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Life insurance companies lagging behind in mobile app development: Celent

A Celent report found that life insurers and the annuity industry are still mired in a less-mature state of development in the world of smartphone applications.

The mobile Web is evolving at an extraordinary rate, and each evolution has brought new possibilities to insurers. Smartphones received significant focus in 2010 and sales of smartphones are expected to outpace feature phones in 2011, but life insurance and annuity companies are, for the most part, late to the party.

“The life and annuity industry is something of a blank canvas in terms of mobile applications,” said Craig Weber, senior vice president of the insurance practice at Celent, Boston, in the report.

“Given the relatively low cost of experimenting in this channel, and the enthusiasm of agents and consumers for putting their mobile ‘toys’ to work, life insurers should be a bit further along than they are in the space,” he said.

Celent is a research and advisory firm dedicated to helping financial institutions formulate business and technology strategies.

The company publishes reports identifying trends and best-practice guidelines in financial services technology and conducts consulting engagements for financial institutions looking to use technology to enhance existing business processes or launch new business strategies.

Celent is a member of the Oliver Wyman Group, which is part of Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Did you get that memo?
Celent found that many leading property/casualty insurers are publishing feature-rich applications, but what are life insurers doing?

Where are life insurers in the development lifecycle of smartphone apps?

What features are available to or are most desired by life insurance consumers?

To answer these questions, Celent reviewed publicly available information about mobile applications from life insurers.

Celent reviewed the platform stores and websites of 11 life insurers, and found a far less mature state of mobile application adoption than the company did when it performed a similar search in the property/casualty segment.

When it comes to mobile applications, North American life insurance customers have very specific requirements, per Celent.

“We see the life insurers with apps falling into a spot somewhere between laggard and cautious investor in terms of development, but most life insurers are not even on the chart because they do not have apps,” said Karen Monks, analyst in the insurance group at Celent, in the report.

“While the startup phase of P&C consumer-facing mobile applications has progressed rapidly, we believe the startup phase for life insurers will take much more time to develop,” she said.

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Commerce Daily