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Life brims with health even as disruption rages

Life business is fun. It is already turning on its head in many markets with the mantra of not just protecting your family when you die, but letting you live longer healthily. Life is beyond just savings for death or life, critical illness, risk protection or investment income. It is about making new waves to enter the health arena too.

The foot soldiers who make the army shine

Life insurers have been early embracers of disruptive technology. Today, they are leading the pack, empowering their beloved agency force with smart tools to make them better and more productive in upselling.

Having hosted the Trusted Life Agents and Advisers Awards for two years now, AIR is just enamoured by the role that agents play in the lives of the ordinary people in the spirit of selling; they are the real face, touch and feel factor of the protection that life insurance offers. They are the truly unsung heroes of the life insurance business, and we have taken the cudgels on their behalf and are also launching a separate agents and advisers website to give them more visibility in insurance. We share this enthusiasm with the industry, as when we look around, the markets with the deepest life penetration have good, strong, bright and smart agency forces!

They dare to lead

Life is ahead in the online space, with several digital insurers fast expanding. Likewise, on the bancassurance front, life products go beyond just credit insurance sales. Life insurers are taking steps to own their customers, and hence grow their businesses by responding to their wants and needs through social media tracking. The dialogue is spinning positively.

The life business is booming also because it has many passionate leaders. Many life leaders have moved into the space of keeping their policyholders healthy, giving them credits and points and gifts for taking more steps each day, or just living healthily. Business aside, this is a wider social role that life companies play and it appeals directly to millennials who like to see socially-conscious business entities. They go out of their way to support these companies. Imagine how the world of business is changing in life, where your clients talk you up more than your ad campaigns or marketing strategies ever can. And what a blessing that will be, not just in drawing business, but also in attracting talent into the industry.

An outsider’s take

The healthcare business is a natural link for life companies serious about increasing their slice of the protection pie. There are already several players, including reinsurers, looking at linking retirement and healthcare to help the elderly fund their own old -age healthcare expenses, one of the biggest nightmares of most families with ageing parents and relatives. And in the smart era, there is also telehealth, which insurers can jump into, bearing in mind that the market in the Asia Pacific is growing at 12% annually to reach US$1.8 billion in 2020 in the Asia Pacific region.

While retirement planning would appear to be a natural fit for life insurers, companies have been very slow to get into this business, citing regulatory and RBC burdens as a turn-off. Annuities have lost their appeal to insurers, though the public, especially the cash-rich elderly with predatory off-springs eyeing that pile for their own immediate comfort, really want it to shield that wealth. There is a natural pool of clients awaiting the dawn.

Lastly, there is the view that life insurers can do more by offering portability of protection from one carrier to another, or even to allow modular purchases.

Being good for goodness’ sake

The life business is booming because it does “good” well. A Pollyanna notion you think? In Asia, life is at least two-thirds of the insurance pie, and in some markets it even makes up more than 70% of the insurance market. The life business is worth some $2,500 billion and is estimated to increase by a billion dollars a year. So take heart, it is a shining industry, where there are many winners, not just one!



Welcome to Hong Kong

On behalf of the organising committee, we are excited to have you here in Hong Kong and welcome you to the 28th Pacific Insurance Conference. With guests from over 19 countries, this years’ prestigious conference offers networking opportunities and workshops for you to discuss current industry trends and innovations with colleagues from across Asia.

We are honoured to host over 35 industry leaders, sharing their expert opinions and experiences with you. During their presentations, they will be exploring the conference theme of ‘’Our world from the outside in’’. We guarantee this central industry event will expand your knowledge, whilst allowing you to share your expertise with like-minded professionals, in a way that will revolutionise the industry’s future in this ever-changing climate.

In addition to the conference programme, we hope you enjoy the special evening events on offer and discover the excitement of being in Hong Kong, Asia’s World City. We would like to thank you for participating in this year’s event and we look forward to seeing you all throughout the conference.



Insuring the 100-Year Life: A Look into the Future of Our Industry

A child born in the developed world today has a very good chance of living to the age of 100 and beyond. At the same time that life expectancy is increasing, we are seeing rapid changes in the areas of health and technology. What does all of this change mean for our consumers – and, for those born in today’s world, what will the 100-Year Life be like? Swiss Re’s Head of Life & Health Products Asia, Ms Daisy Ning explores.

