The modern consumer is never off their phone - and that is just how retailers like it.

E-commerce has moved from being a novelty to an everyday function of most people's lives and that is equally applicable to financial and protection services. However, insurance companies have been slow to realize the shift in behavior and how far they are from having meaningful engagement with their customers any time other than on renew.

Digital first every time

Insurers have to bridge this gap, but it is getting harder, as it is the customer who controls access.

Today's customers don't even need to decide whether to answer a call by asking the operating system to filter out contacts at certain times or from particular sources.

The process of placing the customer at the center of an insurer's offers will provide insights into what customers want, what they need, how they want to consume these products and how they like to be engaged.

Though they like the immediacy of digital transactions, few customers will tolerate the incessant call center feedback loops that seem designed to meet service level agreements about call handling rather than meet customer expectations about service standards.

Do not call lists, combined with the rise of chat, means people are resistant to calls from people they do not know, making digital content marketing essential.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is being used to add to the efficiency of digital technology but with a human face - or voice, in some cases. These systems are using language that is engaging with customers and improving satisfaction by using a common vernacular and keeping processes simple.

On the same wavelength

This will likely be crucial as the developing markets in Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa grow - with a world population of 10 billion by 2055 according to United Nations' estimates1.

Not only are there many languages new to the insurance sector, but society is very different from the mature, development markets. More than 60 percent of citizens operate in the informal sector, with considerable pressure on their income. Products that offer break periods or the ability to postpone payment without the policy being cancelled might be features that would prove appealing to such a population.

Engagement is problematic

However, access is equally difficult. Many potential customers are remote and the old methods of contacting and marketing to customers no longer work.

Growth in rural and developing markets will likely be dependent upon a number of factors including financial education and the ability to deal using USSD (unstructured supplementary service data) over GSM mobile networks.

Micropayments are well established in African markets2, but insurance penetration is possibly below 1 percent3. Low cost, high transaction volume business supported by AI and RPA could open these markets rapidly.

Behavioral economics don't work in these markets as there is no discretionary spend, but there is an opportunity to build profiles from phone use and payment data. They simply do not operate the same as mature markets.

The biggest obstacle insurers face is in fact trust, which is a totally different dynamic in emerging markets that have no experience of dealing with financial institutions.


If the insurance industry takes a western or mature market approach to cover to launching digital businesses in the emerging markets, they will likely fail. A different approach is required that provides risk capital on different terms to a market that comprises large numbers of small risks. To date, such business has been unattractive and costly to insurers, but insurtech can enable high levels of automation.

The need for cultural change and alignment with the specific markets they service is essential. However, peer-to-peer insurance is one model that has a significant chance of succeeding in a way that has not been possible in the mature, western markets.

Players in this space:

Gefen Technologies - software as a service platform that allows agents to reach, engage and connect with customers.

MicroEnsure - microinsurance for emerging market customers

Mpesa Kenya - mobile phone-based payment system

Pineapple - items insured through mobile phone images.

Ping An - the world's largest and most valuable insurer, worth US$217 billion as of January 2018.

Tencent - Chinese conglomerate, the world's largest gaming and social media company.

Tigo - mobile phone-based financial services platforms

Zhong An - founded in 2013, it is China's online-only insurance company. Since inception, it has acquired 460 million users and written more than 5.8 billion policies.

Connect with us