Nearly 70 percent of insurer CFOs see pursuit of new growth, market expansion or an M&A deal as a significant priority, making it their top business driver, according to a 2016 EY survey of carrier chief financial officers.
CFOs will be key to these efforts, of course, and an increasing number see big data and analytics as a way to get there. About 33 percent of CFOs ranked both as top business drivers in the coming years. That’s fourth place compared to other drivers in the survey, but the category did not exist when EY last surveyed CFOs in 2014, the firm said.
“CFOs will be key to the implementation of growth strategies, leveraging the potential of digital, new segments, new markets, optimization and restructuring,” EY noted in its “Global Insurance CFO Survey.” “Digital technology is driving exponential growth in the volume of data being managed within organizations.”
EY sees this trend as not necessarily being a smooth one, however.
“The challenge to effectively manage large volumes of data and to extract and deliver timely, relevant and concise insight in an efficient manner has never been greater for the CFO,” EY said in its report.
In light of this and other challenges, CFOs see providing better insight to improve business decision-making as a major priority, with a goal of doing so through “clear, insightful and timely analysis and being a better business partner,” EY said.
Among other business drivers the CFO respondents ranked as important:
- Coming in at No. 2, 52 percent of CFO respondents saw relieving pressure on the costs margin and improving profit as a top priority. EY warns that “a number of business models will not be sustainable unless management teams can find ways to achieve reductions in ongoing expenses and a more agile working model.”
- About 42 percent said that digital transformation would be a top business driver over the coming years (versus 17 percent in 2014), making it the third biggest business driver. EY said that new technologies can help insurers optimize costs, and they also drive a need to restructure, making this driver very much a work in progress. “The role of finance within this new organizational framework is still evolving,” EY said in the report. “The need to integrate finance, actuarial and risk to deliver insight is even more critical.”
EY’s survey of CFOs and finance leaders involved executives from 58 global insurers who shared their views on business and finance priorities, their operating model visions, and perspectives on challenges behind those visions. Fifty-four percent were from insurers with less than $10 billion in direct written premiums (excluding net investment income), 17 percent had between $11 billion and $20 billion, and 29 percent had more than $20 billion.