Longevity is not a new phenomenon: statisticians have seen ageing populations coming for a long time. In Asia, an additional 15 million people will reach 65 years each year in the next decade. According to Swiss Re estimates, the number of elderly in Asia will nearly double between 2010 and 2030, from 288 million to 572 million. With falling fertility rates and lower old-age mortality, 10% of Asia's population will be 65 years old or more by 2025.

Insurance makes up only 5% of ageing wallet today

While ageing populations are not a recent trend and should be celebrated as a success for humanity, not enough has been done by business, governments and individuals themselves to prepare for the financial impact. Swiss Re’s own research projects that total healthcare costs in Asia-Pacific will increase to US$2.7 trillion by 2020. Even if Asia-Pacific governments and societies continue to fund healthcare expenditure as a stable share of GPD, there will remain a sizable gap of US$197 billion by 2020.

Swiss Re research also shows that most people are not in a position to fund their own future healthcare needs – hardly surprising given that insurance only makes up 5% of the ageing wallet today.

Advances in medicine and technology

So, how will societies fund longer lives? And will people be in a financial position to be able to enjoy the extra years that they live? In order to fund our ageing societies, it will be necessary for our industry, along with healthcare providers and governments, to form public-private partnerships as the challenge is too big for one party to solve it alone.

Advances in medicine and technology provide some cause for hope and have the potential to drastically alter peoples’ health, the way that people are treated and how that is paid for. With medical advances like liquid biopsy and advances in genomics, those who live the 100-Year Life will likely do so in a world where the risk of some of the most catastrophic and costly illnesses such as cancer are identified much earlier and can be managed.

Similarly, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes should be better detected and managed as people will likely be monitored continually and their health records – which would be kept securely in the cloud – automatically updated to show their health status.

Health insurance in the future

Those living the 100-Year Life can also expect a very different relationship with our industry. In the future, insurers might know what kind of policies consumers need according to their lifestyle, genes, hobbies and work risks.

Clients would be free to add personalised protection on top of their government-based healthcare mandatory scheme, and at any time they will be able to access a marketplace of personalised insurance products on the channel of their choice. And whenever they are unsure, their AI agent will be ready to advise.

Reinsurers will support insurers to fine tune how they model and predict risk, building dynamic underwriting and preventive risk management models enabling dynamic and real time pricing for each of their consumers. Reinsurers will also help to consider new areas of protection, reducing dramatically the global protection gap by accessing more risk pools. Lastly, reinsurers will automate health and claims processes which – supported by progress in biotechnology and medicine – will make it more affordable than today.

Need for innovation imperative

The collision of three major forces – longevity, health and technology – has created a more complex operating environment for our industry than ever before.

While future-gazing and imaging what it will be like for those living the 100-Year Life highlights some of the major possible impacts for our industry and the people we serve, there is much uncertainty around how things will ultimately pan out. Through all this uncertainty, however, one thing is crystal clear where our industry is concerned: the need for reinsurers and insurers to work hand-in-hand to innovate has never been greater.



Startup seeks to re-write insurance

Diabetic patients have traditionally been shunned by underwriters, but things are about to change – if they have not already started. Health2Sync’s proprietary platform empowers patients to manage their condition, while giving insurers a new way to assess risk and offer protection to a demographic previously considered uninsurable, says CEO Ed Deng.

Not only is the lack of patient knowledge and data to manage diabetes an exploding problem in Asia, the shortage of diabetes care professionals and the non-existence of a scalable method to effectively manage the chronic disease are compounding issues. Thus, it was based on this premise that Health2Sync was founded, said CEO Ed Deng, who explained that it was due to Taiwan’s reputation for having one of the best diabetes care practices in the world that the company chose to set up shop there.

“When it comes to diabetes care, Taiwan is one of the leaders in Asia and provides face-to-face diabetes education through multidisciplinary teams. But in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, or China, how do you afford face-to-face follow-ups all the time?”

