Tag Archives: gdp

Implications of Our Aging Population

Aging is a key force shaping our societies and the economy. Too often, the current debate on aging and demographic change narrowly focuses on the direct implications for pensions system and healthcare and neglects the broader economic implications. An understanding of the wide ranging economic implications of demographic change, however, is fundamental for insurers and policymakers in order to make sound long-term decisions.

The world of shrinking workforces

The world is quickly entering a new phase of demographic development. The new world is characterized by a shrinking or – at best – stagnating workforce due to the continuous decline of birth rates since the “baby boomer generation.” While Germany’s working age population peaked about 15 years ago, according to UN figures, China is currently at a record. In the U.S., the working age population is expected to continue to grow due to immigration, albeit at a much slower pace than in the past.

But decreasing birth rates not only mean that that the workforce is shrinking (or at least not growing). It also means that the average age of the workforce is increasing, especially until the baby boomer generation will be retired within the next decade. We refer to this phenomenon as “silver workers.”

Furthermore, as people live longer, the proportion of retirees in the total population is going to increase. This increase will be far more pronounced in the future than it was in the past. In developing economies, this trend is starting at a much lower level, but the eventual change will be far more rapid and dramatic than in developed economies.

The economics of aging

These demographic developments – shrinking workforces, the rise of silver workers and increasing share of retirees – will have profound economic implications.

In a world of shrinking workforces, we cannot expect the economy to expand rapidly, unless productivity can be increased far beyond long-term historical averages. In fact, past growth rates were driven considerably by an increasing labor force. This is especially true for some developing economies like Brazil and Mexico. But also in the U.S., more than 40% of economic growth over the past 25 years can be attributed to an increasing working age population. We will have to get used to low GDP growth rates.

See also: The Great AI Race in Insurance Innovation  

However, overall GDP growth says little about the development of individual living standards. To assess living standards, we need to consider the implications of demographic change on GDP per capita.

Three forces are at play:

First, because fewer workers will have to provide for more retirees, demographic change depresses GDP per capita. In the U.S., the share of working age population to total population is expected to decline from 60% to 54% over the next 25 years. In China and Germany, the decline is more pronounced: from 67% to 57% in China and from 61% to 51% in Germany. This implies that, as long as the production of each person of working age does not change, per capita GDP would decrease by 9% in the U.S. and by 15% in China and Germany by 2040.

Second, future GDP per capita will depend on the development of investments and savings. As people will have to live longer on their savings in retirement, we expect saving rates to increase. As these savings are invested, there will be more machines per person (i.e. the capital stock will increase relative to the labor force). This will partly compensate for the negative impact of the labor force development on GDP per capita.

Finally, advances in productivity may entirely or partially offset the demographic pressure on GDP per capita. Projections of productivity growth are fraught with high uncertainty. However, based on historical productivity growth rates (about 1.5% per year in most developed countries), productivity growth will likely compensate for the negative demographic impact on GDP per capita in most countries (Italy being a potential exception).

Taking these three factors together, we conclude that GDP per capita will continue to grow in most countries, albeit at a slower pace than in the past.

The next question is: How will this per capita income be distributed among workers and retirees?

We expect that aging will depress real interest rates as the demand for capital is likely to shrink relative to savings. In fact, real interest rates have been steadily declining over the last three decades. We will have to get used to a low-interest environment and, hence, low returns on retirement savings.

At the same time, the relative scarceness of labor should bolster wages. Hence, the future workers will likely benefit relative to future retirees (who are today’s middle-aged savers).

A threefold challenge

This analysis suggests that there is a threefold funding challenge from aging.

First, low interest rates make it difficult for individuals to accumulate sufficient savings to fund their retirement.

Second, the increasing share of retirees in society exerts a rising funding pressure on public pay-as-you go pensions systems. While in the U.S. there are currently 25 people of retirement age per 100 of working age, it will be 40 people of retirement age in 25 years.

Third, the increasing average age of the workforce raises the risk of disability. Inability to work due to critical illness or disability reduces the ability of individuals to accumulate sufficient savings to fund retirement.

Policymakers have to consider a number of policy measures to address this threefold funding challenge. Potential measures include increasing the retirement age, providing incentives for individual savings, enhancing productivity, increasing labor force participation and increasing pensions contribution or reduce benefits.

