Tag Archives: microinsurance

Market Boundaries Are Blurring

The year is 1959. Neuroscientist and psychologist Bela Julesz tests the ability of the brain to perceive images in 3D. With circular dots and a double image, subjects could begin to see a circle floating above a printed background. Fast forward 20 years, and two of Julesz’s students use a computer to accomplish the same feat in just a single image. By 1991, Magic Eye pictures used repeat patterns to control the depth of perception. A complete 3D image could be hidden inside a 2D pattern. The only way someone could see the image was to relax the eye, blur the pattern and let the brain do the rest. What looked out of focus, blurry and flat, was transformed into an image of stark clarity that leapt off the paper.

Is this a magic formula for considering today’s insurance? A jumble of patterns exist. Focus is difficult to maintain. Thousands of details and past assumptions threaten to distort what insurance executives need to decipher. But…if we relax just a bit and allow the blurriness to exist for a few moments, a certain clarity arises. Not only does the picture become clear, it jumps off the page in 3D. As market boundaries blur and evaporate, new answers to insurance technology, processes and business models are coming to life.

Which boundaries are reshaping the industry?

Four years ago, Majesco published its first Future Trends report that examined the converging “tectonic plates” of people, technology and market boundary changes that are redefining the world, industries and businesses — including insurance. Recently, we released the latest report, Future Trends: Looking Back and Leaping Forward, where we once again discussed shifting market boundaries under six trending categories:

  • Insurtech
  • Channels
  • Blurring Boundaries (between industries)
  • New Competition
  • New Products
  • Competition for Talent

From the start, we recognized that insurers were going to begin competing in a new paradigm beyond their brand, product, price and distribution. This new paradigm required insurers to compete also on the customer experience and to move from vertical market boundaries to porous market boundaries, or ecosystems.

Ecosystems are fluid, porous and operate across and within verticals and multiple channels. The first platform companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix and Uber disrupted multiple industry verticals and demonstrated why market boundaries limit revenue generation, customer value and market valuations. By bursting the boundaries, they lost predictability, but they gained market reach.

The boundary lesson for insurers is that the industry isn’t simply being reshaped, it is being “unshaped.” 

It’s no wonder, then, that many insurers are finding themselves and their strategies adrift — no longer safely anchored to traditional assumptions. Insurers now have to wrap their heads around a new image that will allow them to escape 2D frameworks and find answers in new dimensions.

See also: Insurtech 2020: Trends That Offer Growth  

Can we find clarity among the blurriness of market boundaries? 

With traditional market and product assumptions (and constraints) evaporating before our eyes, clarity has to be found in a whole new definition of insurance products and services. From ecosystems to technologies, some picture has to emerge that will allow our brains to think “outside the page.”

In words, this image might be, “Escape linear thinking. Embrace the idea of plug and play, partners, networks and ecosystems.”

What is affecting our boundaries and how can we use an ecosystem approach to take advantage of these boundary shifts? We can find out by considering four of the boundary-breaking areas — Insurtech, Channels, Blurring Boundaries and New Products.

Insurtech

If you have been keeping an eye on insurtech, then you’ll know how volatile and substantial investment has been. Based on Venture Scanner data, insurtech investment in 2015 was $1.78 billion as compared with $3.37 billion in 2018 (89% growth) and just over $5 billion through Q3 2019.

Even more interesting are the top funding areas. From the recent Venture Scanner report, Q3 2019 showed the largest influx of funding was in the Insurance Infrastructure/Backend category, with $1.12 billion.

This is a major flip given that channels/front-end were originally the top priority. This flip in focus recognizes the criticality of next-gen technology platforms for insurers that provide flexibility, agility, speed and scale. What does this mean for insurers that are looking for clarity?

