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The days of insurance consultants are numbered - or need to be rethought.


The days of insurance consultants are numbered - or need to be rethought.

The fat, but deliberately not too fat, car is parked in the driveway. The doorbell rings and there he is: the charming insurance advisor with a pleasant cloud of perfume, briefcase, tablet and the "perfect, customized solutions" up his sleeve. A cliché image like something out of a movie - and yet still an integral part of the world of financial, insurance and pension consulting. But for how much longer?

With the rapid technological progress, the consulting culture in the industry should also be rethought. Customers have become more demanding and, thanks to digitization and the Internet, are experiencing a democratization of knowledge - and thus more control at the same time. A wide variety of offers can be searched out on their own, filtered according to their wishes and compared in terms of price/performance. Today, exposing price comparisons and lousy services at inflated prices no longer requires complicated research - but simply a few clicks.

Today's "critical" customers are no longer just those who can boast their own expertise or learned knowledge in related fields. They are all those who know how to navigate the Internet. But there are also limits to the scope of this control thanks to accessible product comparison. Especially when it comes to topics such as lifelong financial security, many parameters play a role today about which even the best and most user-friendly comparison tools do not offer sufficient transparency. Which can then in turn raise mistrust and questions in the potential customer.

And that's where the human being - the insurance advisor of the present (and consequently also of the future) comes into play. Especially in the search for the most suitable and profitable pension products, many complicated algorithms play a role, which a website does not reveal to the customer during an online evaluation by a bot. The innovative advisor must know their systematics - and indeed every small cog in the whole gear - in order to be able to advise the customer with transparency and trust.

What does this mean? The consultant of tomorrow should rethink his work to a large extent. Instead of rattling off leads over the phone and scaring off today's customers, they need to get behind the books and understand new technologies and products, and serve them up to the customer in bite-sized chunks and in a clearly understandable way. And he must do this with a contemporary communication culture: Today's customers want notifications on an app instead of home visits, PDFs instead of paperwork, and a direct chat function instead of the eternal music on hold on the hotline.

But an "up to date" consulting culture, adapted to the changing times, is only one side of the coin of the good consultant. Because these changing times are also changing the entire insurance industry: robotics, artificial intelligence, the "Internet of Things," self-driving cars are bringing about a fundamental change in the areas of material or financial security.

The "Internet of Things" is based on the premise that everything is measured, stored and thus "provable" at all times. This includes not only huge data collections of business movements of all kinds. But also loss-preventing technologies in traffic, in industry or at work. We already allow many aspects of our lives to be "tracked" voluntarily and for various benefits. While the data is usually well protected, we are at the same time opening a door to a future in which these processes will also play a role in the insurance world.

So it's not difficult to imagine that the future of insurance (and its profit promise) will turn more toward "avoiding loss" rather than "covering loss." After all, in a world where millions of sensors are built into every product, device or surface, calculating risks and alerting us to them in a timely manner, the basic sense of insecurity from damage of all kinds - the erstwhile market of insurance - will be greatly diminished. Which consequently drives the whole industry to expand their ecosystems, form alliances towards digital technology and adjust their strategic focus accordingly. And this extends from the boardroom all the way to the "front line" - into consulting.

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