See also: Demographics and P&C Insurance  

In most countries, however, none of these measures seems desirable or politically feasible on its own. In the U.S., for example, pension contributions would have to be increased by 63% between 2015 and 2040 to compensate for the increasing share of retirees in the population. Alternatively, the retirement age would have to be increased by seven years.

Policymakers therefore need to develop strategies that combine a broad range of different measures in varying degrees. There is a risk, though, that measures to enhance productivity, namely investments in education, will be de-prioritized as public finances come under increasing strain.

For insurers, this analysis suggests that they must adapt to a world of slow growth and low interest rates in the longer term. Furthermore, in a world of aging workforces, products designed to protect the income against disability and inability to work will become more important. Hence we expect to see a stronger shift from savings products to protection products.

infrastructure

New Approach to Risk and Infrastructure?

Globally, the World Economic Forum estimates that the planet is under-investing in infrastructure by as much as $1 trillion a year. Since 1990, for example, the global road network has expanded by 88%, but demand has increased by 218%.

With the global population continuing to grow – and urban populations, in particular – the pressure on existing infrastructure is only set to worsen. And in the developed world, that infrastructure is creaking: In the U.K., 11 coal-fired power stations are nearing 50 years old, the end of their operational lives, and replacements have yet to be built; in the U.S., the average age of the country’s 84,000 dams is 52 years old; in Germany, a third of all rail bridges are more than 100 years old; parts of London’s Underground rail system, still in daily use by hundreds of thousands of commuters, run through tunnels that are more than 150 years old.

According to the Report Card on America’s Infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. alone will need $3.6 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2020.  The report assigned near-failing grades to inland waterways and levees, and poor marks for the state of drinking water, dams, schools, road and hazardous waste infrastructure.

Europe’s infrastructure is in worse shape. The Royal Institute of International Affairs has suggested that the continent needs $16 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2030, more than any other region in a world.

Taxing Issues, Tragic Consequences

While taxes once covered the cost of building and maintaining public infrastructure, entitlement programs such as Social Security and healthcare have started to claim a larger share of these funds as a percentage of government tax revenue, particularly as the number of people in retirement has expanded.

In addition, as the cost of social programs grew, governments came under pressure to cut taxes, leaving even less money available to maintain existing infrastructure, let alone invest in the requirements of growing populations. “Too often infrastructure is seen only through the lens of cost, expenditure and not as core to society’s prosperity”, says Geoffrey Heekin, executive vice president and managing director, global construction and infrastructure, Aon Risk Solutions.

“Since the 1950s, investment in infrastructure in developed countries has been declining,” he says. “In the U.S., for example, investment as a percentage of GDP has fallen from around 5% to 6% in the 1950s to around 2% today.”

Tragically, train derailments, road closures, water main breaks and even bridge collapses have become commonplace. “Until situations like the water crisis in Flint or a bridge collapse happens, infrastructure does not hold proper weighting in the psyche of leaders in government,” Heekin says.

This lack of attention to infrastructure is costing developed economies billions of dollars in lost productivity, jobs and competitiveness. Without addressing the infrastructure investment gap, the U.S. economy alone could lose $3.1 trillion in GDP by 2020, according to the ASCE, while one estimate attributes 14,000 U.S. highway deaths a year to poorly maintained road infrastructure.

A Private Sector Solution to Public Sector Under-Investment?

To begin reversing the infrastructure gap, it is likely that governments will need to find ways to encourage private sector investment toward replacing, renewing and upgrading physical infrastructure.

Governments of all political stripes are increasingly supportive of private investment in infrastructure. One model that is now gaining attention is the Public Private Partnership (P3) model.

P3s in one form or another have been used successfully in developed countries for several decades. They are being used to procure everything from public healthcare facilities, schools and courthouses to highways, port facilities and energy infrastructure. While the volume and type of P3 deal can vary widely by country, there continues to be an upward trend for the model’s use by the public sector.

In 2015, for example, Canada procured 36% of its infrastructure with the P3 model. Aon Infrastructure Solutions anticipates that 21 P3 projects will close in Canada in 2016, with a total capital value of US$12.8 billion – the highest value of P3 projects in Canadian history. In the U.S., where adoption of the P3 model is less widespread, 11 projects are expected to close in 2016, with a capital value of US$8.7 billion.

Like traditional design-bid-build procurement, P3 projects involve public authorities’ putting public projects or programs up for competitive tender and selecting a preferred bidder from multiple consortia.

