Innovation in the Japanese Financial Services Industry, Part 2: Panel Discussion

Celent hosted Innovation & Insight Day Tokyo on June 5. Following the event presentation titled "Digital Financial Services and New Innovation Initiatives," which focused on Celent's innovation survey results, a panel discussion was held.

This is the second in a two-part report providing an overview of event proceedings.

 

Five leading experts in Japan's financial industry joined the event as panelists. Celent would like to offer a heartfelt thank-you to these individuals for taking part despite the pressure and the presence of competition and many disclaimers. The panelists’ wealth of experience and sheer passion for innovation was palpable and the content thought provoking. Above all, the impassioned and experience-informed comments of panelists displayed the confidence of Japan's financial industry. Below are some of the more salient comments that demonstrate the spirit and mindset of innovators in Japan.

What motivates your firm to innovate?

  • "Responding to customer expectations."
  • "A backdrop of growing user needs and the proliferation of technology and the environment to meet these needs."
  • "Our objective is to remove all inconvenience from the customer experience."
  • "We aspire to offer financial services that achieve exactly what people feel they need and consumers think they want."
  • "Innovation is the lifeblood and fate of a corporation."

 

What drives innovation at your firm?

  • "Aligning innovation objectives and technology employed."
  • "Integrating technology and compliance is important."
  • "Amplifying the motivation and drive of each employee to take action."
  • "Reflecting the intentions of management."
  • “Resisting the temptation to seek short-term growth.”
  • "Supporting management philosophies that bet on uniqueness."

 

The threat and opportunity of disruptive innovation

During the proceedings there were questions and opinions from participants exchanged with the moderator:

  • "There is no special opportunity for innovation. It is important to reflect innovation in daily management. That is something that we have done since we started our business and something that we will continue to do. Innovation is simply naturally part of what we do.”
  • "We do not see disruptive innovation as a threat. Rather, for the development of the industry as a whole, the kind of shakeout such innovation entails is necessary. We will undergo challenges and survive—and look to take on more such challenges.”

 

Celent concluded the event with the below message.

Managers: Have faith and confidence in innovation

The importance of leadership and management responsibility in innovation is self-evident. At the same time, innovation is a mid-to-long-term journey—more a marathon, than a sprint. Failure is sometimes to be allowed. In addition, it is not uncommon to destroy a corporate culture that has been fostered over many years. An intense commitment to innovation on the part of management itself is required. Technological drivers continue to advance and case studies of successes only increase. Mangers: Be confident.

 

Distinguish between disruptive innovation and kaizen (improvement), and the need to tackle the former

The greatest factors hampering the progress of disruptive innovation are not to be found outside a company but within it. Especially within large corporations, where tendencies such as the below are seen; conversely, these tends to derail innovation. These tendencies include the following.

  • Compared with start-ups and small or medium enterprises, large firms boast a wealth of capital and business resources.
  • In particular, these resources include human resources and technology, which can be channeled to R&D.
  • These companies often have business operations that require 360-degree management and much competition
  • Such firms are often home to isolated “black sheep” employees that seek to innovate.

If you neglect innovation, cannibalization can be expected to take place not only in your core business areas but in new businesses as well. To keep innovators from being ostracized as black sheep, it is important to clearly distinguish between the accumulation of kaizen (improvement) on a daily basis in core operations and disruptive innovation, and, in particular, it is important to direct management and initiative toward the latter.

 

Initiatives and leadership that are not negative contribute to positive value standards

Of course, trusting in your management resources, in particular in your personnel and technology, and putting effort into your business battles over “invisible continents,” “immeasurable risk” and “non-consuming consumers” is important. However, in such challenges when results do not appear with time, then you should not underestimate the power of disruptive innovation. Furthermore, it is key “to always be positive.” Leadership and initiatives that acknowledge and embrace diversity and difference and that do not deny any possibility are needed.

 

Today no industry or industrial structure is immune to change and, like plate tectonics, the ground around us is always shifting. Digital technology is doing more than changing products, services, consumer experiences, and expectations; it is also radically changing value chains and business models.

