Y2K no longer the no.1 challenge for insurers

Beating off foreign competition in Euroland is of far greater importance to European insurers than the looming Millennium bug.

This is the key finding of an European insurance sector survey by Datamonitor. Insurers polled in the survey view the year 2000 as an IT issue, whereas the Euro is seen as a both a business and an IT issue. Respondents believe that increased foreign competition, as a result of converging European markets, will impact the industry at a far deeper level than Y2K. As a result, the date bug has slipped behind Emu as the most important challenge facing the insurance industry. Insurers said they were more likely to pour money into technologies that improve business process.

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) believes that complacency about Y2K may be due to the "limited cover" insurers are offering for millennium bug problems. "In most cases, both for individuals and businesses, millennium cover is not widely available," he said.

In terms of Y2K readiness, UK companies will "be ready to ensure smooth transition to the year 2000" the ABI spokesman said. Reported cases of insurance policies arriving with incorrect dates are "isolated" he claimed.

And provided that insurers' computers are running smoothly in the Millennium, the public may benefit from an increased IT spend. Analysts predict European insurers will spend £1.2bn on process support technology by the year 2003, which would result in faster processing of claims. This will allow for claims to be automated and ensure necessary information from the initial claim is passed to the appropriate person removing the traditional delay and aggrieved customers, the survey claimed.