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Insurtech Ecosystem Emerging in Asia

Building on T.J. Geelen’s blog post about the thriving fintech ecosystems in Asia, I’d like to share with you some insights relating to the emerging insurtech ecosystem in the region. Although insurtech in Asia is in its infancy, since 2015 we’ve seen a surge of interest. By the way, I’m a big believer that Asia has a real potential to power the next wave of global insurance innovation.

Four flavors of insurtech

First, let’s revisit the definition of insurtech to make sure we are all on the same page. Essentially, there will be three major camps of insurtech: one that enhances existing insurance structures, another one that aims to disrupt by providing alternative digital risk transfer mechanisms and the third type coming from existing insurance firms attempting to defend their existing market positions. The first and third types broadly can be broken into the following sub-types:

  • Product sales/distribution (aggregators, online portals, apps)
  • Risk management (IoT, healthtech, blockchain)
  • Fraud detection/prevention (big data, machine learning)
  • Claims management (big data, machine learning, vendor network management solutions)
  • Service management (chatbots)
  • Investment management (portfolio optimization, asset/liability matching)

The second type attempts to drive an end-to-end structural innovation, either removing part of the structure or fully digitizing it.

Why Asia for insurtech

Asia is attractive from both an insurer and an insurtech perspective due to the size of its significantly underinsured population. The region has traditionally seen a large part of the risks self-insured through family and community networks. As the region experiences rapid growth in the affluence of its population, together with an aging population, the risk exposure is becoming even more apparent, and the need for alternative risk transfer mechanisms, including insurance, increases. Insurtech, alongside traditional insurance, can help.

Further, there are near-perfect locations for the launch of a program. Singapore, for one, allows for sandboxed experimentation, regulatory support and advanced tech infrastructure. Limitations of traditional insurance distribution channels and the rapid increase of 4G mobile penetration mean that insurers are also highly interested in exploring innovative partnerships that help them connect with potential customers.

See also: Matching Game for InsurTech, Insurers

Insurtech in Asia

Asia is a very diverse region and has a mix of developed and emerging countries. So far, the major push for insurtech has come from China, India, and Singapore, while Japan, Korea and emerging Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma have lagged. (While Australia and New Zealand are geographically close and are very well integrated in the Asian region, the markets are much more ”Westernized” and hence are less applicable to this blog post.)

There’s China, and then there’s everyone else when it comes to insurtech. The first full stack (end-to-end) innovator, Zhong An, is valued at a massive $8 billion and raised $931 million. It accounts for more than a third of the global insurtech funding in 2015. It is also worth mentioning TongJuBao (peer-to-peer) insurer and FWD (Asia’s second-richest family’s insurance venture, which is re-positioning itself from traditional insurer to an agile digital insurance competitor).

India, another vibrant insurance market, has seen its insurtech innovation focus mostly on distribution. Not surprisingly, two of the major aggregators come from India: Policy Bazaar and CoverFox have seen healthy level of customer take-up as well as sources of funding. CoverFox has recently expanded its service proposition, now assisting customers with their insurance claims.

Being based in Singapore, I have a particularly detailed view of the insurtech landscape in Southeast Asia. So far, I have gathered the following mapping of Asia insurtech startups as they fit within the insurance value stack. There’s a mix of very-early-stage as well as more mature Series A and listed ventures. The list keeps growing.

Please feel free to comment and reach out if you come across any additional startups that I’ve missed out in the list below, and I’ll update it.

Area:

Distribution

Actual Losses

Operating Insurance Co.

Value:

20%

55% Losses + 5% Fraud

20%

Role:

Aggregators

Leads Generation

Customer Transactions

Improving risks

Fraud detection

Rewarding healthy

Risk assessment

Loss adjustment

Operational/Service Efficiency

Start-ups: Policy Bazaar (Aggregator)

CoverFox (Aggregator)

Health/House-front

Latize (Fraud) JustMove (Health)

Uhoo (Health IoT)

Harti (Health)

WaveCell (Comms platform)

Fixir (Finding repair garage)

MyDoc (Health claims)

Stash.ph (Health claims)

GoBear.sg (Aggregator)

Cxa (Employee benefits)

PolicyPal (Policy mgm.)

