Like many industries, insurers made rapid and dramatic changes in response to COVID-19 to keep operations smooth and customer support. With vaccinations suggesting a return to "normal", this is a perfect time to do a data-driven post-mortem on how insurers responded to the pandemic. What measures were taken, what lessons were learned and what do they mean for the future?
What initiatives did insurers take in 2020?
To do this analysis, we looked at 25 US insurance companies (12 Life and 13 P&C). We then analyzed hundreds of press releases from March 2020 to February 2021 and combined the information with information from investor talks and quarterly reports. The goal was to limit our focus specifically to COVID-1
From there, we categorized the initiatives based on who they influenced the most: community, agents / partners, customers or employees.
My next blog will dive deeper into these categories, but here are the summary highlights:  Community : Insurance is a big part of people's lives. As such, insurers have an important role to play in societies – and an obligation to be a positive force. The pandemic was an opportunity for insurance companies to support their communities more broadly. Many insurers moved quickly to set up charitable funds and donate personal protective equipment (PPE), respiratory protection and other equipment.
Even in this brief summary, you can see that the insurance industry has taken a wide range of measures in response to COVID-19. Basically, there was a mix of new initiatives that were launched and existing initiatives that were either stopped or modified.
Similarities and differences in how insurers responded to the pandemic
All insurers have taken several measures to swing in response to COVID-19, but the species the scope of these measures varied. For example, most insurance companies launched cost initiatives, but some reduced their staff while others focused on technology to reduce operating costs.
The reality is similar when comparing P&C and Life insurance companies. Although there were some implications in where they focused their COVID-19 response, the actions they took were different depending on the specific needs of each segment. Non-life insurers announced repayment plans, insurance credits and initiatives for digital claims, while Life Insurance companies announced new digital products and strongly supported their agent network. Both P&C and Life insurance companies announced a similar number of initiatives for society. But life insurance companies announced more internal initiatives focusing on employees, while P&C insurance companies focused more of their initiatives on agents / partners and customers.
Another difference among insurers is the extent. Most insurers announced a series of measures that, when taken together, represent a comprehensive response. Others took a more programmatic and structured approach, such as Progressive. In direct response to COVID-19, Progressive created a solution, return and reimagine design to help its employees and customers. This comprehensive program stands out among its peers due to its extensive scope. The design is designed to respond quickly in the short term through Progressive's Apron Relief program for both clients and agents, but it also looks to the future by creating teams specifically to understand what the "new norm" will look like after the pandemic.  To quickly round off our research, we also looked at the COVID-19 initiatives in APAC and Europe. We found that their responses were broadly consistent with the responses in the United States.
There will be two more blogs in this series where I will dive deeper into these four categories, starting with community and customers. By providing specific examples and data, I will offer a 360-degree view of how the US insurance industry reacted to COVID-19, including takeaways on the way forward for insurers.
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