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Celent's Light: Prepare for the New Normal

Economic pressure on consumers will take quite a long time to correct, meaning carriers must re-evaluate strategies in a number of areas, the analyst said at Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit.

Celent senior analyst Donald Light presented attendees of Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit with a harsh reality: Today's economic climate is likely the new normal.

"What's the [insurance] industry like today?" he asked. "It's shrinking — mostly on the P&C side, but life and annuities show the same trend."

Ability to buy insurance depends on income and wealth, Light noted, as well as the objects of insurance. With financial market performance driving the ability to pay for insurance, as well as the value of the insurables, the persistently sluggish economy will put a damper on the industry for some time.

Light asked several executives in attendance for their IT approaches to handling this new normal. It's time to rethink corporate objectives and strategies, he noted, suggesting broad rubrics around size and growth and expense control and letting attendees get more specific.

For example, Julia Davis, CIO of American Safety Insurance, noted that the company was investing in its broker portal to make it easier to do business and reduce the cost of operations.

"We began to realize while we're doing an upgrade to our policy admin systems [that] we need to upgrade the portal as well," she said.

Some executives said they are focused on staffing and training strategies going into 2011. Thad DeBerry, SVP at Western World Insurance, explained that it's more important than ever that business and IT are aligned.

"We're putting a lot into staff development. We want to make sure that our teams are put together properly from a dynamic perspective," DeBerry said. "We're also going to get our business partners more involved, and we're going to expose them to a broad, technical group of individuals."

Robert Fullington, president of Fortegra Financial, talked about the more refined role outsourcing would play at his company.

"We're analyzing our skill sets to make sure we are able to go forward into the future, trying to be much smarter in getting resources from the outside," he explained. "We're looking at core competencies vs. non-core. We need a little bit of specialized skills" and will be proactive in going outside the organization to find them, rather than have an in-house employee focus part-time on something, he said.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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