In an age when a handheld device can conjure up almost any product or service known to humanity, some would argue that the brick-and-mortar model of traditional, relationship-based insurance has had its day. And yet, industry watchers report, the insurance sector has been slow to respond to the cultural and technological pressures of “the digital promise.”

Executive Summary

Companies that have not already plunged into digitalization are in danger of becoming uncompetitive, or even obsolete, in the very near future. Fortunately, there's still time to chart a course toward survival and growth. And the first steps may be less intimidating than you might think. According to a panel of experts interviewed by WaterStreet Co.'s Carol Barton, many perceived obstacles are manageable—more cultural than financial.

To find out why this is the case, and to reassure carriers hesitant to dive into the disruptive turbulence of small screens and big data, I recently met with four insurance experts who command an eclectic range of perspectives:

Mark Breading, Partner, Strategy Meets Action Kelly King, CFO and Director, The WaterStreet Co. Parthas Srinivasa, SVP and Group CIO, Tokio Marine HCC Inc. Hugh Terry, Founder, The Digital Insurer

We began by agreeing on a definition of “digital promise.” Those who favor a wholesale migration to data-based activity contend that it means increased sales, improved efficiency, lower costs and more satisfied customers are just over the horizon. Insurers, they say, have no choice but to deploy analytics, dashboards, secure portals, mobile apps, predictive modeling, social media and other tools in order to head off encroachment by technology-driven, customer-oriented outsiders on the scale of Amazon.com or Walmart.

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