First, insurers can take advantage of insurtech investments without making direct investments in insurtech. This is the one of the major takeaways. Insurtech capabilities are now ready as plug-and-play, ecosystem-based, cloud-available services such as Majesco’s Digital1st Insurance,

Channels

Today’s customers have introduced new time requirements and pressures into the insurance equation because they are looking for solutions that meet their needs on their terms (when and how they need it), and with speed. There is the time to quote, time to underwrite and time to purchase, which are all opportunities to lose or to gain the sale.

In this new era of insurance, nearly every insurance process is rapidly becoming frictionless, including buying. If distribution channels are easy to use with products that are easy to understand, then insurance has the opportunity to grow through a friction-free, multi-channel distribution system.

The industry is now exploding with new concepts in distribution, including new distribution channel options from marketplaces like Bold Penguin and digital MGAs like Slice Labs. We have also seen the shift from portals to digital experience platforms like Majesco Digital1st Insurance, which has allowed companies like Burns & Wilcox, a major wholesaler, to bring innovative specialty insurance solutions to brokers and agents. Ecosystems can rewrite channel strategy and open the windows to allow for unprecedented levels of channel partnership.

Blurring Boundaries (between industries)

Embedded insurance is an example of boundaries becoming invisible. There is a “hidden channel,” connecting insurance with another ecosystem, such as rental properties, auto manufacturers or even baby gift registries – and embedding the opportunity to purchase within the existing process.

To capture the opportunity, insurers must create an ecosystem of partnerships with a range of digital capabilities and channels to reach new and existing customers. How do insurers recognize the opportunities that exist within the flow of the current of buyer needs, events and lifestyles, to fit the product to the flow of life instead of trying to sell “upstream”?

Majesco Consumer and SMB research has found that customers are very interested in innovative channels like embedding insurance. The answer boils down to alignment. Clear strategies will align the right channels, technologies and partnerships, considering the synergies of partner organizations and the expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s customers. In many cases, insurers will need to quickly build relationships and cross industry verticals. In most cases, strategic clarity will be found through rapid test-and-learn cycles.

New Products

Over the last four years, we have seen a growing proliferation of new products and value-added services. These products use new data sources, offer new customer experiences, leverage new technologies and, most importantly, are focused on meeting a new set of risk needs and expectations, particularly for millennials and Gen Z.

The most important change, driven by startups and greenfields, is the unbundling of “one-size-fits-all” insurance into products based on specific needs at specific times. Unbundling, coupled with the growth in the sharing and gig economy has powered the development of micro-insurance or on-demand products across all insurance segments and lines of business.

See also: Future of Insurance Is Clear (but Hard)  

Initially, unbundling was best accomplished by a range of small and agile insurance or MGA startups. As traditional insurers and reinsurers have begun to re-envision their responses to blurring industry and market boundaries, they have begun forming clear approaches to on-demand product development. Fast forward to today, and we are now seeing the emergence of on-demand voluntary benefits, life insurance, rideshare, cyber and so much more.

These four boundary-breaking trends are proving that insurers of all sizes can now find an alternate picture within a blurring universe — clear answers rising above the background of tradition and disruption.

How to Help Microinsurance Spread

Microinsurance is an industry that keeps building momentum. Changes in the global economy have created an emerging middle class that has been underserved by traditional insurance models — and microinsurance offers a needed solution.

For people in developing countries, who in many cases live on just a few dollars a day, traditional insurance is too costly. Constrained finances and limited awareness act as a significant deterrent for purchasing traditional, risk-mitigating insurance products. However, when loss events like those stemming from Hurricane Maria or workplace injury occur, insurance is necessary to rebuild communities and individual lives. Considering that nearly 6.5 billion residents live in emerging and developing countries like Ghana, the Philippines and Vietnam, the scale of this opportunity exceeds virtually any other single opportunity in mature insurance markets.

Much of the (re)insurance market’s recent attention has centered on global natural-catastrophe losses, which have exceeded $500 billion since 2017. Many communities around the world were dramatically affected by these losses, forcing prominent insurers to understand the best way to serve those communities.

