Tag Archives: M&A

Diverse Strategies As Insurers Embrace Digital Innovation

The routes to a digital future are many and varied, but for insurers the question is how to get there?

A new survey by Willis Towers Watson of 200 senior-level insurance executives offers some insight into the way forward.

The findings suggest that M&A and partnerships are likely to trump internal investment as insurers look to deliver digital transformation.

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Almost half (45 percent) of respondents to the survey signaled a clear preference for acquisitions as the way forward to gain digital capabilities.

By contrast, fewer than one in five insurers (17 percent) said they have a preference for internal development.

That’s not to say that internal innovation efforts have no place at these insurers, according to Willis Towers Watson, it’s more about getting the balance right between organic and inorganic growth.

Well over one-third (38 percent) of survey respondents say they have no preference between the two routes. In other words, they will use both acquisitions and internal innovation as the circumstances suit.

As insurers embrace a more outwards-looking approach to innovation, the survey suggests that traditional M&A deals are not the only option.

As Willis Towers Watson says:

“Many insurers are investing in a disparate range of technologies via venture capital funds – either through their own in-house venture capital arms, or third-party funds. This may be an attractive way to make a number of small bets on nascent innovations, rather than betting the house on an as-yet unproven technology.”

The survey found that one-third (31 percent) of respondents from the property/casualty insurance sector have set up a corporate venture arm already, while another third (32 percent) are considering doing so.

Innovation was a key topic of discussion at the Insurance Information Institute Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum held yesterday in New York. For coverage of the forum go to the I.I.I. website.

Eye On China

The Chinese insurance market is changing as quickly as any in the world, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch.

China is the fourth largest insurance market, behind the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, but it is poised to grow quickly as the government looks to insurance to “play a larger role in the country’s patchy social welfare system,” the Financial Times reports (subscription required).

The market may be best known for buying trophy properties worldwide. In the past two years, Anbang bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria, China Life bought a majority share of London’s Canary Wharf, and Ping An bought the home of insurance, the Lloyd’s Building of London.

Beyond the property plays, Fosun Group in May agreed to buy the 80 percent of property/casualty insurer Ironshore that it doesn’t own and  Fosun’s acquisition of U.S. p/c insurer Meadowbrook Insurance Group just received state regulatory approvals in Michigan and California.

The Financial Times report focuses on changes in the life sector, as the Chinese government encourages citizens to buy traditional life products and 401(k)-like pensions, but the P/C market is changing as well, as I recently wrote for the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS):

China’s market has grown between 13 and 35 percent a year for the past decade . . . Property/casualty insurers wrote RMB 754 billion ($120 billion in U.S. dollars) of premium in 2014, 16.4 percent more than a year earlier. By contrast, U.S. property/casualty insurers wrote about $500 billion and grew just over 4 percent, with both figures reflecting the maturity of the U.S. market.”

Starting June 1, six provinces — about one-fifth of the country – overhauled the way auto insurance is priced, moving a bit closer to the U.S. model of loading expected claim costs for expenses and adjusting rates for underwriting factors like a good driving record.

China is also strengthening of capital standards, working on the same January 1, 2016, deadline as Europe’s Solvency II. It hopes its standard, known as C-ROSS, will become a template for emerging markets:

The new standard splits “supervisable” risks that regulators are good at addressing from the ones better handled by market mechanisms.

The supervisable risks are split between quantifiable ones, like insurance risk, and unquantifiable ones, like reputation risk. Another class of supervisable risks is control risk. For emerging economies like China’s, Huang said, it is even more important to watch how companies control their risks. Good risk management may result in a reduction in regulatory capital requirement, and poor risk management can result in a capital add-on of up to 40%.

There’s also a systemic risk element, which requires systemically important insurers to set aside more capital.”

The I.I.I. is drafting a white paper about global capital standards to be published later this year. I.I.I. President Robert Hartwig gave a presentation that covered global insurance issues (and quite a bit else) late last year.