Insurtech: Transforming the Insurance Industry

Insurtech

For a long time coming, millennials’ ever-rising demand for speed and convenience has had insurers cracking their brains to break out of their shells and catch up on Singapore’s race to digitalisation.

For a start, insurers are all scrambling to up the ante in customer service with insurtech.

According to Investopedia.com, insurtech refers to the use of technology innovations designed to squeeze out savings and efficiency from the current insurance industry model.

Take NTUC Income for instance – it is the first to offer Integrated Shield Plans digitally via its online portal and the first to launch a travel insurance chatbot on Facebook Messenger that enables instant policy purchase and enquiry support.

Over the last two years, NTUC Income has been aggressively improving its claims process with the use of technology. For hospitalisation claims, it is using cognitive search and content analysis platform IBM Watson Explorer to reduce the time claims assessors spend on verifying medical documentation. For motor insurance, its mobile application Accident Reporting by Income empowers policyholders to file an accident report remotely.

“Insurtech will undoubtedly improve every rung of the insurance value chain, from sales to operations, to claims and beyond. It is an exciting time to be in this space as consumers are now really, really spoilt for choice when it comes to products and service offerings.

“The collision of adjacent technologies such as connectivity, payments and  hardware devices has led to a tailored smorgasbord of products and services, because never have brands known so much about their customers in real time, that they are able to customise offerings on the fly and coax us to buy into their offerings…,” said NTUC Income Senior Manager, Julian Seah.

Staying Relevant and Employable

When Julian joined NTUC Income in February 2017 to build strategic partnerships, he had 20 years of working experience in a diverse bag of roles and industries. Yet, he was still looking for new challenges that would give him an edge in the future economy.

He explained: “I reckon there will be jobs that will become obsolete in the near future. Repetitive, manual tasks can and will be outsourced to bots – the truly digital workforce. We, the human workforce, will need to have real skills and not just be a keyboard warrior to maintain our employability.

“Perhaps workers in future will all need to understand and have some level of proficiency with digital apps, simple coding, programming to manage the bots’ tasks, track and measure the bots’ output. Workers will need to continuously upgrade their knowledge or skills base to be relevant to employers in the future. Perhaps, this constant chase for tech literacy will see a return to tradesman or vocational skills instead of the perennial paper qualification chase.”

His opportunity came when NTUC Income reorganised its digital transformation office (DTO) where he transferred into his new role in early 2018. His job is to conceptualise insurance products of tomorrow, as well as test and prototype to create the optimal user experience.

“I consider myself well beyond a mid-career professional and I shouldn’t be worried, but the rate of change – in terms of technology, skills, experience – in Singapore’s workforce has been fast and furious in the last few years. And although sales and marketing skills are great for transitioning through different industries, I often felt that I was on the periphery. Now the skills that I am picking up in DTO will allow me to ‘pivot’ and open up new opportunities when insurtech evolves further,” shared Julian.

Future Forecast

Julian hopes that blockchain, with its powerful ability to provide transparency to all members of the network, can be applied in the insurance industry. For example, it can be used to verify a person’s identity and trace credit worthiness and assets.

According to him, this will not only have a profound impact on both the consumers as well as the financial institution and regulators, but also level the playing field and distribute business opportunities in a more inclusive manner.

With insurers already deploying smart wearables to keep their policyholders active and healthy, Julian said he would not be too surprised if the wearables infiltrate the underwriting cycle to give insurers a clearer view of the policy holders’ health.

He added: “The future isn’t too far where your Fitbit or smartwatch really transcends into a new paradigm of health telemetry. Now they are passively collecting and storing data on your movements today, but it can become a tool for advanced tele-medicine or preventive medicine.”

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