Thus, at a time when governments in Asia are seeking proven patient-centric diabetes care across various service lines, such as insurers and care providers, Health2Sync steps in to provide a scalable model of care through automation, as well as analytics for its partners to make informed decisions and to create new products and services.

No more open-and-shut rejections

On the consumer side, the platform, which helps track the individual’s blood sugar level and HBA1C, makes diabetes management personalised for each patient. Meanwhile, insurers will have at their disposal a tool that can provide a value-add service in allowing clients to self-manage and reduce claims. But more importantly, the data and analytics that the startup can provide will give the insurance industry the chance to effectively develop products for diabetic customers.

“In the past, it was either ‘yes’ or ‘no’; and if you’re diabetic, you couldn’t be insured. But even among patients, different HBA1Cs mean completely different risk levels. So as a result of the data now, there can be new underwriting criteria to make developing covers for diabetes patients viable,” Mr Deng said.

Dynamic pricing

He added that Health2Sync has proven clinical efficacy in helping patients reduce, control and lower their variance of blood sugar with active participation. With 150,000 registered users spanning across Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and the US, the platform has been able to Agents of change We speak to an insurer and a reinsurer on how they are pushing the transformation agenda for the industry. help high-risk patients reduce blood sugar by an average of 20% after three months of usage. What this implies in insurance is that with the ongoing tracking and analyses of data, a diabetes patient “may or may not actually be more at risk than the average person”. As such, insurers could effectively price premiums more dynamically.

Turning back to Taiwan, the technopreneur noted that “only 30% of current long-term chronic disease patients are on some form of long-term care”. This ratio, he mooted, will diminish over time given the increasing prevalence of chronic disease and an ageing population, as government resources decline.

Therein lies the market’s pain point – an inevitably depleting government budget. On the flipside, this offers insurers the chance to step up and supplement healthcare needs, and close the protection gap.

Bridging stakeholders

And the InsurTech’s role is in between patient and insurer: enabling constant engagement with care providers and self-management of condition for the patient, while giving insurance companies the means for proper risk assessment and management in order for them to cover diabetics.

Since its debut in 2013, the company has launched a pilot with the local Ministry of Health & Welfare to bring diabetes care online nationwide. Separately, it is working not only with Taiwanese players, such as Fubon Life, but also insurers in Hong Kong, Japan and Malaysia, with a focus on employee benefits programmes and individual health cover for diabetics.

While Taiwan’s health ministry took quickly to Health2Sync’s value proposition because “the government is serious about solving this issue”, Mr Deng noted aligning the relevant stakeholders, including care providers and pharmaceutical companies among others in the wider ecosystem, is probably his biggest challenge as each party has its own motivations and pain points. “But whoever can achieve this first… will ensure their long-term competitiveness and be a barrier to entry.”




Agents of change

We speak to both an insurer and reinsurer on how they are pushing the transformation agenda for the industry.

Data is king

Data is key, and will drive the next big thing for life insurance.


When properly harnessed, data can shed incredible insight into customers’ individual needs, passions and interests – providing valuable information that proxies behaviour and risks. We will be able to create needs-based propositions that address real pain points. Claims will be frictionless; no filling of forms, with minimal or no questions asked. We will go beyond thinking of customers in terms of policy numbers and systems, and instead have a single view of the customer.

The industry must evolve to harness insights from data and drive a fundamental change in the way insurance is valued by our customers, or risk obsolescence. Insurance must be “bought, not sold”.

Mr Chris Wei
Executive Chairman, Aviva Asia & Friends Provident International and Global Chairman, Aviva Digital

Test & learn

As the integration between technology and insurance continues to deepen, we witness even stronger competition than before, both from within and outside the industry. In this environment, innovation is key to success. But developing innovative solutions is not enough; speed is of the essence too. Insurers and reinsurers need to explore new risk pools and innovate in more fundamental ways and faster than in the past.

At Swiss Re, we tackle this challenge in our Life & Health Accelerator Group that provides a well-controlled test and learn environment to pilot new solutions and services for our clients. Drawing upon our extensive risk knowledge, deep insight in new technology, and real hands-on execution experience, the accelerator programme is a platform to innovate hand-in-hand with our clients, share the risk, and deliver fast results and tangible solutions to the market.

