Timing is almost everything: Tips for growing your insurance businessJames Ross
Supply and demand operate within the insurance industry as it does with any other business. This makes timing of any expansion or diversification of your insurance business key, but it is not the only factor in successfully launching in new markets.
As the markets are cyclical, choosing the right moment to enter or exit may not be an exact science. The business case that these decisions depend on can also be transient and dependent on budgets and access to investment.
However, once that decision is made to open your business in a new territory, either in country or abroad, the leap of faith is made. At this point, the activity must begin to plan and arrange all the elements that will take your already successful blueprint forwards into the new market.
At Credera, we have extensive experience of building insurance businesses within general insurance and the London Market. Here, we outline some of the key elements to successfully expanding your insurance business once the decision around entering the market and securing the required budget has been made.
For each of these topics, you may wonder how all of these things are coordinated, tracked, and managed with full visibility throughout the organisation.
The following programme structure outlines how we approach this. At the centre, we have the business plan, senior sponsorship, and the budget required to execute. Supporting this, we build the governance infrastructure to ensure tracking, reporting, and accountability. Finally, and most critically, we have full representation from the business teams on what will be needed to lay the foundations in your new location.
Regulatory and Legal
Your Regulatory and Legal foundations within any new market and jurisdiction are the cornerstone of your investment. This is often one of the riskier and least predictable elements, as this can depend on local regulatory authorities and is demanding of your existing teams in terms of understanding the mandated artefacts and regulatory regimes in the new territory.
Close coordination of the regulatory, risk, and compliance experts and your finance team is key to any successful application. It is also essential that you work with your in-house actuarial team, or commissioning actuarial services externally, so that the risk exposure, premium, and claims calculations can be made as part of your application. As the building blocks of a regulatory regime and mandated documents are understood in the new territory, detailed coordination and project management techniques can take over in terms of recording, sequencing, and tracking each of the items towards a successful regulatory submission to the authority.
In our experience, close coordination of all the teams involved in the submission and central ownership of the tasks is key. Equally important is maintaining visible tracking within the team and to senior stakeholders who may help unblock issues and acquire those all-important signatures.
People and Talent
Getting the right people is critical to success in a new territory. It must be carefully considered how you plan to acquire new talent of the right quality and cultural fit for your business. Choosing either local talent acquisition providers with specialist knowledge, or leveraging your own internal team is an important decision. This can often come down to how much capacity is available in existing teams and the nuances of the local market that may be better understood by a local provider.
Once the sourcing approach has been made, it is important to consider, in partnership with the legal team, the contractual landscape, pay, reward, and benefits, which must be well aligned with the market and regulatory requirements. A key appointment you will make in the early days of planning the new business is your local Country Manager. They will be key in driving business planning and cultural understanding and serve as an interface for the talent acquisition process in terms of identifying core skills required for the role and in the local market.
Ensuring your real estate team works in partnership with your Country Manager will be crucial to securing the best premises in your new location. Accelerators such as acquiring temporary serviced office space can be advantageous and give time for decisions to be made about permanent locations and other elements of the business expansion such as the legal, regulatory, and talent acquisition activities to progress.
Once you can select the timeframe and location, it is important then for the real estate team, country head, and IT organisation to work closely in providing modern and mobile technology solutions that can be deployed in both the remote setting and in a hot desking office environment. An interesting nuance to providing IT services, if it is to be done centrally by your own teams, is shipment of equipment across borders. There can often be dependencies on the regulatory approval having been made to allow for shipments to the new corporate entity - this must be carefully considered to allow smooth transition of equipment through customs. IT Systems
There is a need to define upfront and with speed the policy and claims administration systems that will accelerate the rollout. It may be advantageous to consider extending existing systems and platforms, rather than buying or building new. Modern administration systems can be segmented and replicated to provide a new instance for your business, which will be largely pre-configured based on existing templates.
The need for new configurations should be minimal, but it will be important to work with the local team as they come onboard to customise tools for local requirements. For example, the implementation of tax rules and inputting classes of business will be a focus of the new operation and may be subtly different to your baseline configuration. A scalable, flexible architecture using cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions can significantly improve availability and performance, making data available faster for your new colleagues and customers.