Until now, Japan’s financial industry has developed by virtue of outstanding leadership and the agile introduction of technology. Celent would like to emphasize anew the importance of innovation to Japan’s financial industry, buttressed as it is by people and technology. The results of Celent’s recent innovation survey hinted at further reform to come in Japan’s financial industry. When it comes to innovation, now is an opportune time for commitments from top management and fresh initiatives from technology vendors.

Undertaking this innovation conference was a major challenge for Celent Tokyo. However, any undue anxiety completely vanished amidst the enthusiasm of survey and event participants. The Japanese financial industry is extremely positive and enthusiastic when it comes to innovation. Celent would like to express its deep gratitude to the professionals in the financial industry who took time to participate in this event in various capacities, and we hope that it will prove in some way useful to your continued success.

 

Fig. 2 Structures to Support Innovation: Financial Services Institution / Vendor Comparison

FIG2_20140703

Source: Celent Innovation Survey 2013/2014

Innovation in the Japanese Financial Services Industry, Part 1: Two Gaps

On June 5, nearly 120 individuals from Japan's financial sector and the financial technology sector gathered to participate in our Innovation & Insight Day Tokyo 2014. This is the first of a two-part recap providing an event overview and recounting event highlights.

The first keynote address compared the May 2014 Japan Financial Industry Innovation Survey with a similar global Celent survey conducted last October. This comparison pointed to two existing gaps.

 

Gap Number One: A Leadership Gap

1. Perception of the importance of innovation

"The next few years innovation will be extremely important. Customer expectations are changing very rapidly and it is crucial to act so as not to fall behind." The ratio of respondents who agreed with this statement was similar in Japan and globally as shown below.

  • Global: 79%, Japan: 81%

—Conclusion: There can be no doubting the importance of innovation.

 

2. Leadership and innovation initiatives

"Our firm has an individual in charge of innovation (a chief innovation officer)."

  • Global: 11%, Japan: 7%

"We have an organization in charge of innovation (center of excellence)."

  • Global: 27%, Japan: 7%

"Innovation-related leadership relies on proponents at the CEO level."

  • Global: 62%, Japan: 85%

—Conclusion: There was a clear lack of leadership among top management when it comes to innovation initiatives.

 

3. Three significant impediments

Global: 1) Daily work operation routines, 2) Internal habits and practices, 3) Inadequate support system.

Japan: 1) Internal habits and practices, 2) Lack of senior management support, 3) Daily work operation routines.

—Conclusion: Both globally and in Japan, in contrast to the high levels of awareness of the importance of innovation, at financial institutions there was a distinct lack of leadership.

 

Gap Number Two: Gap Between Financial Institutions and Vendors

The Japan survey asked both financial institutions and financial solution vendors about innovation-related initiatives. Responses indicated another gap here between financial institutions and these vendors.

1. Years promoting innovation

There was no significant difference between financial institutions and vendors, with both recording similar figures:

  • Three years or less: 54%, Five years or more: 30%

—Conclusion: Financial institutions seem to interpret the fact that technology-supplying vendors possess approximately the same level of experience as themselves as meaning that innovative initiatives cannot benefit from sufficient experience.

 

2. Organizational and structural

"A chief innovation officer has been appointed"

  • Vendors: 24%, Financial institutions: 7%

“Have established a center of excellence”

  • Vendors: 14%, Financial institutions: 7%

"CEO-level proponents of innovation are relied upon for leadership"

  • Vendors: 67%, Financial institutions: 85%

—Conclusion: With a slightly lower degree of reliance on upper level management for innovation leadership, vendors are slightly superior.

 

3. Departments that lead innovation

Financial institutions:

  • Business departments lead: 30%, IT departments lead: 11%

Vendor innovation proposals:

  • Directed to business departments: 14%, Directed to IT departments: 17%

Undertaking initiatives in both business and IT areas:

  • Financial institutions: 59%, Vendors: 69%

—Conclusion: There is a visible gap between financial institution innovation IT initiatives and vendor business sector initiatives.

 

4. Digital financial services initiatives

There was also a visible gap when it came to the priority level of digital financial services (innovative financial services that harness digital technology) as advocated by Celent.