Why Micro Makes Sense

The increased buying power within these developing communities confirms there’s an opportunity for microinsurance to grow. A World Bank study found that, from 1985 to 2017, Vietnam’s per-capita GDP jumped by nearly 10 times from $230 to $2,343. Such gains encourage significant interest and investment specifically focused on microinsurance product development.

Allianz, for example, has doubled down on its commitment to the field by joining forces with FPT Group to build insurance products for Vietnam and purchasing micro insurer BIMA for $290 million. In addition, LeapFrog raised $400 million for microinsurance product development and distribution, proof that sophisticated parties believe in the value of microinsurance products.

For new markets where skepticism toward high-premium private products exists, microinsurance offers a low-cost option to mitigate risk and grow trust with corporate insurance brands. However, when viewed in the aggregate, there remains a mismatch between high-growth areas in terms of population and income — Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and Oceania and Africa — and insurance penetration in these areas, which currently sits at only 7%.

See also: Microinsurance: A Huge Opportunity  

The challenge for investors and the insurers they support is simple: educating communities, developing relevant products and establishing trust in these products; all of which is typically expended before the first premium dollar is collected. The challenge is exaggerated by the high-volume, low-margin nature of individual products, which, in some communities, carry average microinsurance product annual premium of $14.

While the economics of microinsurance will continue to challenge penetration and premium capture, insurers can overcome significant hurdles related to education and distribution by presenting simplified and relevant products to prospective insurance customers, and developing and executing a distribution strategy through a multidisciplinary team.

How Insurers Can Solve the Microinsurance Quandary

Insurers can position themselves for success in the microinsurance market through a couple of different approaches.

Chief among those is to streamline their services. Microinsurance is a product of its time. Technology allows all kinds of consumer services to provide hyperpersonalized care, which means insurers need to offer products that are as simple and relevant as possible.

To accomplish this goal, insurers must keep the end user in mind during all phases of product creation. Companies need to understand what customers need, how they prioritize those needs, and where their gaps in coverage lie. By identifying these factors, insurers can offer products that clearly spell out the relevant advantages to customers. This clarity can help engage customers and increase the odds that consumers will purchase the coverage.

Customers don’t want to pay for coverages they don’t need. Insurers, therefore, must seize any opportunity to create granular products that are simple and affordable. Not only does this approach provide more useful products to buyers, but it also helps insurers limit how much information they must collect during underwriting.

Additionally, insurers should build cross-functional teams internally to assist with distribution. Getting the right insurance product to the right customer at the right moment takes a coordinated team of experts. Those who distribute these products need to understand the environments in which they sell and have a stake in the profitability of the product.

See also: Microinsurance and Insurtech  

These distribution partners must also learn to describe to consumers the differences among products. It is not enough to sell: Distributors must be educators who teach customers that insurance can be as trusted as the local brands they know and rely on. To do that, the distributors and the people they serve must be supported through association with charitable and regulatory organizations.

Finally, technology must be leveraged to effectively monitor and mobilize the distribution force and insureds alike. To that end, software developers must build and test features on the basis of real customer feedback and adapt quickly to optimize the products. When the back-end team gives distributors a product that people want, distributors can sell a product that brings clear and tangible benefit to the developing world.

Microinsurance will continue to grow as the needs of the global population continue to evolve. Everyone in the insurance industry, from distributors to developers, is responsible for overseeing the growth of this new niche. Only by collaborating to offer a relevant product will insurers successfully earn their share of this new and burgeoning market.

The 3 Pillars of On-Demand Insurance

One of the outcomes of economic and technological changes has been the rise of on-demand insurance products, offered both by insurtech startups and incumbents alike. This includes products with continuous underwriting attributes, microinsurance products and insurance offerings for workers in the gig economy. These offerings aren’t typically grouped together, but they share an on-demand aspect that wasn’t required or technologically possible in the past.