Ms Sherry Du
Director, Head Accelerator Group, Asia, Swiss Re



Swinging in style

The PIC kicked off last night with a welcome reception hosted by Swiss Re, where guests networked over drinks and sumptuous treats by the pool to lounge tunes, flashing LEDs and a violin virtuoso.



Asia Advisers Network makes debut

Asia Insurance Review (AIR) has launched Asia Advisers Network (“AAN”), a dedicated online platform to meet the information needs of advisers and agency leaders at www. AsiaAdvisersNetwork.com.

This investment is part of AIR’s continuous efforts to serve the insurance industry in the region. Since the successful launch of the annual Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards two years ago, the market has called for AIR to play an even more active role in raising the bar and in catering to the information needs of advisers and agency leaders in the region.

Hence, in addition to the first-of-itskind Awards, which recognises the very best advisers and leaders in Asia beyond sales production, AIR has now launched AAN to report on the latest industry news, development and expert content through multi-media channels to help advisers stay at the forefront of trends and thrive in the era of FinTech and InsurTech.

Mr Sivam Subramaniam, Editor-inChief, AIR, said: “As the premier insurance publication in Asia, we take our leading role in the market seriously. Over the years, AIR has always risen to the occasion when called upon by the industry. The investment into and the launch of Asia Advisers Network is further proof of our commitment to serve the industry.”




The Science of Success

From L-R: Mr Sachin Shah, Mr Paolo De Martin, Mr Chris Wei, Mr Claude Accum, and Mr Donald Kanak

To compete and win in the next five years, insurers will not only need an overhaul of their businesses, including engagement, distribution, products – underscored by data – but must also reaffirm their purpose to customers. Disruptors are at the door and the industry needs to study its competition – non-conventional players like Tesla, Amazon, Tencent and Alibaba, which know their customers intimately; reassess its pain points and metrics of success; and make sense of unstructured data, said panellists at yesterday’s CEO forum.

The innovation message cannot be over-emphasised by Aviva Asia & FPI Executive Chairman Chris Wei, who summed it up candidly: “There’s no way you’re going to win by being a follower. The laws of nature don’t allow it. In the absence of innovation, the default is size; and if you’re not large, you’re screwed.”

While innovating on product is good, experiential innovation is better, as it is harder to copy and is where digital and technology come into play. But a third (and higher) level of disruption, Mr Wei added, is innovating on marketing. Life players have always relied on distribution to do marketing and a change is due. The industry’s future success will depend on its ability to accept and translate unstructured data into actionable insights.

The art of engagement

MetLife Insurance K.K. Chairman, President & CEO Sachin Shah offered a sobering point found in a Capgemini study that 40% of millennial consumers would prefer to buy insurance from tech companies, rather than insurance providers. Among other vectors of change he shared, the increasing ubiquity of AI means that intelligence and utility become default expectations in customer interaction. And in a world where frictionless relationships are becoming the norm, experience is everything. Re-thinking the life insurance experience is thus critical, he said.

Insurers also need to connect with and recognise the importance of consumers’ wellness and emotional well-being, as the latter expects insurance companies to help improve their quality of life, Mr Shah added. To this, SCOR Global Life CEO Paolo De Martin emphasised that insurers must listen to, and know clearly their purpose to customers, in order to drive authenticity in their engagement. “If a policyholder calls to say her husband died, and your company’s script is to ask for her policy number as its first required question, then your company isn’t ready to progress.”

Mr De Martin also touched on four actionable key consumer themes in the industry. The first is an attitudinal change among millennials in Asia; when it comes to insurance, an overwhelming 98% see its importance, albeit their motivation stems from insecurity rather than desire. Secondly, health is increasingly becoming the new asset to protect; this trend cuts across all social classes, and presents a phenomenal opportunity for the industry. Third, insurers need to facilitate empowerment in customers’ lifestyles – and not overwhelm – through choice; so they evolve from negative risk management to positive reinforcement. Finally, the increasing willingness of consumers to share data and their trust in automation – particularly in Asia – will lead to a convergence in automation and advice; insurers must use relevant tech to serve actual consumer needs.