The key difference is that the contractual structure in P3 allows the public authority to transfer a different set of risks to the private party – including (but not always) the financing for the project. The arrangement can allow the private partner that designs, builds and finances construction of the asset to operate and maintain it in return for either a share of the revenue generated by the use of the asset, or a stream of constant payments from the public authority (also called availability payments).

Keeping Focused on the Big Picture

“The public sector benefits from P3 delivery when the model is applied to a project that meets a community need and is procured through a transparent, accountable process,” says Gordon Paul – senior vice president, Aon Risk Solutions and member of Aon Canada’s Construction Services Group executive committee and Aon’s  global PPP Centre of Excellence.

“Public authorities seek ‘value for money’ in a P3 project by looking to the long-term value,” Paul says. This means identifying whether the private sector party is able to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an infrastructure project for a price lower than if the public authority did it on its own over the same period. It’s about the full lifecycle of the project – not just the building costs.

Taking a big picture view is equally important for the private sector party, says Alister Burley, head of construction for Aon Risk Services Australia. He points to the importance of taking a holistic view to P3 projects and investments to enable efficiencies to be built that will carry forward.

If done right, P3 arrangements can be a significant benefit to both the public and private sectors. Public bodies gain a much-needed boost to their infrastructure, often with long-term maintenance included in the deal, reducing the potential negative economic and health consequences of infrastructure failure. And private investors can secure a stable, long-term return through a stake in some of the underlying essentials of our economies.

Whatever route governments take to secure the integrity of our underlying infrastructure, one thing is clear – without a significant increase in infrastructure investment over the coming years, the world’s economy and health could well be put at further risk.

Asia

Insurance Implication in Asia Slowdown

The 20th century has been described as the American Century, with solid justification. From modest beginnings (the U.S. did not have one of the world’s 15 largest armies before World War I broke out), the U.S. became a virtual unipolar political and military force by the year 2000. As the world evolves, the 21st century is often referred to in its early years as the Asian Century. With more than 40% of global population and rising economic and military power, it’s easy to see why forecasters saw things that way.

In just the second decade of the century, though, the so-called Asian Miracle has show some slippage. A sharp slowdown in economic growth, most visibly in China but experienced region-wide, has prompted a reassessment of Asia’s prospects, certainly including prospects for the insurance industry.

Two recent visits to the “Greater China” area have given me some updated insights into the issue. In late January, I spoke at the annual conference of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission and the Insurance Society of China, visiting some major insurers while I was in Beijing. This past week, I spoke at the Asia Insurance CEO Summit in Hong Kong and called on several CEOs there and in Singapore. From both life and non-life perspectives, the comments were basically consistent.

China, the Asia Pacific’s economic driver, has been growing at near-double-digit rates over the last few years and has lifted the entire region’s GDP growth. Now it is clear that China has overbuilt industrial and residential capacity, saddling its bank with enormous leverage and likely huge loan write-offs. Its slowdown has had a ripple effect throughout the region, and for insurance leaders has forced a reexamination of growth prospects.

For the Asia countries with mature insurance markets, notably Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and for materials-export-driven Australia, this deceleration has meant a sharp reduction in revenue growth. For the countries with less-developed insurance markets and low insurance penetration, there is still room for optimism. In China, for instance, a reduction to 6% to 6.5% annual economic growth over the next five years, as anticipated in the newly promulgated government Five Year Plan, would still likely produce annual premium growth for the country of around 15%. Double-digit annual volume growth is also likely for most of the ASEAN Union countries, as the combined effect of economic growth and increased insurance penetration occurs.

The key factor, of course, is rising penetration. While the most developed countries of Western Europe and North America tend to have insurance premiums in the range of 8% to 10% of GDP, in most of Asia the figure is less than 3%. In spite of the news headlines about the Asian economic slowdown, whether we are now just experiencing a pause or a long-term slowdown, growth prospects for insurance there are still the best in the world.

What’s in Store for Blockchain?

Blockchain, blockchain, blockchain! What does that mean for insurance? No one knows yet, but that doesn’t stop blockchain from being one of the hottest topics in the insurance industry right now. This week, I take a look at the direction this puck is heading.

Hype or reality?

Last September, the World Economic Forum published a report titled, Deep Shift – Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact. The report is based on surveys with more than 800 executives and experts about new technologies and innovations. The point of the report is to identify deep shifts in society that result from new technologies. These include areas such as 3D printing, driverless cars, wearables and artificial intelligence.