Continuous underwriting refers to the use of regularly updated (and possibly real-time) policyholder data to rapidly determine consumer risk and adjust policy terms and prices accordingly, as opposed to traditional term-based updates and renewals. Some forms of continuous underwriting have been around for a long time (example: pay as you go Workers’ Comp, with monthly updates based on submitted payroll) but now has applications to many lines.

Microinsurance refers to coverage of smaller risks via rapid underwriting; including on-demand products like travel or event insurance, renters’ insurance broken out for specific high-value household items or pay-per-mile auto coverage.

Gig economy insurance is most familiar to those outside the insurance space: as more and more freelance and “gig” opportunities like Uber and Postmates emerge, carriers are developing products to keep these independent contractors covered in a part-personal, part-commercial hybrid coverage.

See also: On-Demand Insurance: What’s at Stake  

While these three arenas of modern insurance might seem disparate in their final forms, they are emerging today due to a new consumer-focused approach to product definition and the connected technology necessary to allow a real-time approach. This foundation for all of them is built on three pillars:

Data: On-demand insurance requires data, if not in real time then something close to it. If insurers are only getting updates as to policyholder risks and scheduled items after an end-of-term audit, then only a traditional approach will work. But as connected technologies and the Internet of Things have created a continuing pipeline of data, a new approach emerges. Insurers now have the ability to tap into discrete data points about coverages times and risks in an automated fashion, including: When is someone driving their car for Uber vs. for personal use? When is a business stocking high amounts of valuable goods? What is monthly payroll for workers’ comp?

Product: It’s not enough to have access to the data. Insurers can’t just adjust rates on the fly. Instead, they need to take a consumer-first approach to modeling their insurance product. This means the restructuring and sale of a product with a variable pricing agreement and a flexible term. Done properly, this will allow the insurer to have the most insight into the collective risk and allow the consumer to have a transparent product that covers them for exactly what they need when they need it.

Systems: Just because the data is available and the business has rethought the product structures doesn’t mean the infrastructure will be able to support it. On-demand products mean real-time web service calls and at least some component of automated underwriting decisions. Variable rates mean a rating engine that can calculate new rates on the fly based on updated risk info as well as a billing system that can adapt to variable billing amounts and dates. Without flexible and agile core systems, an insurer can’t roll out new products that behave in nontraditional ways.

Insurers may be able to make progress with an on-demand offering even if they only have one or two of these pillars. Workers’ comp insurers, for example, have offered pay-as-you-go for a long time via manual form submission. But to make new products viable for a mass audience—and to compete with the consumer-driven ethos of Silicon Valley startups—automated data needs to be simple and convenient to turn on and off. This might take the form of a mobile app with a button to turn a microinsurance product on or off or perhaps the form of an automated data feed to a third-party system like payroll.

Conversely, all three pillars are valuable to an insurer even if it hasn’t fully embraced an on-demand approach to their products.

See also: Reinsurance: Dying… or in a Golden Age?

Real-time data allows an insurer to understand its overall risk profile at any given moment and to make decisions and new sales and renewals. If, for example, you are selling a commercial liability policy and have up-to-date info about a business’ risks, it’s helpful even if individual policy pricing isn’t affected. In fact, this is how automotive telematics typically works: Auto insurers are gathering masses of data that demonstrates real-time risk and driving behavior, but they aren’t using it to do continuous underwriting/rating.

Likewise, rethinking a product structure to take a more consumer-focused approach can happen even within the constraints of traditional insurance offerings or without real-time data. And, obviously, having modern and flexible core systems allows new product rollouts, better automation and digital interactions regardless of what products are sold.

New insurance products like microinsurance and continuous underwriting aren’t just about gathering data or having a modern core system. Rather, they are based on a multi-faceted approach: understanding risk in a semi-real-time way; selling a different type of product; and having the core systems to handle it.

Microinsurance and Insurtech

Until insurtech, insurance companies were defining microinsurance policies as social responsibility projects. With the magic touch of technology, the picture is changing rapidly!

