The Great Recession has caused plenty of pain in the European insurance industry. Rock-bottom interest rates have reduced returns on the insurers’ holdings, while economic disruption continues to increase the volume of claims payouts.

Not all companies are suffering, of course; indeed, many are thriving. For insights into the factors that distinguish the top performers from the rest of the pack, we surveyed more than 80 life insurers and property-and-casualty (P&C) insurers across Europe. We were particularly interested in identifying the factors that most directly contributed to their superior cost performance, including product development, marketing, sales support, operations, and IT, as well as other support functions. Despite the strong economic headwinds, we found not only that companies in the top quartile of our survey outperformed their peers on costs but also that this operational strength—contrary to conventional wisdom—produced more robust revenue growth.

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