From apathy to ecstasy: How getting excited about digitisation could change your life

In the labyrinth of dusty corridors of the insurance industry, where tradition has long held sway over innovation, there lurks a formidable beast more obstructive than legacy systems, politics, or tradition – the apathetic employee.
speech marks “If you have a purpose driving you to change, change is exciting”

In the labyrinth of dusty corridors of the insurance industry, where tradition has long held sway over innovation, there lurks a formidable beast more obstructive than legacy systems, politics, or tradition – the apathetic employee. This species, not necessarily resistant to change, but unable to get truly excited about it, often silently sabotages digital transformation projects without even knowing it. As we stand on the precipice of a fully digital marketplace, where data will undoubtedly be the main driver of growth, the quest to digitise is not just about upgrading systems but getting the market’s heart and soul – its people - truly excited about their futures within it.

And let me tell you, I’m not speaking from some high and mighty place, as for the best part of a decade, the apathetic employee was me.

My ten years in commercial property broking flew by without me truly feeling enthused by anything I’d achieved. I’d had successes, sure, worked hard and progressed, but I simply couldn’t escape the feeling that I was just another cog in the machine, doing the same job with similar expertise to thousands of others in the market, and that I would float through the next thirty years feeling exactly the same way.

“So, what do you do for work?”
“Oh I work in insurance, but I won’t bore you with the details.”

Sound familiar?

Then lightning struck. My eyes were opened to the unprecedented opportunity in this market. The chance for change to mean something, to be a part of something big.

My realisation? That I could be among the first brokers to get my head around the landscape-shifting change that was digitisation. And here’s the thing – in our world outside of this odd little analogue island of an industry, we already know this stuff.

Suddenly, a career in insurance was exciting. I used to dread being asked about work for fear of having nothing interesting to say, now friends and family can’t get me to shut up about it and are the ones who dread asking!

The fact is, digitisation is looming, we have no say in that particular matter—Blueprint 2 or no Blueprint 2. Every client around the world will need to adjust to it. Every executive board of every broker, carrier and MGA is formulating its strategy around it. They know that digital processes and a data-first approach are the only way to remain relevant.

Intriguingly though, still very few companies are mandating a data-first approach from the top down – why? And can we actually benefit as individuals from this disconnect?

According to a study by Mckinsey, 70% of digital transformations across all industries fail, most often derailed by employees. To put it simply, when our organisation asks politely, rather than forces us, to change, it’s over before it’s even begun. The natural assumption employers tend to draw is that people don’t like change, will actively dig their heels in to stop it at all costs and while mandating change remains as the nuclear option, it’ll make you very unpopular with your staff if you push that button.

But let’s do some myth busting here. Having been on both sides of the coin – as a broker who’s shifted to working in the technology space – I now understand the biggest barrier to digitisation in this market is the fact that as businesses and as individuals, we’re doing our best to make it boring! In 2024, a quarter-century after web APIs first gained mainstream commercial adoption, why are so many brokers and underwriters still exchanging emails and PDFs rather than digital submissions and contracts? It’s not because the technology isn’t there. It’s not because we don’t understand the benefits of data. It’s not because we’re actively resistant. No… it’s because we’re not feeling inspired to change.

If you have a purpose driving you to change, change is exciting

If we want to understand why, we need only look at what motivates us to make positive changes in our personal lives.

I’d wager all of us understand going to the gym or avoiding doomscrolling through our phones are good changes for our health (even if the thought of not hearing about 10 INSANE kitchen gadgets someone found on Amazon is crippling). How many of us have made the logical decision to take action on changing these habits, only to give up after a few weeks because "life gets in the way"?

The missing piece is inspiration – getting the feels. Being truly excited about a change and the possibilities it brings.

If you have a purpose or cause driving you to change – perhaps it’s that you want to be healthier because you’re inspired by the idea of feeling more energised and making a greater impact on the world – suddenly that change is exciting and abound with potential to enrich all areas of your life. It’s not just about health, but also career success, relationships and ultimately happiness. Changes that are rooted in inspiration are more likely to stick because we feel energised just thinking about them.

The same goes for insurance. All it takes is a mindset shift, away from just understanding the benefits of data, to really harnessing the feel-good factor of how you can use this digital shift to make a greater impact at work, boost your profile and more importantly reap the knock-on benefits in your own life.

It starts with the realisation that, in the reticence of companies mandating us to work digitally (which will change sooner or later), there’s arguably no-one who’s yet fully mastered the broking or underwriting skills that will become the cornerstone of our industry. It then grows into a recognition that you can transform your future if you commit to learning those skills before the market becomes saturated with them.