  • Financial institution priority areas: Process improvements, transaction feature enhancements, product and service customization
  • Vendor initiative areas: Three sectors were overwhelmingly dominant: big data, mobile two-way communication, omnichannel

—Conclusion: Survey results indicated a general tendency for financial institutions to be more conservative and vendor proposals to be more aggressive.

 

What exactly is this gap and what does it signify? This gap is between the proposals of vendors that feature the newest or hottest technology and the initiatives of financial institutions, which have yet to recognize the advantages of or are still evaluating such technology or technological initiatives. At the very least, currently it is easy to see that, unfortunately, vendors and financial institutions are not yet on the same page when in comes to what they are looking for in initiatives. Moreover, it could be that even if new technology is applied incrementally (to drive improvement) it could also prove to be a driver of disruptive innovation.

In addition to responses that can be numerically tabulated and analyzed, the survey also allowed participants to articulate freely their own invaluable opinions. A more detailed analysis of this survey and examination of innovation in the financial industry in Japan will be available in the upcoming Celent report "Innovation in the Japanese Financial Services Industry: The Gap between Management and Initiatives." Please be on the lookout for it.

 

Fig. 1 Comparison with Other Industries: Global / Japan Comparison

Compared with other industries, financial services firms (e.g., banks, insurers, asset managers) innovate…

FIG1_20140703

Source: Celent Innovation Survey 2013/2014

 

日本の金融機関におけるイノベーション②:パネルディスカッションから

セレントは、去る6月5日、「イノベーション&インサイト・デー 東京 2014」を開催した。「デジタル金融サービスと新たなイノベーションの取り組み」と題した本イベントでは、セレントによるイノベーションサーベイの報告に引き続き、パネルディスカッションを実施した。
本稿は、本イベント報告の第2回である。

 

当日は、日本の金融業界を代表する5人のパネリストにご登壇頂いた。競合とディスクレーマーの強い圧力の中でのご登壇に、セレントは深く感謝申し上げたい。そして何より、パネリストのイノベーションへの情熱と経験、示唆に富む発言内容には、日本の金融業界の自信が感じられた。以下、発言者は特定せず、日本のイノベーターの「心意気」をまとめる。

 

イノベーションの動機

  • 「顧客の期待に応えるために」
  • 「ユーザニーズの高まりと、それを実現する環境や技術の普及を背景として」
  • 「顧客経験の不都合をなくすことを目的に」
  • 「人の気持ち、生活者の想いを実現する金融サービスの提供を目指して」
  • 「イノベーションとは、企業の宿命である」

 

イノベーションのドライバー

  • 「イノベーションの目的と採用する技術とのアライン(整合)」
  • 「テクノロジーとコンプライアンスの摺合せが重要」
  • 「従業員ひとりひとりの取り組み姿勢(やる気)が加速」
  • 「あくまでマネージメントの意思を反映」
  • 「爆発的な成長への誘惑を絶ち」
  • 「ユニークさに賭ける経営哲学が支える」

 

破壊的イノベーションの脅威と機会
会場からの質問、モデレータ―からの問いかけに答えて、

  • 「イノベーションの機会に、特別なものは無い。日々のマネージメントにイノベーションを反映することが重要、創業以来そうしてきたし、これからも続ける。イノベーションは自然体」
  • 「破壊的なイノベーションに、脅威は感じない。むしろ、業界全体の発展のためには、そうした荒波が必要。そうしたチャレンジは受けて立つし、そのようなチャレンジを続けてゆきたい」

 

最後に、セレントからは以下のメッセージで締めくくった。
経営者は、イノベーションに自信を
イノベーションにおける経営者の責任とリーダーシップの重要性は自明である。一方で、イノベーションは中長期にわたる旅で、時には失敗も許容する必要がある。また、長年かけて培った自らの企業文化すら打ち壊すことも稀ではない。経営者自身のイノベーションへの強烈なコミットメントを要求される。ドライバーとなるテクノロジーは日進月歩だが、確実に成功事例は増えている。経営者には、自信を持って欲しい。

 

破壊的なイノベーションと「改善(カイゼン)」を区分して、前者に取り組む必要性
破壊的なイノベーションが進展しない最大の理由は企業の外ではなく、内に存在する。特に、大企業には以下の性向が見られるが、これらはむしろ破壊的なイノベーションを回避させる。すなわち;