I was drawn to shift No. 16, simply called “Bitcoin and the blockchain.” By 2025, 58% of these experts and executives believed we would hit the tipping point for Bitcoin and blockchain. This was defined as:

“10% of global gross domestic product will be stored on blockchain technology.”

To put that into context, the total worth of Bitcoin today in the blockchain is about 0.025% of today’s $80 trillion global GDP.

Also of interest, especially given that it looks like Tunisia will be the first country to issue a digital currency on a blockchain, shift No. 18 was called “Governments and the blockchain.” Here, almost three out of four in the survey group expected that “governments would collect tax via a blockchain by 2023.”

It’s a reality then!

It’s certainly looks that way. And $500 million of venture capital money in 2015 can’t be wrong, can it?

The prospect of a seismic shift on a par with the impact of the Internet is compelling. That explains all the attention, predictions and excitement about blockchain. But, if we use the evolution of the Internet as a benchmark, the development of blockchain today for commercial use is equivalent to the Internet in, say, the mid-1990s, at best.

The debates on Bitcoin, on whether private or public blockchains will be used, on Sybase vs Oracle (oops, wrong century) are yet to play out. The ability of the Bitcoin blockchain to scale to handle massive volumes at lightning speed remains unproven.

Now, just as it was in 1995, blockchain technology is at an embryonic stage. Still finding its way, it has yet to prove it is a viable, industrial-strength, large-scale technology capable of solving world hunger.

That is why I am going to focus on the use case for insurance rather than the technology itself. (For one explanation of how blockchain works, go to Wired.)

The smart insurance contract

This is getting the most attention right now. The notion of automating the insurance policy once it is written into a smart contract is compelling. The idea that it will pay out against the insurable event without the policyholder having to a make a claim or the insurer having to administer the claim has significant attractions.

First, the cost of claims processing simply goes away. Second, the opportunity for fraud largely goes away, too. (I hesitate here simply because it is theoretical and not yet proven.) Third, customer satisfaction must go up!

One example being used to illustrate how these might work came from the London Fintech Week Blockchain Hackathon last September. Here, a team called InsurETH built a flight insurance product over a weekend on the Ethereum platform.

The use case is simple. In the 12 months leading up to May 2015, there were 558,000 passengers who did not file claims for delayed or canceled flights in and out of the UK. In fact, fewer than 40% of passengers claimed money from their insurance policy.

InsurETH built a smart contract where the policy conditions were held on blockchain. Using the Oraclize service to connect the blockchain with the Internet, publicly available data is used to trigger the insurance policy.

In this case, a delayed flight is a matter of fact and public record. It does not rely on anyone’s judgement or individual assessment. It is what it is. If a delayed flight occurs, the smart contract gets triggered, and the payout is made, automatically and immediately, with no claims processing costs for the insurer and to the satisfaction of the customer.

Building on this example and applying it to motor, smart contracts offer a solution for insurers to control claims costs after an accident. A trigger that there has been an accident would come to the blockchain via the Internet from a smartphone app or a connected car. Insurers are always frustrated when customers go a more expensive route for repairs, recovery and car hire. So, with a smart contract, insurers could code the policy conditions to only pay out to the designated third parties (see related article by Sia Partners).

So long as the policy conditions are clear and unambiguous and the conditions for paying are objective, insurance can be written in a smart contract. When the conditions are undeniably reached, the smart contract pays. As blockchain startup SmartContract put it, “Any data feed trusted by a counterparty to release payment or simply complete an agreement can power a smart contract.”

To understand this better, I asked Joshua Davis, the technical architect and co-founder at blockchain p2p InsurTech Dynamis, to explain. He said:

“You need well-qualified oracle(s) to establish what ‘conditions’ exist in the real world and when they have been ‘undeniably reached.’  An oracle is a bridge between the blockchain and the current state of places, people and things in the real world.  Without qualified oracles, there can be no insurance that has any relation to the world that we live in.

“As far as oracles go, you can use either a single trusted oracle, who puts up a large escrow that is lost if they feed you misinformation, or many different oracles who don’t rely on the same POV [point of view] or data sources to verify that events occurred.

“In the future, social networks will be the cheapest and most used decentralized data feeds for various different insurance applications.  Our social networks will validate and verify our statements as lies or facts.  We need to be able to reliably contact a large enough segment of a claimant’s social network to obtain the truth.  If the insurance policy can monitor the publishing or notification of our current status to these participants and their responses accurately confirm it, then social networks will make for the cheapest, most reliable oracles for all types of future claims validation efforts.”