We have the greatest opportunity for growth we’ll see in our careers. This can open doors for us and we need to get inspired by it.

Businesses that fail to digitise will lose relevance, clients, and eventually die, whereas those who take advantage will grow exponentially. We can look to other industries to see that this happens. Blockbuster famously passed up the opportunity to buy online DVD rental upstarts, Netflix, for $50 million. Netflix is now a $250 billion company, whereas Blockbuster will soon be a brand unheard of by the youngest talent in our market.

But it's not just businesses that will be affected. If most digitisation projects fail due to employees, and all businesses that fail to digitise will eventually die out, it stands to reason that employees who can get inspired to become part of the solution to this major problem will be like glowing neon signs saying

HIRE ME” to those scratching their heads trying to solve it.

Employees earn higher salaries and have greater job satisfaction if they use more advanced digital skills

A study by Amazon Web Services and Gallup found that employees at companies across a wide range of industries had far greater job security, earned higher salaries and had greater job satisfaction if they used more advanced digital skills, than those using only basic digital skills. This, then, appears to directly contradict the cliché that all change has a negative impact on morale. The same study also reported that 84% of hiring managers said hiring digitally skilled workers was somewhat of a challenge or a significant challenge. Only 3% said it was no challenge at all.

In insurance, at it’s glacial pace, knowledge of ‘basic’ digital skills amounts to knowing how to switch on a laptop, attach a PDF slip to an email, or a document-first placing platform, and send a firm order. The bar is set so low it’s a trip hazard. ‘Advanced’ digital skills would be knowledge of how to create a digital contract, or place an entire risk from submission to bind inside a data-first platform, without sending a single email.

The evidence points to the fact that embracing and mastering these digital skills will lead to greater future employability and simply more enjoyment in going to work every day. Digitisation is a change in our world four times more significant than the industrial revolution. There’s a huge skills gap in the market for the first time in a generation, and if that’s not something to feel stirred by I don’t know what is.

If the company we work for isn’t currently forcing us to adopt a data-first approach, we ought to be taking it upon ourselves to master this stuff, because, in this brave new world, those who do stand to win, and win big.

Expert analysts have predicted that, by 2030, automation will eliminate 29% of jobs globally, while contributing 13% to job creation1. What does this mean in practice? Well, it means that the threat we perceive to our jobs from technology exists - there’s no hiding from that - but it also shows technology brings a huge amount of new opportunity.

Just as in the industrial revolution, where the rise of mass-scale factory production led to lower demand for craftspeople, but created opportunities for people with new and emerging skills to ensure those factories ran smoothly, we see similar trends emerging in insurance. Automation is coming and we can either do nothing, or catch the wave as it’s just starting to build and surf it to success.

A complete reset of essential skills

Brokers and underwriters who are experts in digital insurance trading are still in a minority today, but this is already a highly sought after, and soon to be essential, skill on a CV. Technicians and wordings experts who commit to upskilling themselves in how to create and manage fully digital contracts, wordings and templates, will become some of the most in-demand talent in the industry. This could forge pathways for you that didn’t even exist in the pre-digital world.

In the simplest terms, what I’m saying amounts to “Get a move on and you’ll get the good jobs before someone else does!” It’s something we should all be excited about - a complete reset. Everyone is starting from scratch and nobody has an advantage – go and grab it!

I’m not suggesting you upend everything you’re doing and start learning binary code. You can get the ball rolling with the smallest of actions – write down one digital skill you could start learning this week that’s in short supply on your team. Once you identify this, make a commitment to master it within a year and a small short-term commitment to take a first step towards that mastery.

The one-year goal might look something like:

  • become my team’s go to expert in fully digital placement or underwriting
  • become my company’s go to expert in fully digital contract or template creation

The first step to these would be completing just one upcoming renewal using a digital platform from submission to bind, banning yourself from email and Microsoft Word, or dedicating a time block in your week to digitising one of your slips or templates. If you can take even these initial steps, you’re already in the upper-echelons of digital insurance expertise. If you don’t yet have access to a digital platform you could look to attend demos or read up online to start increasing your knowledge that way.

Don't wait until your company mandates a data-first approach  - now is the time to take advantage. Take it upon yourself to upskill and get ahead of the game. As the saying goes, "the early bird catches the worm," and in this case, those with early mastery of digital contracts and placement will have a significant career advantage. So why not get excited about it? The possibilities for personal and professional growth are endless.


1Forrester guide to “The Future Of Work

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