  • 中小企業やスタートアップと比較して、圧倒的に潤沢な資金
  • R&Dに投入できる十分な経営資源(特に、人と技術)
  • (360度のマネージメントが必要な)多様な事業部門と多くの競合
  • 孤立する「ブラックシープ(黒い羊)」

イノベーションを放置すれば、カニバリゼーション(共食い)は、自社のコア業務領域ばかりでなく、あらゆるニュービジネスにおいて発生してしまうであろう。イノベーターを嫌われ者の黒い羊として追放させないために、コア業務における日々のカイゼン(改善)の積み上げと、破壊的なイノベーションを峻別し、後者にこそ、マネージメントとイニシアチブを向けることが重要である。

 

「否定しない」リーダーシップとイニシアチブ
自社の経営資源、特に人材と技術力を信じ、「見えない大陸」や「測れないリスク」、「無消費な消費者」との戦いに傾注することが大切だ。遅々として成果が表れないこうした挑戦における、破壊的なイノベーションの威力を軽視してはならない。そして、常に「肯定的であること」。多様性や異質であること是認し、あらゆる可能性を否定しないリーダーシップとイニシアチブが待望される。

 

今日、産業構造が変わらない業界などどこにもなく、その地殻変動は随所で進展している。デジタルテクノロジーは、商品やサービス、顧客のエクスペリエンスや期待を変化させるだけでなく、価値連鎖やビジネスモデルそのものも、激変させている。

日本の金融業界は、これまでも、卓越したリーダーシップと俊敏な技術導入で発展して来た。人とテクノロジーが支える日本の金融業界、そこでのイノベーションの重要性をセレントは再度強調したい。2つのイノベーションサーベイの結果は、日本の金融業界に一層の変革を促す示唆を与えた。今こそ、イノベーションに関して、トップマネージメントのコミットメントと、テクノロジーベンダーのイニチアチブが期待される。

本イノベーションイベントは、セレント東京にとって、大きな挑戦だったが、サーベイとカンファレンスへの参加者の熱気は、そうした杞憂を一掃した。日本の金融業界は、イノベーションに対して極めて積極的かつ熱心である。セレントは、様々な形で本イベントにご参加下さった、金融業界のプロフェッショナルの皆様に深く感謝し、日本の金融機関におけるイノベーションの成功を熱望する。

 

図 2. イノベーションを支援する組織(金融機関・ベンダー比較)

Innovation survey2

出典: セレント「イノベーションサーベイ」2013/2014

日本の金融機関におけるイノベーション①:2つのギャップ

6月5日、日本の金融業界と金融テクノロジー業界から約120名のご参加を頂き、「イノベーション&インサイト・デー 東京 2014」を開催した。本稿では、本イベントの要諦を2回に分けて報告する。

まず、基調講演において、先月実施した「日本の金融業界におけるイノベーションサーベイ」と、昨年10月にグローバルに実施した調査結果を比較し、そこからの示唆として2つのギャップを報告した。

 

その1:リーダーシップ・ギャップ
1. 重要性認識
「これから数年間、イノベーションは非常に重要。顧客期待は急速に変化しており、遅れないように対応する必要がある」との回答の割合は以下の通りであった。

  • グローバル:79%、日本:81%

・・・・イノベーションの重要性に疑う余地はない。

 

2. イノベーションに取り組むリーダーシップ
「イノベーションの責任者(チーフ・イノベーション・オフィサー)がいる」

  • グローバル:11%、日本:7%

「イノベーションの専門組織(イノベーション・CoE)がいる」

  • グローバル:27% 日本:7%

「イノベーションに関するリーダーシップはCEOレベルの推進者に頼る」

  • グローバル:62%、日本:85%

・・・・イノベーションに対する取り組みについて、トップマネージメントのリーダーシップ不足は明らかであった。

 

3. 3大阻害要因

  • グローバル:①日常業務のルーチン②社内慣習③サポート体制の不備
  • 日本:①社内慣習②経営幹部のサポート不足③日常業務のルーチン

・・・・グローバルにも日本でも、金融機関におけるイノベーションは、その重要性の認識に反して、リーダーシップ不足は鮮明であった。

 

