Tag Archives: telecommunication

5 Innovations in Microinsurance

Earlier this year, a group of eight leading insurers and brokers established a consortium to promote microinsurance ventures in developing countries, unsurprisingly called Microinsurance Venture Incubator (MVI). Together, AIG, Aspen Insurance, XL Catlin, Guy Carpenter, Marsh & McLennan, Hamilton Insurance, Transatlantic Reinsurance and Zurich plan to launch 10 microinsurance ventures over the next 10 years.

While conventional insurance targets middle to high-income urban dwellers, microinsurance targets rural residents living on the edge of poverty. Most popular are microinsurance products that offer life, health, accident or property insurance.

However, to really be the “can-do” coverage for the poor, it is not enough for microinsurance to be affordable and accessible; it also has to be tailored to the unique environment in which it is being offered. After all, context is king.

So with the context of “poor people deserve innovation too,” here are five examples of innovative microinsurance schemes that target different risk pools:

1. The Use of Technology to Combat Fraud

Insurers providing livestock insurance in India have been struggling with high claims ratios, mostly because of fraud. Typically, to get coverage, a veterinarian would place an external plastic tag on the animal’s ear as an indication that that specific animal is insured. However, this produced zero controls in place, and insurers learned that these plastic tags somehow made their way to dead cattle, way too frequently.

Nowadays, India’s IFFCO-Tokio (ITGI) insurance company is using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that are injected under the skin of the animal (which is less painful than tagging!). These chips are accessible through a reader, which allows an insurance official to easily verify that the RFID reading coincides with the identification number on the policy, when a farmer reports a claim. This results in fewer fraudulent cases and faster claim processing.

Almost a fairy tale ending if it wasn’t for the high price of these microchips. Nonetheless ITGI is using a combination of external plastic tags and RFID chips to control their costs yet still prevent excessive fraud. It’s working.

2. Forming Index-Based Insurance to Build Trust

Another promising innovation is index-based insurance, where an external indicator triggers payments to clients rather than the traditional “I’m calling to report a claim.”

Kilimo Salama, AKA Safe Farming, combines mobile phone payment system with solar powered weather stations to offer farmers in Kenya “pay as you plant” insurance.

Here’s how it works:

  • A farmer goes to an approved dealer and buys a bag of fertilizer, which he pays 5% extra for to get climate coverage.
  • The dealer scans a special bar code, which immediately registers the policy with the insurance provider and sends a text message confirming the insurance policy to the farmer’s mobile phone.
  • When data transmitted from a particular weather station indicates drought or other extreme condition is taking place, the farmer registered with that station automatically receives payouts via a mobile money transfer service.
  • Similarly, a more recent entrant called ClimateSecure says it will “work hand-in-hand with [its] clients, meteorologists, financial experts and other brokers in order to build indexes that most accurately reflect [their] clients’ risk.”

3. Targeting the Cash Poor by Relaxing Liquidity Constraints

In China, pork composes roughly 48% of livestock production, with most pigs generally raised in small numbers by rural families in their backyards, forcing Chinese hog farmers to face the risk of hog diseases. Yet, despite the obvious benefits of microinsurance products, the demand is still low because of cash constraints and a lack of trust in insurance providers.

Yet a pig insurance scheme, which offered credit vouchers that allowed farmers to take up insurance while delaying the premium payment until the end of the insured period, coinciding with when pigs are sold, saw their insurance premiums go up by 11%.

By the same token, telecommunications companies embed insurance premiums in their service contracts, with the advantage of offering (oftentimes free) coverage as part of a pre-existing plan. In Africa, for instance, free insurance is linked to phone data usage; the more airtime one buys, the more coverage he/she gets.

4. Product Bundling to Attract Customers

The 2014 winner of the prestigious Hult Prize, NanoHealth, is a social enterprise that not only offers microinsurance but also tackles chronic diseases by providing door-to-door diagnostics via its network of community health workers, which it equips with a low-cost point-of-care device called Doc-in-a-Bag. This startup is slowly but surely creating India’s largest slum-based electronic medical record system and disease landscape map.

5. Coverage Within Reach via Garbage in, Coverage out

Forget bitcoin, garbage is the new currency with this Indonesian startup called Garbage Clinical Insurance (GCI), which was founded by a 26 year-old doctor named Gamal Albinsaid. Through GCI, community residents are encouraged to recycle and get healthcare coverage at the same time because trash is translated to funds that can later be used to pay for medical insurance.