Microinsurance is a type of micro financial activity, which protects low-income people and communities with low premiums and limited coverages against risks. The main objective is providing financial protection for all low-income members with pooling risks and financial resources. The target customer group is quite big, as well. More than 2 billion people are potential customers of micro insurance worldwide.

Microinsurance enhances financial security and peace of mind, supports social security systems in poor or developing countries and provides a high-level risk management system. For long-term investors, microinsurance stabilizes and develops financial markets in developing and poor countries and provides considerable liquidity for critical times.

See also: Microinsurance: A Huge Opportunity  

Four features are crucial for penetration by microinsurance:

  • Premiums should be affordable for low-income households
  • Products should be very basic and easy to understand and cover limited risks
  • Underwriting, claims and collection processes should be operated with high effectiveness
  • Products should be distributed effectively and with minimum distribution cost

With insurtech, the picture is changing rapidly! Insurtech is converting microinsurance into a very profitable area.

The first rule of insurance, the law of large numbers, is now valid for microinsurance business. The number of insureds is widening, and this makes claims more stable and predictable for insurance companies.

The first impact of insurtech in micro insurance is on UW processes. Because of the low premiums, operational efficiency is the key of success in projects. Insurtech allows insurers to have their own automated UW decision-making processes for fast and low-cost policy production. The key to success, management of operational risk, is reduced significantly. The products are simple, do not require any financial literacy and are very user-friendly.

Target customers purchase policies without location restrictions via digital distribution channels. Premium collections, claims notifications and all compensations activities are performed with digital tools that were developed and perfected by insurtech.

See also: A ‘Nudge’ Toward Microinsurance  

For now, microinsurance projects mainly focus on personal accident, health and agricultural activities, but new products are being developed promptly. With all its components, like artificial intelligence, machine learning, chatbots and the Internet of Things, insurtech is becoming the new leverage for microinsurance — not just diversifying and absorbing risks for individuals, but also providing very strong preconditions for other productive activities for policy owners.

Microinsurance: A Huge Opportunity

Having worked in and around Asia for the past few years, I have seen microinsurance be a constant topic.

I always found the concept of microinsurance (and microfinance) very interesting. However, I didn’t fully understand it.

Fortunately, Peter Gross from MicroEnsure helped to give me more insights into this fascinating and extremely important concept.

The following article is based on my conversation with Peter.

Who Is Peter Gross?

Peter is currently the director of strategy with MicroEnsure. Peter started with MicroEnsure in 2010 as the general manager in Ghana. Previously, Peter had a variety of management roles in McMaster-Carr.

When I asked Peter about why he moved from a company like McMaster-Carr to MicroEnsure, his answer was simple: “I wanted to work in a social enterprise and use my business skills in a developing context.”

Peter’s wife is also in public health, working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Having an alignment of interests and values is important for any partnership, personal ones included. Hence, moving to Ghana to help with both the protection and providing of care was an easy decision for the couple.

What Is Microinsurance?

One of the comments that stuck with me most during my conversation with Peter is on the definition of microinsurance. He explained that he is trying to get away from that term and refer to it more as “insurance for emerging customers.” The main reason is a desire to get away from the perception of “micro-price vs. micro-value.”

These types of products are specifically designed for an underserved population that typically can’t get access. That is the core of microinsurance.

For people in these markets, Peter said, “Good-quality insurance is very important because they face more day-to-day risks than you and I.…. They get really excited about insurance and the role it plays to protect them.”

Microinsurance is primarily bought in some of the fastest-growing areas of the world, including these six countries from Africa and four from Asia:

Source: https://www.theatlas.com/charts/BJOKD67VG

The blend of under-penetration plus fast growth shows a lot of opportunity for microinsurance in these areas, one which MicroEnsure is very aware of.

See also: A ‘Nudge’ Toward Microinsurance  

What Is MicroEnsure?