One of the most critical areas to consider is the finance operating model and how the control of finances will be managed for the new business. This can include finance operations, banking, financial planning and analysis, reporting, and credit control. As with IT systems, it may be possible to adapt and standardise existing finance controls and tools for your new business with minimal change.
Success with implementing the finance platform lies mainly in good communication with colleagues to ensure they are well cited on the upcoming changes and what is expected of them. Furthermore, the new business may have a different taxes and levies regime, and it will be important to consider specialist resources who can understand the requirements or leverage expertise from outside to ensure compliance.
Another key dependency will be the acquisition of bank accounts in your new local territory. This can often be a lengthy process and dependent on prerequisites in the legal and regulatory area being met. Clear and coordinated task allocation managing interdependencies is key to allowing the finance operational platform, bank accounts, and tax commitments to be smoothly implemented.
To ensure the fastest route to revenue for your insurance business, it is important to unlock the underwriter’s ability to interact with brokers and customers. Underwriters will arrive keen to build their network both internally within the business and externally in your new market. A smooth on-boarding process is crucial to allow the underwriters a fast-track to quoting and binding new business.
This requires all the elements to come together - for example, your regulatory licensing being approved, your real estate or temporary premises being available, your IT solutions being in place, underwriting guidelines and authorities being available, mandatory training, and risk and compliance, amongst others. This is where the real planning and coordination efforts come to fruition and brings the business to life.
Behind every great underwriter is a team of dedicated professionals working to ensure the correct processes are followed across the entire submission, quote, and bind process. Careful planning of your new operating model should consider how you might fulfil back-office operations, either using an extension of your existing team, leveraging an external partner, or perhaps by leveraging a hybrid approach. The operational glue that binds everything together should not be underestimated, as this is where the key knowledge lies that makes the wheels of the business turn.
The operations team should be fully looped into the progress of the new business launch and given the opportunity to influence the ways of working and interfaces throughout the rest of the organisation. A fundamental activity of the operations team may be to provide training to your new joiners, and this should be planned well in advance to allow the team to prepare a training plan and approach.
Of equal importance to quoting, binding, and collecting premium is the promise we make to our brokers and customers around making them whole again after suffering a loss. As part of building the operation, it is important to consider the claims operating model and how this may be subtly different in your new market. Creating a process flow that ensures smooth payment of claims in the simplest terms is a key pre-requisite to opening your new business and should be frontloaded in partnership with the claims and finance teams.
Claims information and contact details should also be front and centre when it comes to your policy wording and public facing materials. In parallel to planning for launch, external services can be assessed as a fast-follow activity, such as appointment of local administrators, loss adjusting, and legal services.
Communicating your business plan and strategic goals is as important at the outset as it will be once you are in the position of preparing for launch. There will be sensitivities to consider - for example, you will need to balance good internal communications to ignite interest and ensure clarity. However, a cautious approach should be adopted to protect the nuances and timing of your upcoming launch. Competition will be fierce in the market for business but also for key new hires.
As launch approaches, your Marketing team will work closely with the Country Manager and Legal team to build a consistent message, tailored for the local market and that meets regulatory standards. Quality scoping and planning will ensure the culmination of months of hard work maximise that one-time opportunity to introduce and differentiate your brand.
In providing a high-level summary of some of the key topics above, you may conclude that all this needs to be properly tracked and controlled with the right level of governance and communication. The investment decisions and capital required to open a new business are significant for any organisation and implementing this vision at the same time as your teams are running day-to-day operations can be extremely challenging.
If left to chance, it can lead to suboptimal and inefficient platforms for the new business, potentially driving significant operational risk into the organisation.
Our experience in this area has allowed us to develop an approach centred upon a clear methodology and robust programme management disciplines. We have formulated team structures, governance packs, plan templates, and detailed playbooks for launching new insurance businesses. This is based on our experience of how proper scheduling and communication can minimise delays and bring a return on your investment forwards.
So, timing is key. However, entering your new market at the right point in the cycle and making that big investment decision is just the beginning. The real work begins at the point of building a team and the governance processes that will make this happen. This is where Credera can make the difference.