Meanwhile, Sun Life Financial Asia President Claude Accum noted that distribution innovation will be another piece of the winning puzzle. While today’s bank and agency distribution models focus on less complex and complex products respectively, tomorrow’s distribution landscape will see the digital channel in the mix, offering simple and short-term products with smaller coverage. Digital, he said, will not “take it all”, but it would be unwise to pick sides. Instead, insurers need to think about how best to integrate all three distribution models to ensure a continuity of experience for their clients. “There should be no more ‘walled gardens’,” he added.



Outsiders give their take on value creation

From L-R: Mr Charles-Everard de T’Serclaes, Mr Edwin Northover, Ms Sally Yim, Mr Gautam Chawla and Mr Alain P. Néemeh.

In further exploring the conference theme, a panel of non-insurers gave their views on how the industry could succeed in “Value Creation from the Outside In”, both inorganically through M&As and generating value internally through innovation.

Moderated by Mr Alain P. Néemeh, Senior EVP, COO, RGA, panellists included JP Morgan Managing Director Charles-Everard de T’Serclaes; Mr Edwin Northover, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; Ms Sally Yim, Senior VP, Moody’s Investors Service; and Mr Gautam Chawla, Global Co-head of Insurance, Citi Corporate & Investment Banking.


M&A prospects continue to be strong as insurers, driven by regulatory pressures, low interest rates and a rising equity market, are putting surplus capital to work,while some banks in the region have been divesting their insurance businesses. In Asia, Japanese and Chinese insurers are notably hungry, driven by strong currencies. The Japanese, recognising lower growth potential at home and active in the US market, focus on strong niche players with high dollar values, while the Chinese lare inclined to value-backed acquisitions in US$1-3 billion range, but it is their “non-traditional” insurers which are more active. Meanwhile, there are new players like alternative investment managers, SWFs and private equity firms entering the market, not just acquiring companies but also providing capital to support them.

But as M&As have seen mixed successes and new hurdles, panelists advised caution. Mr de T’Serclaes emphasised the exercise of discipline and not over-paying, noting some have gone on “buying sprees”. Ms Yim noted the increasing regulatory scrutiny and capital controls on Chinese firms heading overseas. Chinese acquirers need to engage regulators in dialogue and should have some confidence of the latter before proceeding, advised Mr Northover, who also highlighted the Trump administration’s growing protectionist measures in the name of security, which may have a large effect on US insurers. Mr Chawla suggested that potential acquirers should “be creative” and distinguish themselves from others, such as through a bilateral discussion on what value they could bring.

On tapping the vast Chinese market potential, panellists agreed it has to be a long-term effort to build a presence, and expressed hopes for the regulator to further relax rules, like foreign ownership and branch licensing limits. Ms Yim was bullish about China as a market big enough to accommodate foreign capital, and noted that domestic players would also benefit from technical expertise transfer.

Organic growth

Moving on to seeking growth through increasing distribution and innovation, speakers agreed on the direction of digital distribution, but it was not the panacea. Digital, Ms Yim said, is only suitable for certain products, as customers still like face-to-face interaction when buying a protection product. Mr Northover highlighted bancassurance deals as a way to access banks' huge customer bases, such as in new markets like Vietnam, with Mr Chawla agreeing that it is a quick way to ramp up growth compared to M&A. Mr T’Serclaes pointed out that the desire for distribution had led some insurers to even consider markets they were not interested in previously, once they started to run out of major banking partners.

Seguing into a discussion on innovation and InsurTech, Mr Chawla pointed out that many insurers have set up corporate venture arms to explore plugging InsurTech platforms into their businesses. Many of these players do not want to take on insurance risks, yet they want to distribute their product, thus creating potential for a partnership. Some players have access to Big Data that helps in the underwriting of risks. The crux is for insurers to find a model that makes sense.

This changing, disrupted landscape, has varying effects across the insurance industry, said Ms Yim. Large players have more of an advantage in the midst of tightening risk management and capital regimes compared to smaller players which have fewer resources, and which tend to rely on third parties for distribution. Meanwhile, non-life players are more vulnerable to tech disruption, yet have the most potential to be game-changers if they find the right path.



