Graham Cutbill-White is the Head of Insurance Content at short term insurance provider, Tempcover. Here he examines how the insurance market in Asia has evolved.
Technology and auto insurance: How the industry finally embraced the power of tech
Insurtech, the now booming industry which uses technology to innovate and improve the insurance model, was born out of a need to resolve the long-standing frustrations between the insured and the insurer.
Fixing age-old issues
Historically, the world of insurance, particularly auto-insurance, has been famous for its jargon, technicalities and exclusions. These intricately worded policies were often over-promised and under-delivered, causing resentment and a lack of a long-term relationship between company and customer.
Seeing an industry which has remained largely the same for the past 80 or 90 years, Insurtech pioneers took the common issues and addressed them to create a service that put customers’ needs first. They also looked beyond the existing parameters of insurance using technology to develop new products such as AI underwriting and temporary car insurance as well as creating a user-friendly experience that encourages greater brand engagement and repeat business.
The start-ups making a name for themselves
This approach initially made small waves in the insurance industry. But while the big names were ignoring these start-ups, other areas of business were extremely keen to get involved in these tech-savvy brands.
An early example of this was China’s ZhongAn. As the country’s first online-only insurance provider, ZhongAn drew massive amounts of attention at home and abroad. This excitement garnered large financial backing which in turn lead to serious results both in terms of customers (630 million in its first year) and further financial success (Raising US$1.5 billion on its opening day on the HKEX).
While this was a case of a well-backed business that had plenty of help to get to the top, the innovative nature of their product was responsible for the interest and investment at a level that no traditional insurer could ever inspire.
Across Asia, there are a growing number of innovative start-ups that have embraced the Insurtech philosophy.
Go Bear have looked to redefine the car insurance comparison site model and adapt it in the Insurtech model to the newly emerging South-East Asian market. Their aim is simple - make comparing insurance as transparent as possible by removing the boring and confusing language that often stops consumers from being able to compare fairly.
Fed-up with the unfair way big insurance providers do business, co-founder, Andre Hesselink asked himself and his employees the simple question…
“What’s the simplest and most transparent way to make the best decision on insurance, credit cards and other complex financial products?”
Go Bear was the answer to that question. They looked to redefine the car insurance comparison site model and adapt it to fit Insurtech principles in the newly emerging South-East Asian market.
With no affiliation to providers, they’re able to offer a fair and independent service. They also use a simple, jargon-free approach to wording that allows for a great experience for consumers. When you package this all up in a slick, mobile-optimised and user-friendly design, you get everything Insurtech was designed to offer.
The need for technology in the Asian insurance market
While start-ups in the Insurtech field have had successes around the world, it’s rapid growth in Asia is due in no small part to the geography of the continent and the challenges of insurance that this creates.
Extreme distribution and diversity of the population in many Asian countries means that an efficient insurance solution is often difficult to market and issue. The shift to a digital-focused service removes many of these issues. Customers don’t need to call or visit a commercial space, they’re able to view, compare, purchase and claim within in an app or online. This massively appeals to those located away from central hubs as well as the new tech-savvy generation.
By addressing many of the common complainants that car insurance causes, as well as connecting vast populations without the costs of multiple commercial sites, large insurance providers soon came calling.
Big names like AXA, Aviva and Swiss Re have invested in start-ups, in-house schemes and partnerships in China, Singapore and India to develop their versions of the software and user experience Insurtech’s offer. As the Mckinsey Management Group put it in a recent white paper on ‘digital disruption’:
“The incumbents have a choice: be disrupted or be the disruptors. Those that prosper in the digital future will be those that choose to be disruptors and invest in innovation today”
Finally embracing the power of technology
At the risk of being overtaken by the young up-starts, the car insurance industry as a whole has been forced to adopt at least the technology if not the customer focus that the smaller start-ups provide. It took the risk of losing customers and ultimately profits that drove the world of insurance to adopt the technology that has quickly become the norm.
So the next time you purchase a car insurance policy on your phone, make a claim with an app or earn money back for sticking with your provider, remember to think of the early Insurtech pioneers who’s hard work and innovation have made the auto insurance a far more customer-friendly and user-experience focused industry.