Summary and Info
Major challenges for life insurance companies have been posed by an unprecedented wave of mergers and acquisitions in the insurance industry and the emergence of non-traditional competitors such as banks, mutual fund companies and investment advisory firms. This is the first book to analyze the determinants of firm performance in the life insurance industry by identifying the `best practices' employed by leading insurers to succeed in this dynamic business environment. The book draws upon data from insurer financial statements as well as upon an extensive survey of life insurer management practices and strategic choices in distribution systems, information technology, mergers and acquisitions, human resources and financial strategies. Generic strategies such as cost leadership, customer focus, and product differentiation are analyzed as well as strategic practices specific to the insurance industry. Best practices are identified by measuring the economic efficiency of insurers and by comparing firms across the industry. Both cost and revenue efficiency are measured relative to best practice efficient frontiers consisting of the industry's dominant life insurance firms. Economies of scale and the effects of mergers and acquisitions on efficiency are also analyzed. Financial strategies are examined with specific reference to pricing policy, valuation of assets and liabilities, and the current state of firm-level risk management systems. The benchmarks established are the result of extensive fieldwork that identifies key financial risks and methodologies to both measure and manage them at the firm level. The results discussed in the book indicate that firm performance is significantly correlated with management practices and strategic choices. Thus, life insurers can improve profitability by adopting optimal combinations of strategies. The book contains important new material on the effects of strategic choices in product distribution systems, information technology, mergers and acquisitions, human resources, and financial risk management policies. In the area of efficiency, the methodology provides a new approach for identifying peer groups of insurers and measuring the performance of individual insurers relative to their peer group. On the topics of risk and pricing, new insights are offered relative to current methodologies and in regard to areas where improvement is clearly warranted. The book concludes with an analysis of the future opportunities and challenges in the life insurance industry facing managers, and the strategic options available to them to cope with these changes.