UEX (Group policies)

Zhong An (General Insurance) CH

TongJuBao (Peer to Peer Insurance) CH

DirectAsia (Direct General Insurance) SG

FWD (General / Life Insurance) HK

Singapore Life (Upcoming Life Insurance Startup) SG

 

Corporate insurtech

Singapore, with its advanced infrastructure and innovation-supportive financial services regulator (MAS), has secured a leadership position for Asia’s corporate insurance innovation as reflected by the high concentration of insurance innovation centers. Eight of 10 Asian insurance innovation centers are based in Singapore. The innovation centers are powerful corporate change catalysts and typically include elements of awareness building and cultural transformation.

Firm Innovation Center Country Focus Status
Aviva Digital Garage Singapore Digital Transformation Active
Manulife Loft Singapore Digital Transformation Active
MetLife LumenLab Singapore New business models Active
Allianz Digital Labs Singapore Digital Transformation Active
AXA Data Innovation Lab Singapore Big data Active
AIA Edge Singapore HealthTech Active
Munich Re Innovation Lab China General Insurance Launched Q1 2016
Swiss Re

India IoT, AI, Big data Planned July 2016
IAG

Singapore

Rumored 2016
NTUC

Singapore

Rumored 2016

 

In summary, Asia is a region to watch when it comes to insurtech. Whether it be the home-grown insurance innovation from China and India, corporate innovation from Singapore or innovation concepts imported from elsewhere and deployed in Asia, the region is likely to deliver a vibrant insurtech ecosystem during the course of the next two to three years. And when the dust and excitement settles down five years down the road, we’ll have a fundamentally stronger set of competitors.

Wanting to accelerate insurance innovation, we’ve created InsurtechAsia, an action-oriented community of insurance practitioners, entrepreneurs and industry stakeholders across Asia. We are aiming to attract the best minds to tackle the challenges and opportunities in insurance, connect entrepreneurs with the best enablers, validate concepts and help business scale rapidly.

See also: New Insurance Models: The View From Asia  

A dedicated and company-agnostic insurtech accelerator, such as Startupbootcamp InsurTech, which was launched in London in late 2015, would go a long way to spur further insurance innovation here in Asia. We eagerly await the day when Startupbootcamp InsurTech will come to Singapore.

Are you passionate about making a change to the insurance industry? If so, join us at www.insurtechasia.com and follow this great team of like-minded people on Twitter: @insurtechasia.

Waves of Change in Rapid-Growth Markets

Global expansion into new markets represents a powerful opportunity — especially as economic performance languishes in much of the developed world. As a result, insurance executives must regularly evaluate and refresh their strategies to identify which international markets are most likely to offer the best prospects.

As regional markets around the world become more connected and complex, however, understanding how best to optimize the balance between opportunities and risks in individual countries remains a significant challenge. Even in a world linked closer together by macroeconomic trends, mobile phones and the Internet, regulatory and cultural differences persist, and even nations that share a common border may diverge markedly when it comes to future risk.

To help executives better understand the rebalancing now taking place across the insurance landscape in rapid-growth markets, we will highlight growth opportunities in specific countries around the globe.

While once-flourishing BRIC economies Brazil and India are now expanding at a slower pace, the U.S. is rebounding, and the U.K. and the Eurozone are at last rising from their doldrums. At the same time, a cluster of emerging markets, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, are making regulatory changes that could produce significant opportunities.

These shifts are causing insurance executives to reassess their strategies to determine which rapid-growth markets (RGMs) represent the most attractive investment options. To help navigate this rapidly evolving landscape, EY has created a matrix that analyzes the risks and opportunities for insurance firms across 21 RGMs. Our study identifies the following RGMs as particularly attractive for insurance investment:

Turkey offers a greater level of opportunity than any other RGM in the study but also poses substantial risks. An economic downturn cannot be ruled out. While political turmoil has cooled in recent months, tensions could return. In addition, markets for some lines of coverage are relatively mature.