Insurers urged to tackle disruption with technology and R&D

“Disruptive technology does not only alter or destroy. It brings opportunities as well,” said Hong Kong’s Acting Financial Secretary, Mr Edward Yau, exhorting the insurance industry to move forward in the face of change and disruption through leveraging on technology and R&D.

Mr Yau, who officiated the 28th PIC Opening ceremony, congratulated the industry for its good performance in 2016, where gross premiums increased by more than four-fold to over HK$450 billion (US$58 billion). He highlighted the territory’s regulatory measures to support the industry through disruption, and its active engagement with the industry through the Future Task Force and other forums to seek new ways to boost development.

While customer service remains key to insurance, he said Insurtech, or technology application, will catalyse the development of personalised insurance solutions, especially in meeting individual risk-management needs. And two elements in this are artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, which will help insures enhance their offerings and to make suitable recommendations for different risk scenarios.

Highlighting the InsurTech Sandbox’s and InsurTech Facilitation Team’s introduction this year, he added that the development and application of Insurtech must be pursued in close collaboration with professionals in the industry, as well as technology providers.

Hong Kong will also double domestic expenditure on R&D to about HK$45 billiona year (an estimated 1.5% of its GDP by 2022, doubling current levels) and reduce taxes for R&D expenditures to boost innovation and technology, on top of the HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund launched in September to stimulate investment in startups.

He urged the industry to engage the government’s high level Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology to identify areas of needs and potential for development. “Standing still means falling behind. Hong Kong is not one for standing still – in insurance or any other business or industry, pursuit or occupation. Never has been and never will be.”



Crucibles of change

In his keynote speech yesterday, McKinsey Asia Chairman Kevin Sneader identified nine major trends that are set to change the face of the life industry. Broadly classified into three categories, they are:

Global growth shifting to Asia

  • From globalisation to “glocalisation”, where the new normal is such that trade will increasingly be conducted regionally, rather than globally;
  • The rise of ICASA – India, China, Africa and Southeast Asia will power global growth;
  • Availability of resources;

Accelerating industry disruption changing the way business is conducted

  • Combinatorial tech explosion;
  • C2B (Customer-to-business) – the customer is now in driver’s seat of sales;
  • Ecosystem revolution;

A new societal deal

  • The dark side, where cyber risks and incidences are rising;
  • Economic growth experimentations (such as Abenomics, cryptocurrencies), but growth is not guaranteed;
  • Middle class progress and their ensuing needs.

Referencing a Chinese proverb about change and adaptability, Mr Sneader urged the industry to “find new ways to harness the winds of change”. And instead of building walls to keep change out, insurers should “build windmills” in order to improve both the industry and the world.



Human advice in the age of the rise of machines

Can it be possible that one day, Artificial Intelligence (AI) progresses to a stage where it is able to tell individuals specifically what their financial needs are and become their personal financial adviser?

This may sound like science fiction, but it is becoming increasingly possible for learning machines to synthesise large pools of data points on human behavioural patterns and enable them to identify individual needs. AI may soon find its way into devices that we now rely on in our daily lives, and act as our virtual financial assistants.

That said, one thing we may have overlooked in this fear-inflicting scenario is that the human need for emotion and
choice will prevent machines from total domination. People generally still prefer to seek out another human whom they trust to share their logical and emotional needs. So consumers will continue to prefer getting personalised feedback on their choices - as opposed to emotionless algorithmic responses generated by machines.

But advisers will also need to leverage digital tools, including AI, to provide more holistic, independent and tailor-made advice to customers. They will have to rely on these tools to provide ongoing advice as consumers enter different stages of their life cycles. Subsequently, advisers’ mindsets will have to change so that they move
away from making one-off sales pitches to being able to provide long-term services to their customers.

Humans were created to rule over other species on earth. So instead of letting machines dictate how we live our lives, we will need to know how to better use the machines.

Dr Khoo Kah Siang is Former Senior MD, Strategic Business Development & Regional Bancassurance, Great Eastern Life . He was also honoured with the title of Executive Champion of the Year at the 2nd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards.