Is this simply too good to be true?

Personally, I don’t think it is. Of course, a smart contract doesn’t have to be on the blockchain to deliver this use case.

However, what the blockchain offers is trust. And it offers provenance. The blockchain provides an immutable record and audit trail of an agreement. The policyholder does not have to rely on the insurer’s decision to pay damages because the insurer has broken its promise to keep the client safe from harm. As the WEF report states, this is an “unbreakable escrow.” The insurer will pay before it even knows what happened.

There’s another reason for going with the blockchain: cybersecurity!

With the blockchain sitting outside the corporate firewall and being managed by many different and unconnected parties, the cyber criminal no longer has a single target to attack. As far as I’m aware, blockchain is immune to all of the conventional cyber threats that corporations are scared of.

What happens when you put blockchain and P2P insurance together?

In December, I published a two-part article on Peer 2 Peer Insurance (here are Part 1 and Part 2). When you put the P2P model together with the blockchain, this creates the potential for a near-autonomous, self-regulated insurance business model for managing policy and claims.

Last year, Joshua Davis wrote an interesting white paper called “Peer to Peer Insurance on the Ethereum Blockchain.” He presents the theory behind blockchain and the creation of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO). These are corporate entities with no human employees.

The DAOs would be created for groups of policyholders, similar to the P2P group model with the likes of Guevara and Friendsurance. No single body or organization would control the DAO; it would be equally “controlled” by policyholders within each group. All premiums paid would create a pool of capital to pay claims.

And because this is a self-governing group with little or no overhead, any float at the end of the year would be distributed back among the policyholders. Arguably, this makes the DAO a non-profit organization and materially increases the capital reserve for claims costs.

The big question mark for this model is regulation. There still is no answer to who will maintain the blockchain code within each DAO when regulations change. But, what does seem a dead certainty is that someone, somewhere is figuring out how to solve this.

Blockchain offers the potential for new products and services in a P2P insurance model. It should also open insurance to new markets, especially those on or near the poverty line.

For now, we must watch to see what comes from the likes of Dynamis, which is using smart contracts to provide supplementary employment insurance cover on Ethereum.

Innovation will come from new players

It has been my belief for some time that, in the main, incumbent insurance firms will not be able to materially innovate from within. As with Fintech, the innovation that will radically change this industry will come from new entrants and start-up players, such as:

Dynamis

SmartContract

Rootstock

Everledger (see previous article on Daily Fintech)

Tradle

Ethereum Frontier

Codius (Ripple Labs) (update: Codius discontinued)

This is particularly true with blockchain in insurance. These new age pioneers are unencumbered by corporate process, finance committees, bureaucracy and organizational resistance to change.

Besides, the incumbent insurance CIOs have heard this all before. For decades, software vendors have promised nirvana with new policy administration, claims and product engines. So, why should they listen to the claims that blockchain is the panacea for their legacy IT issues? But,  that is a subject for another post … watch this space!

Blue Marble: Building a New Business Model

As with many modern businesses, Blue Marble Microinsurance began with a question-the same question entrepreneurs and innovators ask themselves every day: What can we do differently that will eliminate inefficiencies and redirect resources to a more value-accretive cause?

The underlying mission of Blue Marble is tied to the recognition that insurance is important to economic development around the world. Without prefinancing losses, societies are vulnerable. Following disasters, people who show potential for emerging into the middle class frequently fall back to the bottom of the economic pyramid.

With the knowledge that fortifying the economic progression of the poor would add untold benefits to the global economy, to our industry and, of course, to the poor themselves, we asked another simple question: What needs to change in the insurance and reinsurance industry to make it relevant to the poor?

To examine this question further, Blue Marble’s founders needed to be open-minded about doing things differently and having a willingness to learn while leading. Only by researching the facts could Blue Marble articulate the problem that the founders set out to solve and establish a mission backed by a business model.

The problem was clearly identified in research literature. For example, Swiss Re reported that in the last 10 years, cumulative total damage to global property as a result of natural disasters was $1.8 trillion-only 30% of which was insured, resulting in a protection gap of $1.3 trillion. This gap is even wider when general property risk such as fire, water damage and burglary are considered. And the gap is likely to continue to grow as a result of trends such as global warming and urbanization. While this research covers a scope broader than microinsurance, we have identified the significance of the protection gap and its ever increasing trend.

