Jirnexu, Southeast Asia’s only full stack FinTech startups, was recently approved by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to compare, sell, process payments, and issue e-policies for insurance products under its regulatory sandbox. We talk to Lucas Ooi, founder of Jirnexu, about their innovative e-commerce marketplace, their future plans and where they see the insurance industry is headed.
By Ahmad Zaki
Five years ago, Jirnexu was an online financial aggregator working exclusively with banks to provide financial products on a digital platform. However, Mr Ooi realized that it was difficult for banks to handle the digital experience for customers. They decided to build the technology, alongside the banks, to give customers a better end-to-end digital experience, leading to the creation of 2 brands: RinggitPlus in Malaysia and KreditGoGo in Indonesia.
Now, Mr Ooi is focused on insurance. “It’s trickier than banks because of the advice we need to give customers, and the premium and payout transactions,” he said. However, Jirnexu was able to take on that challenge and became the first company in Malaysia permitted to sell select general and life insurance products from multiple providers, and the first to build a dedicated ecommerce marketplace for insurance.
“A typical agent in Malaysia can only represent 1 life and 2 general insurers, but Jirnexu can represent any number of insurers. They can also collect premium from customers on behalf of insurers,” he said.
Jirnexu currently works with just under 10 insurers, although more are expressing their interest now that they have approval from BNM. “Some insurers were not sure what Jirnexu was as an entity before the sandbox, but things have changed now.”
Playing in the sandbox
“The more that we handle customer data and customer experience, the more we realised how important it was for us to make customers comfortable,” he said.
Designing their marketplace so that it served the needs of both the customers and the insurers meant that Jirnexu took almost a year to apply for BNM’s sandbox, as they also wanted to offer term-life products and sought consultation from insurers and regulators. “It was a very interesting process, because we saw how BNM wanted to move forward in the online space, and they were very supportive.”
“They really want us to grow as a company,” he said. “We can ‘play’ with technology and insurers for about 12 months, until Oct 2018, when we will ‘graduate’ from the sandbox.”
The time frame was put in place as BNM wanted to see progress in the first year, and figure out any challenges and blocks that an InsurTech start-up might encounter. The ultimate goal is to finalise the Online Financial Aggregator (OFA) guide. “What’s great about the sandbox is BNM wants feedback from participants, to help lead them towards the OFA.”
Catering to insurers
Initial reception from insurers started tentative, admitted Mr Ooi. But BNM has since clarified that Jirnexu does not require usual licenses to sell these specific insurance products, due to the nature of their marketplace, which has attracted attention from more insurers around Malaysia.
These discussions they had prompted Jirnexu to start building more technology to help existing insurer channels be better. “For example, we can help agents connect to customer leads faster, moving them from manual process to digital and real-time. So, when a potential customer applies online, the agent will get a notification immediately, like Grab drivers and their passengers,” he explained.
He maintains that Jirnexu will have an edge when dealing with the insurance industry, and provide a different service than most insurers are used to. “The difference between your typical technology vendor and us is that we deal with customers every day, so we know what their pain points are, and we can keep improving the service and the experience,”
For the insurer, the technopreneur claims that the marketplace is a good channel to test digital as a way to do business, while minimising the conflict between digital and agency channels. “They can treat us like an agency channel, but digitally focused. The benefit is that we collect so much data on their consumers that we can risk-price them better,”
The next step
“We want to offer as many products as we can, but BNM will put some restrictions on us. So, we will develop up to 2 verticals at a time, to ensure that we don’t get stretched too thin,” he said.
Moving forward Jirnexu plans to utilise the data they collect to fine-tune products to what customers really want. “We can offer unique customised products through our database, based on data like income and credit rating. And not just to help customers apply for, but also help them manage their policies, like changing a beneficiary or adding a driver name.” A