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Innovation demands new ideas and the ability to make them executable and scalable. Insurance Business Asia’s 5-Star Insurance Innovators 2022 demonstrate exactly that. They also prove that the Asia-Pacific region is primed for investments, along with new technology and ideas to address business needs.
In Asia, the insurance market is significantly “underpenetrated,” says Erik Bleekrode, the head of insurance for Asia-Pacific at KPMG.
“There’s an enormous protection gap in Asia with people that are not insured or that are underinsured and therefore, there are enormous upsides for insurance companies if they innovate,” he explains. “On that basis, they are able to step into new markets and new customers, and new customer segments or customer groups. I think growth potential and growth opportunity drive a lot of innovation across the whole sector.”
“There’s an enormous protection gap in Asia with people that are not insured or that are underinsured, and therefore there are enormous upsides for insurance companies if they innovate”
Erik Bleekrode, KPMG
As for examples of recent innovations, Bleekrode cites digitisation efforts to sustain operations in the face of COVID lockdown issues and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate processes, such as speeding up claims payouts.
“Ultimately, I think technology is going to enormously accelerate the ability of insurers to penetrate new segments of the population and is going to help drive speed of transacting,” says Bleekrode. “On that basis, insurance is going to become much more digital and much more automated across the whole value chain of the business.”
Going green and targeting Chinese markets
Bleekrode’s assessment rings true with some of IB Asia’s 5-Star Innovators. Allianz Trade (formerly Euler Hermes) won for three offerings: a Green2Green single risk credit insurance solution, a voice of customer service solution, and a Greater China desk solution.
“The Green2Green product contributes to tackling climate change by insuring green transactions and investing the related premium in certified green bonds,” says Shan Aboo, the regional commercial director at Allianz Trade in Asia Pacific. “We are the pioneer of this product which is particularly innovative and unique as it implements a virtuous ‘green cycle’ with 100% of the generated investable premium back into the green economy.”
Green bonds are fixed-income instruments for raising money for climate and environmental projects.
Bleekrode also feels this is a key area. “Everybody now realises they need to do something around climate risk, climate change, carbon footprint, and insurance companies have a bigger role to play in their markets. I think we’re going to see an acceleration of that in the next 12 months.”
Allianz Trade’s voice of the customer servicing solution provides real-time customer satisfaction monitoring to facilitate in-depth analysis of customer service.
“In addition to a net promoter score (NPS), we take the extra step to track the end-to-end journey of each interaction to anticipate our customers’ next needs, potential pain points and requests,” says Aboo. “We monitor the voice of our customers in real-time dashboards to actively resolve and escalate any issues.”
Their Greater China desk provides bespoke trade credit insurance policies for Chinese companies operating domestically and through international exports to ports in Greater China markets. In addition to these innovations, Allianz Trade has further innovated with a product called Simplicity, for small and medium-sized enterprises, and an e-commerce credit insurance solution.
“The Green2Green product contributes to tackling climate change by insuring green transactions and investing the related premium in certified green bonds”
Shan Aboo, Allianz Trade in Asia Pacific
Another 5-Star Innovator, bolttech, not only raised nearly $250m in Series A funding — the largest ever for an insurtech — but has also established itself as the world’s largest technology-enabled insurance exchange, quoting more than $50bn in annualised premiums worldwide.
This is part of a movement that James Tan, executive director of Deloitte Consulting, Southeast Asia, has identified. “Innovation in the insurance sector mostly results from trying to play catch-up with other financial services like banking and payments,” he says.
bolttech specializes in embedded insurance, the bundling and offering of insurance to the consumer at the point of sale. “Right now, most industry players are in the initial phase of embedded insurance — offering a single product with a simple user journey, a simple solution at the point of need,” says Rob Schimek, group CEO. “Where bolttech is right now – with the work we are doing with a lot of our partners – is to go further than that to embed a whole marketplace at the point of need in the customers’ journey and give customers the ability to choose from multiple options in a seamless experience.”
In the embedded niche, bolttech has distinguished itself with its work with dtac, one of the largest mobile phone companies in Thailand; Maya, one of the largest e-payment wallets in the Philippines; and JKOPAY, a leading e-payment company in Taiwan.
“The next stage in the journey of embedded insurance is taking customer experience to the next level by adding more value with adjacent services and technologies and creating new innovative products to meet new risks,” adds Schimek.
“For example, we’re already working with partners to leverage connected home technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide homeowner insurance policy holders with leak detection sensors to notify repair services of a potential leak before a loss occurs.”
bolttech has distinguished itself by implementing wrapper APIs for the Tiki and Lazada e-commerce platforms. It has also developed or is developing home security, remote diagnostic tool, and IoT product innovations.
“We will continue to keep our foot on the pedal for the evolution and growth of embedded insurance,” says Schimek. “bolttech is an enabler and our goal is to open the door to distributors outside of traditional insurance to bring protection into the daily lives of customers, ensuring they can get the right coverage at the right time.”
“Where bolttech is right now – with the work we are doing with a lot of our partners – is to go further than that to embed a whole marketplace at the point of need in the customers’ journey and give customers the ability to choose from multiple options in a seamless experience”
Rob Schimek, bolttech
Crawford & Company Singapore, another 5-Star Innovator, is a provider of claims management and outsourcing solutions to insurance companies across over 70 countries. The company won for their innovative GTS (global technology services) Accreditation program.
“The Crawford GTS Accreditation program was introduced to drive our business while ensuring we never lose sight of the talents we have within our business,” says Charlotte Lau, the company’s director of market development in Asia. “The program broadens career opportunities, providing loss adjusters a clear technical pathway and also allowing for secondment opportunities elsewhere within Crawford. Accredited loss adjusters are endorsed in one of three adjuster levels – each level has varying business and leadership responsibilities. This is aligned to remuneration and reward.”
Lau says that since the program was launched, Crawford has received positive feedback from customers on the company’s technical quality. This has opened doors to Asia-based loss adjusters to support large and complex cases and consequently improved customer satisfaction, including NPS and employee engagement.
In addition to its internal employee empowerment solution, Crawford makes the most of the latest technologies. YouGoLook, 3D imaging, and video reporting tools enable the company to process claims without onsite visits. Other technologies Crawford leverages include everything from mobile apps and smart IoT to AI and blockchain to predictive analytics and robotic process automation.
“In the future, we plan to enhance our capabilities to be technology-enabled to improve efficiency that better supports our business, people and clients,” says Lau. “We also plan to deliver quality outcomes and client value leveraging on Crawford’s technology and broader capabilities and continue to invest in our people, providing them with the technical pathway that will strengthen our loss-adjusting services.”
Hopeful that the industry is entering a stronger phase, Deloitte Southeast Asia insurance sector leader Siang Thnia Lim adds, “It is a common view that insurance is lagging in innovation. This could be due to the nature of the business, where insurers adopt a longer-term view, especially for life insurance. However, the pace of innovation is accelerating as insurers seek greater competitive advantage. We hope that as we enter a period of increased uncertainty, there will be even greater impetus for insurers to innovate.”
“The Crawford GTS Accreditation program was introduced to drive our business while ensuring we never lose sight of the talents we have within our business”
Charlotte Lau, Crawford & Company
- Finology Group
- MS Amlin Asia Pacific
- Singlife with Aviva
- The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers