> Posted by Juan Blanco, Associate, Financial Inclusion 2020, CFI

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In 2012, developed countries spent 8.6 percent of GDP on insurance, while developing countries spent only 2.7 percent. Traditional insurance providers face difficulties when serving low-income and unbanked customers with traditional insurance products in areas like transaction size, client education, and outreach, among others. However, mobile technologies have disrupted the way insurance is delivered and in the last two years a new array of mobile microinsurance services have popped up. Earlier this year CGAP identified 74 operators with live mobile microinsurance services, making up an increasingly diverse space that is active in more countries, offering a wider range of products, and using different business models.

Two of these services stand out, given their success, both with leading mobile network operators (MNOs). Tigo Kiiray in Senegal enrolled 13 percent of Tigo’s 3 million subscriber base during its first year and a half of its launch. Talkshawk Mohafiz by Telenor Pakistan managed to issue 400,000 insurance policies within its first two months of operations. What have these models done to gain access to this historically difficult market segment?

Tigo partnered with Bima, a microinsurance specialist, to launch a “freemium” microinsurance service. Customers spending at least $3.13 per month on Tigo’s mobile phone services are eligible for life insurance coverage with a payout range of $125 to $630. Customers are also given the option to enroll in a premium service where $0.69 is deducted directly from their airtime account through small increments over the course of each month; in exchange they get twice as much coverage. Tigo has experienced better than expected direct revenue and brand strengthening. Though mobile microinsurance revenue is only fractional compared to other core business areas, it is comparable to revenue from ringtones or entertainment purchases. In fact, the microinsurance service has been so successful that Tigo is planning on expanding the insurance offering with a health insurance product.

Telenor Pakistan partnered with MicroEnsure to launch Talkshawk Mohafiz in 2013. Talkshawk’s model is similar to the freemium set-up of Tigo Kiiray. Mobile subscribers spending at least $1.90 per month on Telenor’s network are eligible to receive life insurance worth $190 or more. Also last year, Telenor launched Khushaal, a savings and insurance product, through its fast-growing Easypaisa mobile money service. Telenor launched Talkshawk as a mass market product for its phone user base and Khushaal as a reward product for the subset of its customers who actively use the mobile wallet service.

Tigo Kiiray and Talkshawk Mohafiz have a few crucial characteristics in common. Both services are driven by MNOs with extensive infrastructure and client bases, and both providers identified the need to partner with expert organizations in microinsurance. For the product, both started with very simple, inexpensive or free, easy to understand offerings, and they took action based on the premise that insurance doesn’t sell itself. Tigo Kiiray and Talkshawk both have highly trained, product-savvy frontline staff solely focused on insurance in order to achieve high levels of client product awareness and satisfaction. Bima, for example, allots the majority of its investment in Tigo Kiiray to dedicated roving and call center insurance staff. Bima’s CEO, Gustaf Agartson, estimates that, in his experience, all-purpose staff in other markets have been roughly 5 percent as productive as Bima’s dedicated insurance agents in Senegal.

Much of our work at the Financial Inclusion 2020 project focuses on widening the product offer so that customers have access to a full suite of quality products. It is encouraging to see cross-industry partnerships forge business models that side-step traditional providers’ cost-prohibitive practices while bringing value to customers.

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