その2:金融機関とベンダー間のギャップ
日本サーベイでは、イノベーションに関するイニシアチブを、金融機関と金融ソリューションベンダーの両セグメントに尋ねたが、両者の間にはもう一つのギャップが垣間見られた。
1. イノベーション推進の経験年数

  • 金融機関とベンダーの間で大きな差異はなく、両者とも、
  • 3年未満:54%、 5年以上:3割強

・・・・金融機関からすると、テクノロジーを供給するベンダーのイノベーションに関する経験は同程度、そのイニシアチブが十分に享受出来る状態では無いとみなされる。

 

2. 組織・体制
「チーフ・イノベーション・オフィサーを任命済み」

  • ベンダー:24%、金融機関:7%

「イノベーション・CoEを任命済み」

  • ベンダー:14%、金融機関:7%

「リーダーシップをCEOレベルの推進者に頼る」

  • ベンダー:67%、金融機関:85%

・・・・ベンダーに一日の長が見られた。

 

3. イノベーションを主導する部門

  • 金融機関:ビジネス部門が主導:30%、IT部門が主導:11%
  • ベンダーのイノベーション提案:ビジネス部門向けは14%、IT部門向け:17%
  • ビジネス・IT両部門での取り組み:金融機関:59%、ベンダー:69%

・・・・・金融機関のイノベーションにおけるIT部門のイニシアチブと、ベンダーのビジネス部門に対するイニシアチブに関して、ギャップが垣間見られた。

 

4. 「デジタル金融サービス」への取り組み
セレントが提唱する、「デジタル金融サービス」(デジタル技術を活用した、革新的な金融サービスの提供)への取り組み状況においても、金融機関とベンダーの優先順位に明らかにギャップが見られた。

  • 金融機関の優先分野:「プロセス改善」、「取引機能拡張」、「商品・サービスのカストマイズ」
  • ベンダーの取り組み分野:群を抜いて「ビックデータ」、「モバイルと双方向通信」、「オムニチャネル」

・・・・金融機関は総じてコンサバティブ、一方、ベンダーはアグレッシブな提案姿勢が浮かび上がった。

 

このギャップは何を意味するのか?新しい(若しくは、流行の)テクノロジーを積極的に提案するベンダーと、その有効性を見出せない(若しくは、評価中の)金融機関の取り組みギャップであろうか?少なくとも、現時点では両者のイニシアチブがきっちりとシンクロしていないことは、残念ながら、容易に想定されよう。また、新たなテクノロジーが、インクリメンタルな(カイゼン的な)イノベーションには適用されても、ディスラプティブな(破壊的な)イノベーションのドライバーとなれているか?
サーベイでは、これら数値で分析出来る項目に加え、自由回答における参加者の貴重な「つぶやき」を記録した。それらの詳細と分析は、近刊のセレントレポート「日本の金融機関におけるイノベーション:マネージメントとイニシアチブのギャップ」をご参照願いたい。

http://www.celent.com/ja/reports/32573

 

図 1. 他業界と比較した、金融機関のイノベーションの進捗レベル認識(グローバル比較)

Innovation survey1

出典:セレント「イノベーションサーベイ」2013/2014

 

Quotes from the Innovation Roundtable

They said it couldn’t be done, but we held the latest installment in Celent’s series of innovation roundtables in Tokyo recently. Our innovation roundtables put the focus squarely on interactive discussion among the participants. This is a relatively untried model in Japan, where events typically take the form of conventional conferences with presentations. We’re glad we tried it though, because we got a very interesting line-up of firms. Participants included the whole spectrum: banks, capital markets firms, and insurers; Japanese and foreign firms; traditional mega-institutions and alternative new entrants. The discussion was lively; below are some quick notes I took of some of the more interesting comments made, to capture a bit of the flavor of the day. Why Innovate? “Innovation is not the goal, it is a method and a tactic.” “We need to innovate because it has become difficult to differentiate us from our competitors.” “In today’s environment, innovation is necessary if you want to stay profitable.” Paths to Innovation “Incremental innovation is an axymoron. You can’t innovate by increments; innovation requires a big bang change.” “It might be possible to rearrange existing elements to create something new.” “When to innovate? If our clients think a new service is interesting, we try and create it for them and see if it succeeds.” “Innovation needs to be business driven.” “Financial institutions need to have an innovation division; an incubation unit that accumulates ideas from throughout the company.” IT and Innovation “IT is not the impetus for innovation, but because IT inevitably evolves, that creates need for innovation.” “Legacy is a barrier: it is hard to throw things away.” Cultural Challenges “We need to justify ROI on any investment each fiscal year. It is hard to show this on an innovation project.” “If you think about it, financial institutions don’t even have R&D departments.” Quote of the Day “Changing company culture is really about changing oneself. I personally enjoy innovation and change. Innovative culture is about getting a bunch of people together who enjoy change.”

