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Four focal points for commercial insurance and reinsurance leaders

Shifting customer expectations and a focus on value are reshaping the dynamic commercial and reinsurance markets.

In brief

  • The linear value chain of the past is evolving into a dynamic value exchange.
  • Firms that take bold action to meet changing customer needs and expectations can generate significant new business growth and improve underwriting returns.
  • Product and service innovation, expanded digitization and automation, ecosystem investment and talent development should top the near-term strategic agenda.

For years, commercial insurers and reinsurers have been contending with the powerful forces that will reshape the industry during the decade ahead – including changing customer expectations, ongoing tech-driven disruption and competition from new and non-traditional players. Our latest NextWave report (pdf) explores these trends and drivers, while also highlighting the most promising areas for innovation and dramatic growth opportunities going forward.

The innovation and growth opportunities are fueled by the pronounced shift from the industry’s traditional linear value chain to a dynamic value exchange. The inefficient processes and misaligned incentives of the past are gradually giving way to direct connections, real-time data feeds and new services (e.g., risk prevention).


In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, many insurers moved boldly and quickly to automate core operations. Now insurers can build on that foundation with insight-generating and analytics-enabled capabilities required for future growth.


A rigorous focus on client needs and a clear purpose should inspire product and service innovation. Enhanced digital capabilities, increased organizational agility, and new talent across the enterprise will enable operational excellence and, ultimately, stronger financial results.


The following four focal points are imperative for tomorrow’s market leaders in the commercial and reinsurance markets.

Innovation: leading with purpose to deliver client value

Changing client needs point the way forward for innovation, but purpose can – and should – play an enabling role. From cyber crime to climate risk to geopolitical conflicts, the insurance industry’s historical purpose – protecting individuals, businesses and society from the most significant threats – has never been more relevant than now. As tailored policies built on deep client insights become the norm, their value will be enhanced when they are backed by a clear purpose to generate greater social value.

New and enhanced services will supplement and, eventually, supplant existing policy types within holistic value propositions, featuring proactive risk prevention and advisory services and compliance support. Of course, insurers won’t necessarily deliver every service themselves, but will work with partners and within ecosystems. Such changes place a premium on customer centricity, continuous product enhancements and a renewed sense of purpose.

Estimated proportion
of cyber risks are insured.

Connectivity: building on baseline digitization to optimize the entire business

Developing insight-driven services and tailored products at scale requires sophisticated front-end solutions, highly automated back-office operations, and advanced data management and analytics capabilities. Every part of the insurance enterprise must be digital and fully integrated with other functions. To make that vision a reality, insurers should prioritize transformation investments that deliver value across the business rather than simply implementing point solutions.

The benefits of increased digitization also reach outside the business. Real-time connectivity enables a more dynamic value exchange. Common data standards and models within the industry will enable quick, transparent data sharing among participants across the market. The most prominent technologies of today – AI, blockchain, the cloud – will help streamline current operations and drive such market-wide connectivity.

Average proportion of GWP
carriers spent on technology development in 2021.

Community: driving value through collaboration and co-creation

Intense competition has shown that few, if any, insurers are able to address all of their customers’ needs alone, much less address large-scale climate and cyber threats. In forming or joining ecosystems, insurers can capitalize on today’s extensive connectivity by seeking a role that is unique and aligns to their core strengths.

Making the most of partnership-based models requires particular actions across multiple fronts. Designing and investing in ecosystems built around distinct customer needs, such as holistic coverages for multinational clients with diverse asset bases, is a first step. Deploying advanced IT architectures for secure, streamlined data sharing between organization is also critical. And utilizing outsourcing and managed service providers offers flexibility to scale in line with fluctuating demands.

Talent: putting humans at the center of the insurance enterprise

Despite the impacts of technology and data, people, talent and culture remain key factors for success. Creating a culture that values collaboration and creativity can help attract the right talent. Data scientists, experience designers, digital-first strategists and business analysts with Agile experience are foundational for keeping pace with rapid changes in the market.

The end goal is a more diverse and effective workforce, as well as more inclusive work environments. To get there, insurers should seek diversity at executive levels, embrace purposeful leadership that links work to a broader purpose and build compelling employee value propositions.

The primary contributor for this article is Paul Biddiss, EY EMEIA Insurance Director.

Download the full NextWave Insurance: Commercial and reinsurance report


The commercial insurance and reinsurance markets are undergoing dramatic change – with more to come in every part of the business. Product and service innovation, renewed purpose, increased automation and digitization, more sophisticated analytics, a retooled workforce and the expansion of ecosystems are among the most powerful forces that will reshape the next decade. It will be an exciting time for insurers, especially those incumbents that can accelerate the pace of innovation and expand the scope of change.

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