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Author's profile photo Joseph Pacor

Final SAPPHIRE NOW Update: Digital Transformation and the Future of Insurance

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The booths have been broken down, Coldplay has packed up its drums, and attendees from around the world have returned home from SAPPHIRE NOW, bursting with new ideas and experiences.After I updated you from the show floor about the great sessions for the insurance industry, we closed out the last day of the conference with two sensational sessions about the impact of the digital transformation on the insurance industry, from both a macro and micro perspective.

First we had a panel exploring the digital transformation and its impact on financial services. The featured speakers were incredible: Hans van Wuijckhuijse from Ageas, Jonathan Ridgwell from JP Morgan Chase & Co, and Will Shupe from BB&T. The panel was led by David O’Malley from SAP, who described the group as “Some of the most progressive minds today that are leveraging SAP for their digital journey.”

On the topic of digital transformation, van Wuijckhuijse brought a great perspective specific to the insurance industry. He said, “The insurance business is one of the most conservative businesses in the world…We have automated but we haven’t really changed.” But he commented that today, “It is all changing in a very fast way. Where a customer in the past would go to a broker or an agent, he is now shopping around at forty or more touchpoints before he buys something. Those touchpoints are everywhere. This is changing, in a fundamental way, how we have to face our customers and do our business.”

Ridgewell noted that, especially at JP Morgan Chase & Co, it would be impossible for them to do the work they do today without technology, and said that the key measure of success for his business is efficiency. Shupe agreed, and said that at BB&T they have a saying around the office, “IT is like the engine in a racecar. How well IT runs is how well the business runs.”

The men were asked what they saw in the future for their businesses. Speaking about the insurance industry, van Wuijckhuijse said that he believed complicated products will get simpler, with customers only buying what they need, and that a lot of protection products will transition into a service. He finished by noting that the most important KPI is to prepare the business to proactively respond to changes.

The other session provided an in-depth view on implementing SAP solutions and how to attain an integrated, analytic view of customers, finance, and, operations. Rob Heatherington, global GM for financial services at SAP, spoke with Christine Moritz, CFO of Empower Retirement, a subsidiary of Great West Financial. Under Moritz’s guidance, Empower uses a wide range of SAP solutions for external financial and management reporting, as well as internal analytics and data. Moritz noted that SAP solutions have worked well for Empower because they integrate well, and grow as the company grows.

The conversation quickly moved to data and reporting. As Moritz said, “Margins are getting smaller, so better data on what is driving costs is important.” She added that finance needs to provide good data so business leaders can make better decisions, and she believes that the company’s SAP solutions enable that.

Moritz also shared some great advice about implementing a new solution. She said first it’s important to have a good, clean test environment with good data. Then you need to bring everyone together – finance, IT, operations – and make sure everyone is on the same page. Moritz believes that bringing the users in early can be a big benefit in the long term.

It was a great final day for the insurance industry at SAPPHIRE NOW, and the perfect way to wrap up our most-attended event ever. I hope you’re as filled with ideas as I am. Please view more of the SAP for Insurance SAPPHIRE NOW presentations here (search word ‘insurance’) and share your feedback.


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