EP 225 – Bernhard Kotanko – McKinsey & Company – A Paradigm Shift – Navigating APAC’s Dynamic Life Insurance Landscape


Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Bernhard Kotanko leads McKinsey & Company's insurance work in Asia, serving financial services companies across Asia–Pacific, mainly in Greater China, Singapore, India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. With 20 years of experience across multiple functional areas, Bernhard has led many large-scale transformational programs and advised senior management teams on topics including operating models, digitizing distribution channels, redesigning customer engagement and experience models, and innovating value propositions. Bernhard is often quoted in the media about pressing issues in the insurance industry. He also frequently authors papers on insurance topics and speaks at industry conferences. Bernhard has studied at universities in Europe, Canada, and the United States and has worked in more than 30 countries before settled in Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife and their three daughters.

Amidst a backdrop of slowed growth rates in Life Insurance, both developed and developing markets in Asia are facing critical junctures. In an insightful episode of the Asia InsurTech Podcast, Bernhard Kotanko, a Senior Partner and Asia-Pacific Insurance Practice leader at McKinsey & Company delves into the transformative shifts within Asia’s Life Insurance sector. Bernhard emphasizes the importance of adopting customer-centric strategies to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and insurance offerings. Despite the rise in digitalization efforts, the penetration of purely digital insurance sales remains minimal, indicating significant room for improvement and innovation.

A crucial part of navigating these shifts involves making bold decisions in the realms of talent and technology. Bernhard suggests that the future of the industry depends on attracting diverse skill sets and leveraging technologies such as generative AI to enhance customer interactions and operational efficiencies. Moreover, he advocates for a reinvigoration of the insurance sector’s purpose, highlighting its unique position as a “triple win” industry that aligns the interests of customers, shareholders, and employees alike.

McKinsey & Company’s “Global Insurance Report: A Paradigm Shift in Asia Life Insurance” can be downloaded here.

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