“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”
If I could pick just one quote that has helped me in my decision making over the last few years, it would be this. Attributed to Henry Ford and Albert Einstein among other innovators, they all knew that in order to change things, like improving the productivity or profitability of your business, then you need to challenge the status quo. Without changing the inputs you cannot expect the output to change.
During the past 20 something years I have worked for or been a consultant to established companies wanting to adapt themselves to compete, or start-ups. I’ve been reflecting on these types of organisations and the challenges they face. Established companies need to reinvent themselves in order to survive. Start – ups need to identify an opportunity to gain a foothold within their markets. From my experience, in order to achieve this, such firms need to:
Avoid being another “me too” company – they need to be different and bring something new to the table
Innovate – be that through service, technology or product – be game changers
Of course this isn’t easy, overcoming resistance to change is one of the biggest challenges they face.
This has been no different in my time here at Ellipse. With companies of all sizes still focused on reducing business costs in the wake of the recent economic crisis, this has impacted advisers selling group risk products. Being established in the early days of that crisis in 2008, we saw an opportunity to fundamentally redesign the way our product is provided, using technology to lower the cost of the product while helping advisers to improve their productivity at the same time. One of the ways we sought to do this was by allowing clients to administer their scheme, including refreshing their membership data, quarterly online. We saw three key benefits to this:
Allowing clients to do this directly is more effective as they are closer to the data and they understand their data better. Queries are resolved quicker and advisers can focus on the areas where they can add more value – consulting
Updating data more frequently is less time consuming for the client than once a year as it is easier to reconcile recent changes (within the last quarter), rather than over a 12 month period
Accuracy of accounting, by identifying changes to the cost of cover as a result of movements in membership when they happen i.e. no price shocks at the end of the year, especially relevant for SME’s
While we had a good number of early adopters among advisers, like any new process, it has taken more time to overcome resistance from others. The common arguments are:
My client won’t like doing the data themselves
It’s more work for the client to do this quarterly, they prefer to do it annually
I don’t want you dealing with my the client directly
Encouraging an adviser to try us has been effective in overcoming the first two, while the latter requires an immediate question in response, “Why?” Yes sure in the past if an insurer didn’t have the service proposition to deal directly on administration, then that intermediation is adding value. But if that service proposition is a good fit and provides a high quality service which meets a client’s need, then both adviser and client can reap all the benefits mentioned above. Don’t assume the current process cannot be challenged, it can and will provide value for some clients.
Regulation, consumer awareness and technology continues to fuel change. This means that we as providers (either insurers or advisers) need to continue to raise our game in order to keep our clients happy and maintain a competitive advantage. We cannot simply do what we’ve always done and expect to succeed on that basis. We need to learn from outside our industry, Kodak, Nokia and Blackberry to name but a few, who have learnt some hard lessons from this.
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Tim Creamer, Chief Operations Officer at Ellipse