Insurers are increasingly deploying “insurtech” innovations to connect with and serve lower-income customers

> Posted by Center Staff

This post is adapted from the recently-released publication “Inclusive Insurance: Closing the Protection Gap for Emerging Customers,” a joint-report from the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and the Institute of International Finance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation.

New technologies are dramatically changing the landscape for insurance around the world and enabling insurers to reach new mass market segments. New data sources and analytical tools are changing risk models by enabling new ways to create, capture, and analyze valuable information that can help insurers better calculate and manage the risk associated with customers. Machine learning applied to satellite imagery is changing agricultural and disaster insurance, allowing for more sophisticated claims management, even facilitating pre-loss payments that can help minimize the cost of a disaster before it is full-blown. The expansion of identity solutions and onboarding options is lowering operations costs and enhancing convenience. These innovations are helping the global insurance industry transform from a passive risk-transmission industry into an active risk mitigation and advisory partner for individuals, businesses, and governments.

The use of mobile phones to deliver insurance is no longer a novelty, but there is tremendous scope for growth. Mobile phone penetration in emerging markets is now 80 percent, making mobile devices excellent distribution channels. Mobile phones are convenient for enrollment, transmitting premiums and paying claims. Mobile phones have also been helpful for customer service, policy management, consumer education, and other vital functions.

While mobile insurance products have already broken important new ground, there is a much broader array of more recent innovations paving the way for growth. The joint CFI-IIF report found providers using technology to solve both front-end and back-end challenges. Here are some of the ways providers are addressing customer and business needs through technology.

Instant Enrollment

In many countries, advances in identification systems have made it possible to enroll customers instantly. Garrance Wattez-Richard, Head of Emerging Markets at AXA, notes, “National ID is changing everything in China and in India.” In Colombia, Margarita Henao Cabrera reports that customers can enroll in DaviPlata’s insurance in seconds by entering their national IDs into their mobile phones. Richard Leftley, CEO of MicroEnsure, notes that even basic questions such as the customer’s name, age, and other demographics can create a barrier to enrollment, so enrolling customers based only on phone numbers eliminates those barriers. “We don’t know anything about them until they make a claim, not even their name or age,” says Leftley. Depending on the market, automated enrollment mechanisms include internet-based products in China and point-of-sale devices among retailers in Latin America.

Technology-Enabled Claims Verification and Payouts

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Since paying claims fast builds trust and adds customer value, Allianz is experimenting with payments that do not require customers to submit a claim—for instance, if the distribution partner reports that a customer has been in an accident. Parametric or index insurance using data from weather satellites enables automatic payments for farmers. Claims payouts and management are even being enhanced by drones. Drones allow access to isolated and dangerous areas after disasters to collect aerial data and assess loss through cutting-edge imagery analytics. Munich Re has been experimenting with the technology and has partnered with U.S.-based drone company PrecisionHawk. The two companies worked together in the aftermath of the April 2016 earthquake in Ecuador.

Back-Office Systems

Modernizing back-office IT systems helps bring down administrative costs, making low-premium products cheaper to manage. When AXA acquired MicroEnsure, its first investment was to improve legacy IT infrastructure. LeapFrog Investments also prioritizes IT with its microinsurance investments. To further reduce transaction costs, some experiments use blockchain technology, such as Consuelo, offered by the Mexican-based mobile platform Saldo.mx, in this case to facilitate microinsurance for Mexican migrant workers in the United States. By providing a universal and tamper-proof record of transactions, blockchain technology could reduce human error, fraud, data duplication, processing delays, and opaqueness—ultimately increasing efficiency and lowering operational and administrative costs for the insurance industry. (Though at a very high energy cost.)

Using New Data to Reappraise Risks

Historically, there has not been enough data to feed actuarial analysis that can inform a relevant product at a fair and attractive price for newer and lower income market segments. However, data has now become available on people who have a national ID or mobile phone number. Data analytics can then be effective at identifying prospective customers and their behavior patterns. Salmaan Jaffery of DIFC Authority looks forward to using artificial intelligence and machine learning in product development and risk assessment. With new data tools, the sector will look at risk differently. As Jaffery explains, “It may become apparent, through the analysis of behavioral and social data, that lower-income people may not be any greater risk than those with higher income profiles.”

For more on the uses of technology in inclusive insurance, including how it’s enabling integrated services for health insurance, read “Inclusive Insurance: Closing the Protection Gap for Emerging Customers.”

Image credit: Accion

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