On Innovation

Celent held our most recent Innovation event in Singapore the last week of November, following similar events in New York, Boston, Toronto, Tokyo, London, and, most recently, San Francisco. Most of Celent’s work is focused on specific financial industry verticals, but Innovation is a topic that transcends industry barriers, and so—by design—do many of our Innovation events.

In Singapore we had representation from the entire financial services spectrum—banks, credit cards, insurers, capital markets firms and exchanges. We presented some of Celent’s recent thinking on innovation, much of it from our new innovation survey. But the main event was a peer discussion between the participants themselves.

It was one of the more lively discussions I’ve seen. We set aside two hours for the peer discussion, and it went by in a flash. Participants jostled to get their say in, and the session ended with the feeling that it could have gone several hours more. I think one of the keys was that there were a lot of different types in the room: the abovementioned full spectrum of FIs, from both the business and IT side, and even from compliance.

Everyone was naturally interested in how their “colleagues across the aisles” looked at innovation, how far each had come in achieving it, and what their technology, operational and cultural approaches were—or were not. Participants brimmed with on-the-spot case studies of initiatives at their firms. This was also refreshingly unusual, since firms are often reticent to divulge competitive information and “secret sauces.”

I think the reason for this relatively high level of enthusiasm lies in the industry’s realization that innovation is crucial to long-term success–and considering the rapidly expanding number of disintermediators, and the remarkable success of some of them, maybe even needed for short-term survival.

Outsourcing in Wealth Management: A Growing Trend

Outsourcing has been in use in the financial services industry for quite some time, at least for a couple of decades. However, wealth management firms have lagged the financial services industry in adopting outsourcing, primarily due to issues relating to privacy, data security, and loss of control. Many of them did not invest in technology from a strategic point of view for a long time, instead taking a siloed approach depending on specific business needs. The global financial crisis has contributed to a major paradigm shift in this regard. The crisis has significantly impacted both revenue and costs. Lacklustre market conditions have prevented them from generating superior returns impacting top line; this has been exacerbated by loss of clients, who, driven by disappointing returns and loss of trust, have looked away from their advisors or looked to diversify wealth management relationships. At the same time increasing regulatory pressures and newer regulations have compelled wealth managers to grapple with newer challenges in terms of control, compliance, risk management and streamlining operations. In this evolving environment wealth managers have slowly started to wake up and embrace technology and operations outsourcing as one of the solutions to meet the challenges. Cost cutting remains the primary driver behind adoption of outsourcing, which typically can save 20% to 30% of costs over a 3 to 5 year period. Secondly, outsourcing also offers easy scalability options; this is more relevant now as firms are either cutting down or closing operations in certain markets, while looking to expand in others – all in a short period of time. Time to market has therefore become critical. Data management, especially in large organizations offering multiple services, is another aspect that firms are looking to outsource. Along with benefits, there are a number of areas for concern with outsourcing. The most important of them is loss of control and security, both of great importance to wealth managers. Data privacy and data hosting constraints continue to be key concerns; violations in this area can be harmful for wealth managers’ brand image, which somewhat limits the universe of functionalities that wealth managers are comfortable to outsource. Another concern is around fiduciary responsibility and compliance and operational risk. Since the firm is responsible for regulatory compliance for all operations, including the ones outsourced, there is an increased need for easily accessing data and information for enhanced control and client and enterprise reporting. Firms will need to demonstrate their ability to provide the information requested by both clients and the regulatory authorities on-demand and in formats for consumption tailored to the individual’s preferences. Over time the industry has evolved a set of norms to overcome the concerns related to outsourcing. Extent of outsourcing adoption varies by region, the US being far ahead of Europe, while Asia lags the other two regions by some distance. Adoption also depends on the size and nature of wealth management firms. While Tier I and Tier II retail banks, insurance companies and brokerages have outsourced significantly, adoption of outsourcing remains moderate in smaller sized firms, especially in trust companies and family offices. In terms of functionalities, the further a wealth management function is from a client “touch point,” the more likely it is to be outsourced. Therefore, mid and back office functionalities are more likely to be outsourced. Outsourcing in the areas of global custody, securities lending, client servicing, and accounting and settlement of trades in is relatively widespread. Front office functionalities have been outsourced less; while some firms are slowly outsourcing their client on boarding or financial planning functions, outsourcing in the areas of product development, marketing, and fraud management is still limited. Outsourcing in the wealth management industry is likely to see further adoption in the near future. This will be mainly driven by firms in the US and Europe. Outsourcing practices in wealth management is still not as mature as those in other parts of the financial services industry and wealth management firms are starting to realize its benefits. In addition, existing market conditions as well as external factors like regulation will drive the growth in outsourcing business. IT budgets are expected to remain flat or decline in most markets. This will restrict firms’ ability to spend on technology. However, this also means firms will now have to do more with less and channel investments efficiently. Outsourcing provides one option for increasing efficiency without needing significant investments in infrastructure. Tier II and tier III firms will embrace outsourcing following the lead of tier I firms. While IT outsourcing has been the dominant part of outsourcing practices till now, process outsourcing is likely to gain more traction in future.

