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09:05 AM
Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Moving Forward With Mobile: Insurers Must Have the Right Expectations, Risks and Skills

Optimism about growing mobile penetration combined with ongoing concern about security risks provides an uncertain context to insurers as they weigh their investments in the mobile channel.

Unlike the insurance industry's stance on many earlier technology innovations, its approach to mobile adoption long ago moved beyond questions of "When?" or "If?" to discussions of "How?" and "What's next?" The June digital issue of Insurance & Technology provides an update on the latest ways in which mobile has pervaded the insurance business and also examines the key metrics and requirements for future success involving this fast-moving and popular technology.

Mobile encompasses many capabilities, devices and platforms -- it is simultaneously becoming more complex and more mainstream. It is the embodiment of the pervasive computing concept that has been anticipated for years. Consider the rapid embrace of tablet devices: When Apple launched its new iPad earlier this spring, CEO Tim Cook announced that the company had sold 15.5 million iPads in the previous year -- more than the number of PCs sold by any of Apple's competitors.

The mobile channel has quickly become the top priority for many insurance companies, but are carriers realizing a return on their mobile investments? Does it really matter? Insurance & Technology's June digital issue reexamines the conventional wisdom around providing mobile financial services and reveals the cold, hard truth about insurers' mobile strategies.

According to Fiserv's most recent Consumer Trends Survey, 19 percent of online households currently own a tablet device. Another 20 percent of online households surveyed said they plan to purchase a tablet -- meaning almost 40 percent of online households could own a tablet by mid-2012, Fiserv forecasts. In addition, 37 percent of the households that already own a tablet reported to Fiserv that they plan to buy another one. Meanwhile, one in four online households said they used a mobile banking service in the previous month.

While tablets are getting the buzz, however, smartphone penetration also continues to expand. In fact, the number of smartphones in the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24.9 percent for the period 2011-2017, reaching 1.7 billion units, according to Ovum.

[Delivering Mobile Business Intelligence for Insurance Agents]

With this kind of momentum, it looks like demands for convenience and efficiency are trumping concerns about mobile security. In fact, recent Cisco research about bring-your-own-device trends suggests they are coexisting. Fifty-seven percent of the IT decision-makers who participated in the survey said they believe the rise of BYOD signifies the move to a new model of IT where barriers between the individual and workplace dissolve and everything is connected by the corporate network. Twenty-seven percent of respondents in financial services and government agreed that giving 24/7 access to corporate systems to an increasingly mobile workforce is the main threat to corporate IT security.

These perhaps mixed signals highlight mobile's opportunities and risks, and reinforce why it's so important for insurers to have the right expectations, metrics and skills in place as they develop their strategies and investments around the mobile channel.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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