How insurtech is changing the game in Southeast Asia

Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines, here is how insurtech is affecting these countries

While Singapore, China, and India all have a growing insurtech industry, as noted in the recently published e27 article “Asian insurtech on the rise” by Brad Smith, the integration of technology into insurance is also creating waves in Southeast Asia.

With Singapore’s neighbors having significantly lower insurance penetration rates but equally high usage of internet and mobile technology, insurtech startups are poised to disrupt the entire industry.

Here’s how insurtech is shaping up in other major Southeast Asian markets:

Thailand

A 2018 study by Venture Scanner revealed that in Southeast Asia, only two cities had more than five insurtech firms: Singapore and Bangkok.

This relatively high presence of insurtech is good news for Thailand, where insurance penetration rates stood at only 5.5 per cent in 2016.

One of the insurtech startups aiming to grow that number is Sunday, which offers various non-life insurance products.

What makes the insurer significantly more user-friendly than others is its mobile app, which clients can use to submit documents, make requests for claims, and manage their policies.

It also has a “panic button” where vehicle owners can request for assistance if they experience an accident on the road.

Sunday can also create personalized insurance products thanks to its back-end technology powered by machine learning.

With this model, Sunday can offer automotive, health, travel, and other non-life insurance policies that cater to the specific needs of their clients.

Indonesia

The largest Southeast Asian market in terms of population unfortunately has one of the smallest insurance penetration rates—only 1.7 per cent of over 260 million Indonesians are insured, as reported by The Jakarta Post.

In the article, the Indonesian Insurance Council explains that this low number is due to a general lack of awareness, especially among younger Indonesians.

It’s a market that Indonesian insurtech firm PasarPolis aims to reach with its flexible products, as it makes the process of obtaining insurance claims as easy as a click of a button.

The company’s digital platforms allow policyholders to process their claims over email or, in some cases, be credited directly to their bank accounts.

This aims to not only show the majority of Indonesia’s uninsured population how easy it is to get insured, but also to lower the cost of policies with more optimized processes.

“Our goal is to make insurance less expensive than half a cup of Starbucks coffee,” said Cleosent Randing, founder and CEO of PasarPolis, in an interview with TechCrunch about the startup’s Series A round, which was supported by three Indonesian unicorns.

PasarPolis also partners with various businesses to streamline their insurance services with its digital solutions, as well as create new products made specifically for their businesses.

Its partnership with Go-Jek, for example, gives health and accident coverage for its drivers, while another partnership with budget airline Citilink gives travel insurance for passengers with delayed flights.

These client-centric products coupled with their seamless transaction processes make PasarPolis a prime candidate to enable an insurance boom within Indonesia.

Malaysia

In an article published on The Star Online on August 2018, the General Insurance Association of Malaysia said that it’s aiming to increase the insurance penetration rate of the country to 4 per cent by next year, coming from less than 2 per cent at the time.

When asked what needed to be done to raise that number, the association’s chairman pointed to policy prices – insurance packages need to be more affordable to better cater to lower income segments.

It’s a lofty goal made possible by technology, as evidenced in Malaysian insurtech firm PolicyStreet. When Lee Yen Ming founded the startup in 2016, he had one specific goal in mind: to make insurance simpler.

The company is doing so by “cutting the fat” in traditional insurance packages and only offering what’s necessary to potential customers, driving down costs and making the process of claiming insurance much easier.

PolicyStreet displays all the important information about an insurance product without overwhelming the user, making it as simple and easy to understand as possible.

The startup also focuses on curating the best product for groups of uninsured individuals. By understanding the needs of its clients, PolicyStreet can offer relevant products instead of expensive packages.

“Our vision is to get everyone “adequately” protected without worrying about rigid policies and confusing fine print at all stages of their lives for things that’s most important to them,” Lee said in a feature by Vulcan Post.

Philippines

Like many other developing markets, the below-average insurance penetration rate of the Philippines—1.76 per cent in 2018, as reported by BusinessWorld—is part of a larger problem of financial exclusion.

While there are a variety of financial services available in the Philippines market, they are mostly limited to urban populations and higher income classes because of location, resources, and several other shortcomings of traditional financial business models.

It’s a problem being addressed by CARD MRI, the country’s largest microfinance provider, in partnership with Philippine-based insurtech firm Saphron.

With its technology, Saphron is able to help CARD MRI’s insurance agents—called “nanays,” the Filipino word for mothers—optimise their jobs by enabling them to process on-boarding of new clients and monitoring of policies more easily.

This is made possible through NANAI, a digital platform created by Saphron using artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

With this platform, CARD MRI’s agents will be able to better reach the rural and far-flung communities that are often wholly excluded from the formal financial industry.

“What makes the Saphron tech even more valuable to the nanays is its ease of use,” said Winston Damarillo, the chief strategy officer of Saphron, in an earlier article.

“As high-tech as it is, NANAI is in fact easy to understand, with nanays reporting ease and comfort in familiarizing themselves with the new technology.”

Making insurance more affordable and accessible

At the core of all these insurtech startups’ goals is to disrupt the traditional insurance process and make it easier and more convenient for its end-users.

By digitizing the process and making it simpler, insurers can then bring down the costs of their policies and reach more people.

With this model, insurtech is slowly but surely becoming an important part of the industry’s effort of increasing insurance penetration in Southeast Asia.

And with these startups providing unique solutions with their deep technology, the entire industry has the potential to significantly expand its user base.

*The original news: How insurtech is changing the game in Southeast Asia | e27

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