Relationship between Offline and Online

Nowadays, financial institutions have the opportunity to utilize both online and offline channels for their marketing tools. An example of offline marketing might be prominent advertising on the street and online might be use of social networking services. Lifenet Insurance, one of Japan’s online insurers, is a good example of how to leverage both the offline and online marketing approaches. As online-only insurers people might think that they mainly do marketing online, but they extensively do marketing offline too. Their executives often step up to the podium to not only explain their business but also speak about topics unrelated to insurance. Their goal in these offline activities is to generate awareness of Lifenet, both its products and its management. Lifenet asserts that their offline activities expand into online by means of social network posts by their “offline” audience. Therefore, they don’t care how large of an audience comes to their seminars. They believe that offline marketing is closely linked to online marketing. It might be nonsense to treat offline and online marketing separately because what happens offline can expand very quickly by means of online social networking. It is true that face-to-face voice still has a strong power to convey some messages better than online. So, it is important to do marketing utilizing the advantages of each. Financial institutions, particularly in Asia, might be reluctant to expand their activities through social networking quickly because of the risk that the social audience might focus on issues unfavorable to the institution. However, they should not ignore the potential for expanded use of SNS activities to create good opportunities to grow their business.

A Challenge for Korean Insurers: Enabling Paperless Policies

I recently published the Celent report “Electronic Signatures in South Korean Insurance: Enabling Paperless Policies”. Actually, at first I intended to write a report about e-business in the South Korean insurance industry. (I will get to that topic next year …) However, I found that South Korean insurers sell more than 80% of their products through sales agents. Furthermore, I found that there is a new trend for sales agents: the adoption of e-signatures for policies.

Adoption of e-signatures has significantly changed the work flow for insurance sales agents in South Korea. With a paper-based insurance contract, a sales agent must visit the home or other location of the policyholder at least twice; however, with an electronic contract, the sales agent only has to visit the individual once to complete the transaction process—from explanation to signing the contract.

Another merit of this so-called “smart insurance” is that it eliminates the need for the sales agent to input customer data after returning to the office because after being e-signed the contract is sent directly to the server. Smart insurance also obviates the risk of losing a signed paper contract before inputting the data—a risk that has until now been a part of doing business on paper.

To determine exactly what benefits the industry expects of e-signatures, Celent conducted a survey of insurers in South Korea. The salient points articulated by interviewees are listed below.

