Insurance with no agents: Singapore firm to try out PH market
Start-up insurer Singapore Life will start selling insurance products in the Philippines in 2020, anticipating a license to operate in the Philippines before the end of 2019.
Dennis B. Funa, Insurance Commission (IC) chief, said in a text message that Singapore Life was expected to apply and submit requirements for a license “in the coming weeks” and the license could be issued by this coming November.
Singapore Life was so far the only foreign insurer interested in doing business in the Philippines, according to Funa.
In an e-mail, Singapore Life Philippines chief executive Severinus Petrus Paulus Hermans confirmed that the company was already registered with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and currently applying for a life insurance license with the IC.
Hermans said the company would invest an initial P1 billion in capital, an amount mandated for new insurers.
But he said more funds were likely to be poured into Singapore Life’s operations in the Philippines although Herman said he was not at liberty to disclose the total amount of funds that the company would bring in.
Hermans said the company has had a “successful start” in Singapore drawing “great interest of the investor community.” This prompted a decision to expand in Southeast Asia, he added.
After a study of different Southeast Asian markets, Hermans said, the company picked the Philippines as its next site because of the Philippines’ “high-growth potential and internet penetration.” He said Singapore Life’s business model uses “modern technology to reach unmatched efficiency” and offer insurance products to a ‘broad market.”
Being a start-up Singapore Life would sell its products and services online.
The company, according to Hermans, “has been set up with the technology of today using the benefits of cloud-based systems” and API, or technology that allows applications to speak to each other, platforms. This, he said, would “allow us to maintain fair pricing” and offer products “for much lower premium amounts than what is in general accepted in the market.”
Because it would be mainly internet-based, Hermans said Singapore Life would have no need for agents but foresees working relationships with “retail brokers in the future.”
Aside from having a “digital back office,” Singapore Life would also use what Hermans said was “digital front-end” systems or technology that allows files, like those in PDF formats, to be printed.
He cited the advance in the last 10 years in the Philippines of e-commerce, like the online malls Lazada and Zalora which are taking “a growing share out of retail spending.”
Ride-hailing company Grab “is helping us stay mobile” while mobile banking “became a dominant way to interact with banks,” Hermans said. “It is time for the insurance industry to follow,” he said.
“We believe that insuring your income, protecting your savings for high unexpected medical bills and preparing for the funding of your education or retirement needs is relevant for a much larger segment of the market than the top 10 percent that is currently being serviced,” Hermans said.
He said Singapore Life would tap into the potential of “this much larger part of the population and support them with fairly priced financial tools.”/TSB
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