giving the employees the tools they need to make innovation the number one priority throughout the organisation. The easier course is always just to keep things going as they are, but to do so misses out on the opportunities that are awaiting. The current crisis will change the world in ways that we cannot be sure of yet.
Some of the new challenges are already with us in the form of Insuretech and global tech giants entering the insurance industry. Others will only emerge as working and personal lives evolve to cope with this pandemic. By investing in technology platforms that empower the staff to rapidly design and deploy the new products and services that the market is demanding, CEOs can ensure that the latent innovative spirit of their organisation is being given full freedom to flourish.
Whatever the outcome, encouraging staff to use technology that allows them to innovate will be key to success in the future. According to our research, CEOs have spent time worrying about how to foster an innovative spirit within their organisations. The lesson they need to learn from this crisis is that it was there all along and just needs encouragement. Making innovation the core of every company’s approach will ensure that the overall success of the company is being driven by empowered staff at all levels, armed with the technology they need to succeed.