In sum, in this micro world of microinsurance, where only 260 million of the world’s low-income citizens are covered, words like big data and claim history could not matter less. What matters is how quickly an insurer can scale, how low can its margins go and how clearly can it communicate its offering to the low-income farmer all in the name of for-profit social enterprise.

Expect more entrants.

Succeeding in the Digital Revolution

History has seen different technology revolutions: the industrial revolution in the late 1700s, the information and telecommunications revolution in the mid 1900s and the digital revolution of the present. Each revolution has taken advantage of the new technologies of its day, creating disruption, innovation and business transformation. Businesses have either grown or died based on how they adapted to and innovated with the new technology and responded to customers’ reactions and expectations.

Today is no different. But it is much more intense. The digital revolution is being powered by today’s hyper-connected world and the convergence of multiple influencers — maturing technologies, emerging technologies, the shared economy and demographic trends, to name just a few. And the revolution is creating experiences, products and services, new outcomes and new business and revenue models. It is generating an explosion of data from new and emerging technologies such as mobile, social media and the Internet of Things.

The combination of these factors is transforming existing businesses and creating new ones within insurance. From managing value chains to managing ecosystems, the business transformation is powered by the fusion of technology and data. At the same time, these factors and the pervasive use of technology are lowering the entry barriers for disruptors and competitors from other industries, changing the competitive landscape for insurance in profound ways.

In today’s new world, Next-Gen insurers must be digital insurers. They must reimagine themselves and embrace the full breadth and depth of the mature and emerging technologies that are changing customer engagement, transforming products and services, redefining business and revenue models and breaking down the barriers to new entrants, as discussed in SMA’s “The Next-Gen Insurer: Fueled by Innovation” research report. Insurers must embrace digitalization to reshape the way their businesses approach value creation and offer a compelling customer experience. In today’s world, insurers must move from managing value chains to managing ecosystems to power their businesses as digital companies.

Many insurers indicate that they are on the strategic journey toward becoming a digital insurer. They are making investments in digital initiatives and technologies, often in a tactical and reactionary approach that is reflected in fragmented strategies and investments in technologies. Forays into new websites, smart-phone apps, agent portals, customer portals, collaboration, connected environments and social media are a start, but these can result in an inconsistent and incomplete customer experience. More importantly, they may delay the establishment of a competitive digital business model foundation with technology embedded. The issue is that these silo-based approaches lack a strategic framework that cohesively brings together the unified digital strategy that will become the driver of market differentiation, business growth, innovation, collaboration and profitability.

A unified digital strategy recognizes that all business strategies and technologies touch the customer in some way and that a one-size-fits-all channel model is obsolete. In today’s digital world, this means making a serious commitment to provide real ease-of-doing-business based on customer expectations for every type of interaction through any channel, via any device, to win and retain customers. The strategic components of a unified digital strategy will connect the right people, processes, and technologies.

The unified digital strategy is multi-dimensional and brings together areas of business strategy to drive design and develop efficiency and consistency, while providing the foundation for unified experiences across all the customer touch points, now and in the future. Each of these business strategies reflect existing, new and emerging aspects based on the influence of demographics, behaviors and technologies. The strategies include the brand strategy, marketing communication strategy, customer relationship strategy, web strategy, mobile strategy, IoT/connected strategy, social strategy, collaboration strategy and intranet strategy.

Today’s and tomorrow’s insurance customers are looking for much more than interacting online. They are looking for choice, engagement, social alignment and more. Some insurers have begun or are well along on the digital transformation journey. But becoming a Next-Gen Insurer that will be recognized as a digital leader demands both technology and leadership dimensions that move the company forward in a coordinated and effective way.

From a technology perspective, the digital insurer business architecture framework provides a transformation road map to assess and define a path that helps guide the organizational change, leveraging a wide-array of technologies from core business solutions to emerging technologies like mobile, the Internet of Things, collaboration and analytics. In the leadership dimension, digital leaders seek capabilities that envision and drive the transformation across the organization in a coordinated, consistent manner. These digital leaders work across the traditional departments and silos of an organization to ensure that the strategies are cohesive and working toward the common vision to shape a new future brought about and inspired by technology change.

Becoming a digital insurer demands leadership from the top and leadership to drive the digital transformation. This requires a unified digital strategy fortified by existing, new and emerging technologies.

So embrace the digital world. Re-envision yourself as a digital business. See the possibilities. Define a unified digital strategy that brings the business strategies and technologies together to cohesively guide your transformation. Make it happen, because the digital future is already well upon us.