The message for digitalisation and innovation in the insurance industry was reinforced at The Digital Insurer Asia Conference yesterday. But the perennial debate regarding meeting immediate needs or preparing for the future continues.
Mr Alex Homer, General Manager, Consumer at TAL & CEO of Lifebroker, said that about two years ago, his company embarked on a journey to develop a whole new platform and proposition which was digitally-led. The idea being that most of its customers will buy direct online.
“As we all know, life insurance isn’t necessary the easiest product to sell. We built this platform with the expectation that customers will come and that we could afford the marketing expenses that come with that. But as we learnt, this is a lot, lot harder,” he said.
Mr Homer said it took a complete pivot in strategy to focus on partnerships for its business to experience its growth trajectory over the past few years.
Likewise, Mr Kenny Thing, General Manager of U for Life – launched in Malaysia in 2015 and is now the country’s “Largest Term Life Insurance Provider Online” – said at the end of the day it is all about the readiness of consumers.
On whether the industry can make insurance a pull product, he said: “In theory it can be a pull product. It can be – in theory. But of course I cannot have the luxury of working based on theory because I have investors I need to be accountable to.”
When he joined the company in June 2016, he realised that the insurer did all the “traditional digital marketing stuff”. “But people don’t realise that it can be expensive too. As you invest more and more, the agency will tell you, ‘hey want to spend more money on optimisation of your traffic?’.”
He decided to cut down on digital marketing and formed strategic partnerships with fintech and insurtech players to open up U for Life’s API to them. Even as the industry progresses with today’s digital trends, he saw a need to complement online with offline partnerships. The insurer went into “pharmassurance” to leverage pharmacy network and saw sales performance rose tremendously quarter-on-quarter.
While meeting current obligations is important, Mr Arvind Mathur, Chief Information & Digital Officer, Prudential Assurance Company Singapore, also provided a timely reminder on understanding exponential trends.
“The challenge with exponential trends is that it is very easy to think of it as hype in the beginning stages. The performance is much lower than you are used to. You think this is never going to make a difference. But when it happens, it very quickly becomes the dominant force. And if you are not already investing on that curve by that time, it is too late,” said Mr Mathur, who forecasts that the industry is about 36 months from inflection point.
What matters in trying to understand the future is what the customers think but it is not what they think today when they are asked but what they will think when presented with a proposition in the future, he said. “We need folks who deeply understand that and are willing to try and project what consumers would care about, do experiments to learn what works and does not, and build propositions based on that.”
The one-day conference also saw TAL & Qantas Assure, the joining of forces of Australia’s two iconic brands to achieve leading digital customer experience, win the Innovation Award. Digital Fineprint, which provides online insurers with social autofill and social media data analytics to improve customer targeting, retention, and sales, won the InsurTech Award.