Other research has underscored how uninsured losses eventually become the responsibility of governments and society at large, resulting in a drag on the economic growth of nations. In emerging nations, 80% to 100% of disaster losses are uninsured, according to Swiss Re.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is an example that warrants examination. The United Nations World Food Program reports that 75% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. In January 2010, the dire situation was worsened by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, about 230,000 people died, and nearly 1.5 million Haitians were displaced. Economic losses were estimated at about $8 billion- approximately 120% of GDP—with insurance penetration at around 0.3% of GDP.

In another example-the recent earthquake disaster in Nepal-we estimate the damages at 35% to 50% of GDP, with little to no aid delivered as of yet. The effect of the protection gap on developing nations and the consequence on the poor is crippling.

The poor, with no safety nets other than informal systems of caring for each other, are disproportionately affected by catastrophes. The safety nets break down in a village or community following a disaster, thrusting complete communities to the bottom of the economic pyramid for years to follow. In Nepal, communities rich with heritage and dependent on tourism are now struggling to survive with a safety net under stress. Without mechanisms for prefinancing risk, smallholder farmers, shop owners and artisans who lack savings fall deeper into poverty.

With an understanding of the problem that Blue Marble planned to address, a business case for the consortium was established. The problem was viewed as significant and the solution relevant to the global economy, our industry and the poor.

A Role for the Insurance Industry

The potential solutions include charity and public-private partnerships, but what role might the insurance industry assume? While some companies have attempted to enter the microinsurance market in hopes of providing risk protection to the poor, few actually succeeded. Some have been able to show profitability, but most lacked evidence of the double bottom line: the ability to deliver protection that also creates incentives and enables the poor to make better economic choices in their lives.

This is a crucial point. Risk protection, in and of itself, will not enable economic progression. Incentives embedded in the risk protection are the key drivers. Policies should be designed to encourage growth and expansion. For example, by creating a more certain outcome, a policy can enable the smallholder farmer to cultivate two hectors of land as opposed to one hector. Another example is enhancing a micro-entrepreneur’s willingness to expand his or her sewing business-to buy another sewing machine and hire an employee-all enabled by a reduction in the fear of theft.

Making It Work

A review of prior experiences-many unsuccessful-suggested that Blue Marble needed a different business model. The business model needed to recognize the vast array of talent required to address the protection needs within the context of poverty entrapment. From within the insurance industry, expertise was needed to support product development, regulatory environment and risk pricing. Other areas of expertise likely found outside of the industry included an understanding of the poverty ecosystem and how to partner with entities in the supply chain of the poor.

At the same time, the business model had to address the many barriers to success in microinsurance:

  • A long-term commitment was needed, yet our traditional business models were anchored on immediacies and benchmarked against such metrics as payback periods.
  • Financial literacy and trust needed to be established.
  • High distribution costs result in prohibitive frictional cost, making the protection unaffordable. The cost of innovation to address this frictional cost was high.
  • Understanding why the poor consistently made suboptimal economic choices even when given access to the means was critical.

Recognition of the barriers to success in microinsurance and the need for a unique talent model led Blue Marble to a collaborative approach: the formation of a legal entity owned by eight significant insurance entities with a dedicated management team supported by employees from the consortium members. Through collaboration, we would share the cost of innovation and be able to “mutualize” talent from within and beyond the industry. By stepping forward and collaborating among the eight, we developed a public-private outreach partnership with a shared goal.

Blue Marble was established as a legal entity owned by the eight but with a long- term focus. A dedicated management team was retained to give focus to the problem at hand and was backed by a governance model involving senior leaders from the consortium members.

The talent model was unique: The eight consortium companies represent 250,000 employees operating in 170 countries. A virtual business unit was established giving Blue Marble access to talent from the consortium members on a secondment basis. The win-win is that Blue Marble has access to both strategic and technical talent on an as-needed basis. For example, if a Spanish-speaking actuary with knowledge of agriculture risk in Peru is needed, we can identify the person and gain access to her expertise for a limited time. Likewise, Blue Marble facilitates reverse benefits in terms of employee engagement and an appreciation for the relevancy of our day-to-day work.

Why the Name Blue Marble?

Employees of all participating companies were informed about the microinsurance consortium initiative, and their ideas for names were solicited. The communication heads for each company coordinated the outreach and then narrowed the submissions. The board ultimately selected “Blue Marble.”