MicroEnsure is a specialist provider of insurance for customers in emerging markets and has registered more than 55 million customers in 10 different countries in Asia and Africa.

MicroEnsure designs, builds and operates their business by having products that are simple to understand and with distribution partners that can help to reach the masses. They don’t carry the risk themselves and partner with more than 70 different insurers. Their biggest shareholder is AXA, alongside Omidyar Network, IFC and South Africa’s Sanlam.

Because the majority of the consumers in these markets do not have any insurance, Peter indicated to me that the marketing strategies that they deploy help them to introduce an insurance solution and meet an untapped need.

An example of this was when Peter first moved to Ghana. The company partnered with Tigo Telecom to offer free life insurance. The process worked like this:

  1. Customer dials *123 to sign up
  2. The more the customer spends on telecom services, the more insurance the customer receives (up to a maximum of $500)

Simple, right?

Peter told me that they started seeing customer behavior changing, especially when customers started seeing claims paid. This caused these consumers to not only want to spend more on airtime with the telecom to get more life insurance, but to get coverage for other risks.

This helps to show what has made MicroEnsure so successful:

  • Identify a need
  • Introduce a solution
  • Make that solution readily available and accessible
  • Introduce more solutions
  • Make those solutions readily available and accessible
  • Repeat

What Else Does MicroEnsure Offer?

As with any market, the range of products available to consumers can vary.

Product development typically starts with life, personal accident and hospital. Policies to pay for funeral expenses and protection of property and crops are quite popular, too. Coverage for other risks, such as political violence, can also be marketed, depending on the country.

As more consumers have mobile phones, mobile device cover is trending upward, too.

If the product fulfills the need to the consumer and is simple to understand and easy to market/get access to, then it will be considered.

At the same time, Peter made clear to me that MicroEnsure needs to be extra careful in building its products. Because the risks their consumers face are higher, the risk exposure for them and their insurance partners are also higher. The company needs to ensure that they build in features that are both easy to understand and tougher to game. This can be a tough balance to meet, but one that needs to happen to ensure that they can continue to provide this valuable solution for their consumers.

What Role Does Technology Play?

Good technology is part of the key to MicroEnsure’s success. Peter shared that this is both from a distribution and operational perspective.

For distribution, products need to be able to be offered and distributed through the masses. Making an easy-to-purchase process over mobile or other e-platforms is critical. An application has to be not only simple to fill out but also easy to understand.

From an operational perspective, Peter explained that MicroEnsure needs to assume a lot of mistakes on the data input from the consumer. As such, they need to build in certain tolerances on imperfect data to make it clean. This is crucial, especially for the payment of claims.

Peter said MicroEnsure’s technology is fully API-enabled and can be easily plugged into their distribution partners, whether it be banks, telecoms or others. Their systems are modular, meaning partners can use various components, such as the policy administration system, claims system or messaging system, only as needed.

See also: Big New Role for Microinsurance  

Other Insurtechs to Watch in Microinsurance

I asked Peter who some of the other insurtechs in the space are to take a look at. He gave me three:

  1. BIMA, which just had an investment of $100 million from Allianz
  2. Ayo
  3. Acre Africa

Summary

This was a fascinating conversation with Peter, and I learned a lot from it.

I have a ton of admiration for the work Peter and MicroEnsure are doing. I’ve worked in mature markets as well as emerging ones (I would say Malaysia is right in the middle).

There are complexities in both types of markets.

What interested me the most from my conversation is the combination of being able to provide coverage for the un/underinsured, focusing on their specific needs and making them excited to be getting insurance.

I feel that insurance is a very important product, for all people. In places like the U.S., insurance can often be looked at by consumers as boring and an unnecessary evil (until they need it, of course).

Insurtech is helping to change that perception in the Western world and mature economies.

For those in emerging markets, insurtech helps with access and a level of coverage that many have never experienced before in their lives. Now that is something exciting and meaningful.

This article first appeared at Daily Fintech.