Top 5 "must-dos" for an innovation culture

Innovation can at times be easier said than done. How does one go about it? Where does one start? Here are some tips from Mr Weisheng Lee, Google’s Industry Manager, Financial Services, to help you get started.

  1. Don’t expect instant perfection – just launch and iterate

    Don’t wait till a product is perfect before launching it. Introduce it, get users’ feedback, and make rapid iterations and revisions based on what you hear. And give your employees permission to fail on product version 1.0.

    Google’s internal customer relationship system, built over a six-week development cycle, is an example. Engineers took two weeks to plan, two weeks to build, and another two weeks to test and launch it. Once launched, it was continually refined and upgraded every two weeks based on users’ feedback.

  2. Have a healthy disregard for the impossible - think 10X, not 10%

    The 10X goal spurs Googlers to think exponentially, encouraging them to set ambitions high by improving something 10 times, rather than 10%.

  3. Focus on the user – and the money will follow

    Put your users at the heart of all you do. Fulfil the right needs by looking at the problem from your users’ perspective, instead of your own needs or what your competition is doing – the money will follow.

  4. Share everything you can

    Information transparency is king. Management should strive to share as much information with employees as possible. This breaks down silos, and with a common understanding of where one another is going, teams can collaborate faster, and ideas can be discussed, exchanged and re-interpreted, which can lead to innovative outcomes.

  5. Ideas come from everywhere – give people freedom

    Look for ideas everywhere – from partners, users, and especially from your own backyard by creating an environment conducive for ideation. At Google, this included a very flat organisation structure and the infamous 20% project, which allows every Googler to take on a pet passion outside of their job scope – this was how Gmail was started.



Half of APEC CEOs expect rise in investment activity - PwC survey

Global growth is on a positive trajectory across both advanced and emerging economies, while the IMF’s regional economic outlook for Asia and the Pacific, estimates growth for the region to hold steady – upwards of 5% – in 2018. Overall investment sentiment appears to mirror global macroeconomic trends, with 50% of APEC CEOs hoping to increase their global investments in the next 12 months, according to PwC’s recent APEC CEO Survey, which polled 1,400 business leaders for their perspectives on the business landscape. It is expected that 71% of the increase in investment activity will go to APEC economies.

Despite the generally upbeat sentiment, market observers have also called for caution as pockets of economic uncertainty persist. One concern is the inflation pickup in the US, which could prompt the US Federal Reserve to accelerate its pace of rate hikes. A sudden tightening of global financial conditions could adversely impact Asian economies with high external financing needs and weak private sector balance sheets, including by triggering capital outflows and unwinding of productive investment projects.

Insurers, likewise, while looking for enhanced yields for their policyholders and/or their reserves, need to be attuned to the economic activities and scenarios unfolding every day. Shifts in regulations, business climates, occurrences of natural catastrophes, all affect the business scena r ios and hence inves tment prospects.

It is thus imperative for insurers to understand the investment scenario in the region better, to maximise their yield from investments. The 5th Asia Investment Management Summit for Insurance, which is supported by Hong Kong’s Insurance Authority will be held in Hong Kong from 30 November to 1 December 2017, will offer insurance investment managers a headstart in understanding the likely investment climate in 2018 and provide expert insights into the latest developments and trends that can affect the fortunes of insurance companies and insurance fund managers.

Find out more at www. asiainsurancereview.com/conferences



Rest and recharge

After an intense lineup of discussions, delegates unwound over charged glasses and delectable canapes, readying for a new day.



Celebrating the true heroes of the life industry

The 2nd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards Presentation Dinner was held on 12 July 2017 to honour the very best in Asia’s life insurance industry. The region was well represented across winners, with individual and corporate champions coming from seven markets—China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.

Competition for the Awards was stiff with some 350 entries whittled down to about 50 finalists, by a panel of 23 distinguished judges from Asia’s life market. At the second stage of judging, the judges reviewed video clips from the finalists and selected the winners in a secret ballot held in Hong Kong in May.

Winners included agents and agency leaders from AIA Singapore, AIA Thailand, Manulife (Cambodia), Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia). AIA Singapore also walked away as the Insurance Company of the Year for Agents award.

