2014 is shaping up to be a critical year with significant industry changes ahead. And they are coming at a much faster pace than ever before. From healthcare reform, to the increasingly competitive environment in the P&C sector, to the need for developing new life insurance products targeting the 25 to 45 year-old market. For the foreseeable future, a rapidly changing business environment is a fact of life.

Bridging the gap between the needs of aging boomers and the growing numbers of new entrants into the financial services market is a central challenge in the insurance and financial services industries. Attracting, serving and retaining these divergent customer groups is absolutely essential for long-term success. Yet this mandate portends critical changes to business practices and operating models.

For many companies this environment presents great opportunities for differentiation in a crowded marketplace. Designing innovative solutions to address emerging issues will separate the winners from the losers. This has always been the case in industries such as consumer electronics. Now this innovation mandate has set its sights on insurance and financial services. Such innovations don’t happen by accident. They happen when leaders set high goals, create an entrepreneurial atmosphere and instill a respect for competition into the culture.

Finding the right people within your organization and from outside to help navigate these changing times is of paramount importance. Social media, social evolution, regulation, technology, risk management, climate change and a dozen other factors are changing the way we must organize our companies and conduct business. Employing people who understand the changing landscape and who are clever and effective at adaptation will be strategically invaluable. The time to promote or recruit those people is now, not next year.

Amidst this environment, change must become a matter of course in our companies. Does your strategy address the necessity and the importance of change? Is your organization focused and ready to adapt in the coming year and beyond? We always appreciate the opportunity to discuss these questions and potential solutions. I look forward to working with many of you in the coming year, and I hope you’ll drop me a line at dennis_sullivan@renolan.com.