The insurance companies doing the best job at effecting digital change share three key attributes: a well-defined digital strategy, a focus on a forward-thinking culture and a robust change-management process that ensures follow-through on innovation efforts.

That's according to Accenture's survey of 292 insurers for the consultancy's "Master Change: Lead in 'The New'" report issued this week. Most insurers are planning to invest in new platforms designed to lower cost, improve the customer experience and meet new regulatory requirements, the company reports. But the winners tend to have a strong culture built around transformation and innovation and seeing initiatives through to the end.

For example, leading companies are more likely than others to partner with an external company to test out their innovation in the enterprise (86% to 54%), or set up a specialist digital capacity within the company (86% vs. 60%.) Leaders are also likely to try out building a "challenger" business that attempts to test new ideas in the marketplace.

They are three times more likely to keep line-level employees involved through workplace changes, and invest more in those employees. FInally, 93% of the leaders report that their companies have "a consistent set of change management methods and tools" and "strong governance and transparency," vs. only about two-thirds of insurers overall.

“Most financial services companies are looking at new business and operating models that use digital innovations to adapt to new customer expectations and to ward off aggressive new competitors,” said Andrew Woolf, head of Accenture’s Financial Services Talent & Organization practice, in a statement. “Companies with strong change leadership capabilities and adaptable workforces will be hard to beat; those without them will increasingly struggle.”

When it came to the specific technologies that are underpinning the digital transformation at their companies, respondents said the top three were big data and analytics, mobile technology and social media. Other technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence are starting to gain ground, but don't have the volume of deployments in the market that these early technologies have.

"Players in financial services must embrace innovation, increase their agility to cope with disruption, and make wise investment decisions about their change programs in light of their businesses today and in the future," Woolf concludes.

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