The name was nominated by Denise Addis, an executive assistant from Guy Carpenter. Addis wrote: “Blue Marble is a nickname for our planet…Technology and social media have made the world an even smaller place, and the planet itself has become a community more than ever before. I think this venture will expand that community.”

The Blue Marble name captures our holistic view of our world. Underscoring our mission to extend insurance protection to a broader portion of the population and to advance the role of insurance in society in a socially responsible and sustainable way, it reminds us that we all share the planet. It is up to us to connect with citizens around the world to make life better for us all.

This article first appeared in Carrier Management. Joan Lamm-Tennant spoke to Carrier Management about Blue Marble Microinsurance during a videotaped interview at the IICF Women in Insurance Global Conference in June. Excerpts of the interview are presented below.

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What is microinsurance?

Lamm-Tennant: Microinsurance is risk protection for the poor-artisans, small- scale farmers, shop owners. We address their specific risk protection needs and enable them to have stable consumption, which allows them to invest, improve productivity and grow through the economic pyramid.

What are the greatest benefits for carriers that take part in the microinsurance consortium?

Lamm-Tennant: It’s an opportunity to have an impact, to be relevant, to work in public-private partnerships and solve the protection gap. By solving the protection gap and being a part of the financial inclusion initiatives, we in fact enable a massive emerging middle class…

Today, we have seven billion people in the world. The middle class is only 1.8 billion. We could double that in the next 15 years.

The opportunity is also significant in terms of solving our own problems within the insurance industry. It’s an opportunity to be forced to innovate because being successful in these markets is not about lifting and shifting products that are on our shelves. It’s about being more efficient, being more focused on the value proposition within our products, and it’s about new distribution channels.

Because we’re forced to innovate, we’ll have the opportunity to reverse innovate. Last of all, we have a talent challenge within the insurance industry. The Millennials are not necessarily interested in investing their brilliance, their talent, in our causes. So this is a way in which we join them in their cause for relevancy.

Exactly how does the collaboration work? How do carriers share the costs, premiums and claims? Whose paper are policies written on?

Lamm-Tennant: We’re a service entity. Our objective is to prepare a complete turnkey, cost-efficient package for the carriers so that they can enter the market…

What are the component parts of that package? It could be everything from policy design to distribution mechanisms to social impact metrics. In essence, by delivering this package to the carriers, they then will have to add risk capital, using this enabler to enter the market. Their goal is to create the market.

Yes, one of them will lead, and that’s a part of our governance structure. Collectively, among the eight carriers, we have licenses in many markets. A lead, perhaps, would be somebody who is already present with a license…Within and among the eight of us, to fill the demand, our goal is to engage local carriers and other partners. [What] we’re trying to do is make it cost-efficient, by sharing the development cost, so that they can enter with risk capital at a profitable level.

In what areas do you expect microinsurance carrier participants to innovate and reverse innovate?

Lamm-Tennant: Success will not occur by simply reducing a few zeros off the line and saying, “Here, we’ve made this a smaller product. So won’t you buy it?”…There has to be a clear value statement…

The second part is our distribution mechanisms have to be efficient. I’m not suggesting abandonment of the agency distribution system, [but the question is] how do we enable that system to be very efficient with technology?

The third is how we measure success…If we truly want to be relevant, let’s put some broad measures of social impact in our products and not carve it off into a CSR initiative.

Those are three platforms that are going to be critical to our success and create an opportunity for the carriers to then rethink similar issues in their traditional business.

How are microinsurance products distributed?

Lamm-Tennant: We’ve seen some success in some markets with the distribution through utility companies, mobile phone operators, even seed manufacturers. [But] the embedded distribution costs are quite high…Some of these products distributed on those platforms could have a claims ratio of 10 or 20 and a distribution cost of 50 or 60. So we can’t just roll ourselves into those platforms.

We have to think about how to utilize those platforms yet still do it in an efficient way and not impose such distribution costs. Having said that, we are an arm’s throw away. It is within our reach that the poor will move from mobile phones to smartphones…

How will you measure the success of the venture?

Lamm-Tennant: Success to us is having demonstrated evidence that those who are benefiting from our products are benefiting in a sense that they are moving up the economic pyramid-that we’re seeing behavioral change. We’re seeing them put risk aside and invest in their businesses, grow their land, sustain their consumption if it’s a food sustainability motive that we’re looking at.