Indonesia also offers an extremely strong economic growth picture — second only to China and Vietnam in our forecasts. However, it is challenging to obtain licenses, so acquisition is the main entry route.

China, despite a recent slowdown in growth rate, continues to boast extraordinary income growth that spurs auto and home ownership. In addition, an aging population will drive the development of the life and health markets. However, market entry remains difficult for foreign firms.

Malaysia offers an attractive mix of demographics and strong economic growth and has become a base for the development of takaful, sharia-compliant insurance.

Hong Kong (a special administrative region of China) ranks low for opportunity but presents less risk than any other market in our study. Hong Kong can also serve as a trade route into the rest of Asia.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the fastest-growing insurance market among the Gulf States, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% over the past six years. Regulatory changes may create greater opportunity for expansion of takaful products.

Our analysis does not merely focus on markets with the highest opportunity and lowest risk but provides a more nuanced picture of the shifting landscape. Depending on a firm’s appetite for risk, a second tier of RGMs also shows considerable promise:

Brazil remains an important opportunity, though slowing growth rates have revealed festering economic risks. Following a program of liberalization, Brazil is the most accessible of the BRICs for foreign insurance companies. Brazil’s key advantage is scale: Of the markets in our study, it has the third-largest forecast growth in insurance premiums in US dollar terms, following China and India. Moreover, record new car sales are propelling robust growth for automobile lines.

South Africa follows Brazil with the fourth-largest absolute growth in insurance premiums. In addition to scale, South Africa may be a good trade route into sub-Saharan Africa, as South African companies have been among the most successful in penetrating other African markets.

Vietnam has become one of the most exciting RGM opportunities. Its income growth and premium growth rates (when considered in percentage terms) place it among the top two markets we assessed. But investors face significant corruption and sovereign risks when entering Vietnam.

Mexico has undergone a program of extensive liberalization, opening its market to foreign insurers. On some measures, Mexico is the most open insurance market in our study. Yet the pace and unpredictability of regulatory change can be risky for investors.

India’s opportunity is impossible to ignore, given that it is second only to China in terms of absolute forecast growth in insurance premiums. Yet, the regulatory environment has proved extremely challenging for investors. In addition, a large current-account deficit and reliance on portfolio capital inflows elevate liquidity risks.

Our analysis suggests that while investment in RGMs will continue to be vital for global insurance firms, outsized returns will not come easily. Companies that carefully tailor products and develop market-entry strategies suited to particular economies and their cultures will see the greatest rewards.

Key factors influencing market selection

When investing in RGMs, insurance executives will want to carefully consider four important waves of change:

1. The speed of regulatory change.

Some RGMs, such as South Africa and Mexico, are moving quickly to adopt new insurance regulations and may surpass advanced economies in the stringency of their risk-based regulation or consumer-protection requirements.

2. Customer adoption of insurance products.

The rise of social media and the growing popularity of overseas educational experiences are among the forces breaking down traditional barriers to insurance penetration. Many markets where traditional cultures tended to limit adoption of insurance products, such as Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, are now experiencing rapid premium growth.

3. Government fiscal policy.

Offering tax incentives for insurance products can significantly affect how customers choose savings and pension services. At the same time, a lack of confidence in public pension and welfare schemes can encourage adoption of private insurance alternatives.

4. Government attitude.

In most RGMs, the government considers the insurance sector strategic. This is in part because of the crucial role insurance plays in facilitating savings, investment and entrepreneurship. Understanding the government’s goals for the sector’s long-term development is therefore crucial. Some governments will focus on the potential growth benefits of insurance development and seek as much foreign expertise as possible in developing the insurance sector. Others will wish to have the insurance market dominated by domestic companies over the long term.

Download the full report here: Waves of change: the shifting insurance landscape in rapid-growth markets