The Canadian insurance market place
has become an ever increasingly competitive market. Any competitive advantage that a
company can find over that of its peers to capture every valuable premium dollar must be
capitalized on by that company. Not only must the company capitalize on the advantage,
they must do so in a timely fashion or risk losing the opportunity to improve their business.
The gathering of competitive intelligence is not espionage
nor is it illegal. Competitive intelligence is simply the compiling or gathering of public
information on peer companies and the performing of a detailed analysis on that
information. This analysis then becomes the basis of an insurance company’s direction for
product and marketing initiatives. By knowing what a company’s peer competitors are
doing, or have done, a company can make educated decisions based on factual information.
All of this is done in an effort to capture as much of the market share as possible.
It is important that the competitive intelligence gathered
and especially distributed is not slanderous. Ethically a company can only state the facts
and their analysis based on those facts. Competitive intelligence in its most rudimentary
state is the differences between companies and their products as defined by factual information.
Within any insurance product line, whether Life or Property
& Casualty, there are a number of obvious similarities between the product offerings
of various insurance carriers. However it is the not so obvious differences that can give
a company a key competitive advantage over the same group of insurance carriers. One
example might be the differences between various companies’ bonuses on Universal Life
products. Some as we know are conditional and others are unconditional whereby the bonus
is guaranteed. The ability to illustrate and more importantly promote that competitive
advantage over another company can be instrumental in capturing the premium dollars and
ultimately market share in competitive situations.
The home office Product development teams have a range of
competitive intelligence needs. The actuaries are interested in the pricing differences
between competing products. The illustration development team are interested in the format
and functionality differences. Product managers have perhaps the broadest range of
competitive intelligence needs. They are interested in differences between product
features, product limitations, pricing and marketing initiatives.
Beyond the boundaries of the home office, there is yet
another audience in need of competitive intelligence. This audience is the sales force.
These people are the front line for the insurance carrier. In fact the sales forces’
competitive intelligence needs are more immediate and require a timely response. Their
needs are not as broad as those of the home office product development teams. The sales
force is looking for assistance in locating specific differences between specific
companies and specific products to identify competitive advantages that will close their sale.
The application of competitive intelligence to a
business’ decision-making process, whether at the macro or micro level, can identify
key competitive advantages over their peer group of companies. Competitive intelligence is
only as good as the source in which the information originated. Good reliable information
can positively influence the business and business decisions, just as bad unreliable
information can negatively influence the same business and business decisions. Therefore
it becomes the curator’s or Competitive Intelligence Specialist’s responsibility or better yet
‘duty’ to evaluate the information before it is elevated to the decision making level.
Every person within a company, whether at the home office
level or the field office level, is a Competitive Intelligence Specialist. These same
people have their own competitive intelligence needs and their own sources of information.
But are these sources reliable? Perhaps ‘Yes’. Perhaps ‘No’. What is
the determining factor that will define the competitive intelligence source as being
reliable or not? Ultimately the state of the business will determine the reliability. Good
information (if applied correctly) will lead to good business decisions; good business
decisions will lead to good sales results; good sales results will lead to good returns on
investment. Obviously the opposite can also be true.
Any solution that a company implements into their
infrastructure must centralize the competitive intelligence needs of all of their
employees. Each individual must be able to identify or realize specific added value to his
or her day-to-day competitive needs that can be delivered in a timely fashion. One such
solution is a knowledge portal strategy. A knowledge portal, like the metaZone from
metaLogic Consulting Inc., will become the central repository for all the competitive
intelligence that flows through a company on a daily basis. The competitive intelligence
specialists would become the curators or administrators of the knowledge portal. By
surveying the various sources used by each of the individuals that have a need for
competitive intelligence and access to the knowledge portal, the Competitive Intelligence
Specialists will be able to determine the reliability of each of the sources and decide
whether or not to include information from each source.
Knowledge portals can be designed to be more than just a
repository of competitive intelligence information. In fact, knowledge portals can take
the raw data entered and provide analysis. More importantly this analysis will be
distributed to all of the users who have access to the knowledge portal instantaneously.
Beyond the importance of distribution and dissemination of the information stored within
the knowledge portal, the site must be secured. The knowledge portal must be able to
accept or deny users access to the information.
Third parties are also a good source for information. In a
recent partnership between metaLogic Consulting Inc. and Blease Research. The metaZone
will offer a pre-populated Competitive Intelligence knowledge portal by leveraging Blease
Research’s Full Disclosure product. Full Disclosure is the only independent source of
policy information across all major cash value types, covering universal, whole, variable
and survivorship life products from over 65 top life insurance companies across North America.
If insurance carriers within the Canadian insurance market
are serious about becoming one of the top providers within that market, they must
aggressively pursue Competitive Intelligence.