As someone with more than three decades of experience in insurance, Jon Winsbury (pictured) has seen many a dramatic shift in the industry. And, according to the executive vice president at Gallagher Bassett, the work-from-home revolution brought on by COVID-19 could be a permanent fixture for certain segments of the insurance workforce.
“It really depends on your staff demographics,” Winsbury recently told Insurance Business in a discussion about the trends that will define the future of Australian insurance. “What we’re seeing with a lot of younger workers is that they want to go back to working in-person, that they miss that social contact the most, whereas older staff members with families are sometimes a bit more reticent to return.”
Winsbury estimates that potentially 30% to 40% of the insurance industry might move to working full-time from home in a post-pandemic world, particularly for certain roles that require less teamwork and revolve around tasks such as data entry. In his words, “the industry was moving this way anyway – the US had already seen a move towards a lot of the workforce doing home office pre-COVID, and, here in Australia, it’s taken COVID-19 to accelerate this trend.”
One silver lining of the pandemic has been the insurance industry’s efficient adaptation to remote working. “Looking forward, I think it’s fair to say that we’re better prepared as an industry for future disruptions to our normal work rhythms,” Winsbury noted. “It’s also going to be something that companies will look out for when recruiting new employees, this ability to independently work from home and keep business going as usual.”
Another insurance industry trend that was already gaining steam prior to COVID-19 – but which has really accelerated over the past six months – is the digital shift in such areas as claims processing. Instead of picking up a phone and connecting to a call centre or filling out paper forms, a number of insurtech companies now offer customers the possibility of taking photos or videos with their own phone and subsequently monitoring the claims process via an app.
“COVID-19 really brought forward and accelerated this trend that was already occurring over the last five years,” Winsbury said. “Prior to COVID-19, you were seeing some large insurers moving into the digital space, but it’s just taken off since March.”
Taking a broader view, Winsbury observed that there is a “hardening trend in premium prices almost across the board.”
“It’s probably reasonable to assume capital won’t be as easy to access as it has been in the past, and so there’s likely to be further hardening of the market, particularly in segments with higher exposures,” he said.
“It’s important to keep in mind, though, that the level of hardening will be dependent on how quick our economic bounceback is.”