Five predictions for 2021

  • 25/01/2021  |

2020 has turned the tables for business and economy. As we imagine what 2021 will be like, I figured out some predictions that will affect the way we conduct business and engage with clients.

The first topic which will drive strategies in 2021 is the value of timely decisions. There is indeed a growing divide between the Financial Services players who accelerate their processes, including decision-making and those who wait for more clarity into the economic anticipations before moving.

Businesses’ success will depend on how quickly the players will harness technology to build differentiating platforms for both employees, to work at best anywhere, and clients. Clients indeed value the first mover into digital solutions, who facilitate:

Interaction, for example for a quicker claims management which had to be handled mostly remotely during last year, but also reinventing interaction with distribution networks, with agents and brokers leveraging on state-of-the art technological tools, such as video-collaboration. Let’s mention also a new paperless awareness, a real change in the last months, when paper documents were not so easy to print at home and when we wanted to avoid touching things as much as possible.

A more tailor-made offering, based on an advanced product innovation processes within the company, especially considering the new types of coverage that may be spurred in part by the pandemic, such as the launch of more parametric policies.

A different client journey: lockdowns forced consumers to go digital and they discovered that customer journeys from native digital players are simpler, if compared to traditional firms. Players who already embraced digital are agile, data-driven, and can adapt quickly to new customer behaviours, which are changing ever more quickly.

Also, the value of timely decisions is critical when businesses should relate with a new zigzag economic scenario, in which the recurring slowdowns and pickups due to the coronavirus outbreaks are creating an unprecedented “stop-and-start economy”. In this environment, traditional predictions of demand and need are inadequate or ineffective. Companies will need to define new KPI analytics and indicators, abandoning traditional ways of forecasting. This implies to better leverage artificial intelligence (AI), alternative data sources, and more advanced predictive models.

The second trend I forecast is the rise of AI and Gaming technologies, which can transform the experience into an enjoyable and educating journey. According to Forrester Predictions, 25% of brands will achieve statistically significant advances in CX quality in 2021, because after the pandemic which has changed our way to interact and purchase, consumers will give brands the permission to become more creative, entertaining, and immersive than ever before. As a consequence, they will expect a homogeneous and pleasant experience across all phases of interaction, from purchasing to product utilisation, customer service, retention, advocacy. AI and Gaming, with chatbots and virtual assistants, which will leverage data to offer more personalized, guided experiences, are keys to success. These tools need to be designed with human-centred methods, which means to carefully assess the features and needs of a diverse customer base and to invest in ethical AI approaches.

A better experience will leverage more innovative products, which lead us to the third trend of 2021: the era of operational risks. I have already given my insight on this topic a few months ago on this blog and I am convinced it is a major business changer. New types of risks have emerged and are currently impacting not only Insurers but all economic players. Some examples are: the new risks deriving from a different and wider partnership ecosystem, which is clearly a driver of success but also a source of potential threats in complex environments; also cybersecurity and privacy are prominent concerns, not only because of increasing regulatory pressure, but also due to how rapidly data volume is growing through sensors, third-party aggregators, and other alternative sources and, last but not least, employees’ health and wellbeing, which is becoming critical to ensure the profitability of a company but it is also changing the relationship and responsibilities of a Corporate vis-à-vis its internal and external workforce.

Employees’ health and wellbeing is indeed the fourth trend that I’d like to discuss. According to Forrester again, in 2021 remote work will rise to 300% of pre-COVID levels. In 2021, at least one-third of European information workers will work primarily from home, compared with 4% in 2019. The pandemic has broken down old ideals and resolved resistance within the organisations and this is a major evolution in the employee/employer dynamic and in the expectations accordingly: people now select employers according to their Smart Working value proposition.  This means the need to establish ad hoc health and safety regulations and local standards for lawful, fair, and acceptable labour practices. Besides that, the culture, values, communication opportunities of the Extended Office, which includes the clients’ offices, become as key as the opportunity to work from home, following the de-urbanization trend and opposite Experiental trend. In fact, a positive employee experience will help businesses attract, develop, and retain talents that can provide competitive advantage in a critical year. That means also that there will be the need for investments in cloud-first and platform strategies for speed and adaptiveness, to foster social collaboration, make information easier to find and use, and provide stronger security, while investment in physical premises, as a place for creativity, collaboration, mentoring and communication will also be growing.

In such a scenario, a very last trend, which is cross to all aspects, is the new attention to ESG practices, accelerated by the COVID social impact. Employees and consumers’ experiences with COVID-19 will redefine how they work, move, consume, behave and engage with companies. Customers will want to engage with brands that support values they share, like the environment, the local community, and gender equality, while massive unemployment post-crisis will engage the responsibilities of all corporates, in particular at local level.

In my opinion, to make the most of these predictions, Insurance players will aim for flexibility, with a focus on new technology to fuel experiences to create ecosystems. Within this journey, Cloud investments will play a major part, with public clouds, based on massive data centres, alongside flexible, private clouds.  The ability to clench meaningful partnership, with other industries, NGOs, tech players will be one of the keys to success in 2021.

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