• Streamlining and heightened efficiency throughout the contract process. • Reducing costs such as paper and storage expenses. • Enhanced customer satisfaction. • Realizing green IT.



I will write a report on direct insurance channel including e-business in South Korea in early 2013. Don’t miss it!

Life Insurance E-Business in Asia: Trends and Best Practices

My new report ‘Life Insurance E-Business in Asia: Trends and Best Practices’ was published last week. Personally I’m very keen to study this topic. When I worked in e-business department of a Chinese life insurance company twelve years ago, we’ve already sell travel insurance and term insurance online. In many industries in Asia, the Internet is evolving from being purely an information and communication medium to being an important distribution channel, but in the life insurance industry, though some pioneer insurance companies in Asia have used the Internet as a distribution channel for 10 years, the portion of premium income from this channel is still very small. I’m keen to understand the reason. At the same time, I see drivers for life insurance e-business development do exist (such as the grown-up of young generation consumers, the popularity of smartphones and tablets in the past two to three years, etc.), and think this is the time for life insurers to re-think about their e-business strategies. This report examines the growth of Internet users, mobile broadband subscriptions, and smartphone and tablet users in Asian countries. It looks at life insurance e-business market size growth trends and online product trends, identifying key points in the life insurance online sales process, introducing best practices, and making suggestions for life insurers with regard to improving life insurance online sales. The life insurance sales process can be divided into the concept delivery phase, policy application phase, and policy issue phase. Insurers generally invest in e-business technology focused on enabling the policy application and policy issue phase, making these phases more efficient, user-friendly, etc. The concept delivery phase is usually ignored by insurance companies. The online purchase process usually starts from premium calculation, which is fine for auto or travel insurance, but not good enough for life/health/annuity insurance. An honest introduction to the insurance concepts and the products will build a good image of the online channel. Compared to other channels such as agents, bancassurance, brokers, etc., the online channel is the one that the insurer has the most control of in regard to the product introduction. Insurers could therefore use this channel to build their reputation. By looking at life insurance companies’ websites, we find some best practices in Asia, such as: -Leveraging video in online insurance. The report introduced real world examples of ‘Use of Video to Deliver Insurance Concepts’; ‘Use of Video to Introduce Insurance Products’; ‘In-Built Product Videos as a Compulsory Part of Sales Process’; ‘Use of Video to Introduce Different Types of Insurance Plans (a kind of need analysis) ‘. -Improving content quality and readability. The report introduced real world examples of ‘Use of Simple Language’; ‘Provide Product Comparison’. -Leveraging multiple communication methods. The report introduced real world examples of ‘Provide Toll-Free Number to Explain Product Features’; ‘Live Chat and Live Video Chat’. -Improving the user experience. The report introduced real world examples of ‘Provide Demo of Purchase Process’; ‘Use of Drag and Drop Bars and Dashboards’; ‘Use of Audio Guide’; ‘User-Friendly Premium Calculation and Benefit Illustration Tool’. -Creating well-organized websites. The report introduced real world examples of ‘Well-Organized Front Page to Direct Various Users’; ‘Good Design of Each Page’. The functionality of insurers’ websites extends beyond direct sales. They can be used as a marketing tool and for lead generation. Insurers’ websites are a platform for customer service and agent service, and are capable of helping to improve sales quality and straight-through processing of the traditional channels. For Asian life insurance companies that plan to leverage the online channel to distribute life insurance products, I have some suggestions: • A successful concept delivery and product introduction is essential. The use of multimedia, well-organized information, an honest introduction to the insurance concepts and the products, etc. will build the online channel as one of the most trustable distribution channels. • Focus on user experience; provide user-friendly interface and process. • Use simple words and active voice and employ direct speech. • Leverage various communication tools, such as live video chat, to help potential clients whenever they need help. • Support various devices, such as PCs, mobile phones, tablets, etc. • Leverage various marketing tools, including social media, to generate traffic to the website as well as build a relationship with the individual customer. The use of technology is important, such as underwriting rules engine, configurable products, etc., but understanding how life insurance can be sold is more important. I expect to see more insurance companies in Asia really understand customer’s needs and behaviour, and provide customers with excellent purchase experience.