“These Awards remind us of the wondrous role that agents play in the insurance industry. Their sales efforts are the stuff of Oscars in the CSR annals. They serve the industry each and every day in a million little touching ways. And it is during the Awards that we are all reminded to count these little and great strides that agents and advisers make in the insurance business,” said Mr Sivam Subramaniam, Editor-in-Chief of Asia Insurance Review, co-organiser of the Awards alongside LIMRA.

Mr Robert A Kerzner, President & CEO, LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global, said: “Congratulations to all! LIMRA is honoured to play a role in recognising the best and the brightest financial professionals in Asia at the second annual Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards ceremony. Your professionalism, knowledge and commitment to the financial services industry are exceptional.”

The Awards enjoy the patronage of Mr Mark Tucker, industry veteran and Group Chairman at HSBC, formerly of AIA. AIA is a strategic partner and Sun Life Financial is the sponsor of the Awards. The judging panel comprised personalities from the life insurance industry and was chaired by Mr Mark Saunders, Group Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer, AIA Group. Judging was audited by EY.




AI and technology replacing humans? It’s not a zero sum game.

L-R: Mr Neal Baumann, Dr Andreas Armuss, Dr Catriona Wallace, and Mr Dan Bendavid

Technology is not insurance’s holy grail, and AI will not replace fully humans. An executive panel comprising reinsurer, insurer and AI startup came to that conclusion, as it discussed the challenges of disrupting insurance.

Dr Catriona Wallace, CEO and Founder, Flamingo AI, a startup which partners insurance players to provide cognitive virtual assistant services, described how insurers would be excited to work with her, but things would grind to a halt when broaching procurement, security, compliance, legal and risk issues.

Taking 6-12 months will render one a laggard, and that’s an enormous challenge, she said. And though security and data privacy – another barrier – is a top consideration, she often gets put through unnecessarily stringent audit requirements.

It should cost under US$100,000 and only require a restricted security audit for a three-month trial with the young startup.  “If it’s useful then we go through bigger procurement, if not, then throw us out,” she said. She added that the ability of insurers to expose their Application Programme Interface (API) so startups could integrate their legacy systems remains a challenge, especially in Asia.

Dr Andreas Armuss, Chief Medical Officer, Life and Health – Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Munich Re, who spoke about using wearables and apps to manage customer health conditions and genomics to personalise medicine, advised caution from his clients’ experience that the difficulty is in the execution.

While monitoring customer health activity could provide a basis for premium discounts, the issue was establishing a benchmark for comparison.

Mr Dan Bendavid, Asia Regional Head of Claims, AXA, said the industry should “give back” data in the way Amazon provides information on product life cycle and reviews—AXA has made its loss data statistics available to customers in some European markets so they can reduce their own risks.

On connected homes, Dr Armuss noted the big potential in this space, as the biomarkers provided by monitoring devices grow in credibility. He said a lot of health costs today come from patients not adhering to the medication recommended for them once they get home. The use of sensors to measure their vitals could help cost reductions for health insurers.

As the discussion evolved to what technology means for manpower, Dr Wallace said the perspective of machine learning specialists’ is that machine to machine communication will evolve so that humans will focus on doing “better human things”, which is already happening.

Mr Bendavid is similarly optimistic that AI would improve lifestyles as it will perform difficult and less interesting tasks, so people would have more “leisure and pleasure”. He noted, though, that this will happen in phases and organisations will have to manage workforce transformation. “First, we’re going to be afraid of it, then we’re going to see all the opportunities and we’re going to leverage it.”

Dr Armuss highlighted that medicine is complex and always evolving. Pointing to recent failures in the test case of Google Flu Trends and Watson technology, he said not every aspect can be tackled by using technology, and underwriters will not be completely wiped out. “If you are analysing data, you will always need people who can at least explain and interpret data.

Turning to discuss the insurer’s future and what proportion of tasks will be automated in a decade, he envisages that those in good health will have standard premiums and automatic underwriting, while specialists will still be required for some cases. Mr Bendavid sees a world where the frequency and severity of threats will decrease, and insurance will be P2P-based with immediate underwriting, use of blockchain and payment with cryptocurrencies.

For Dr Wallace, 10 years is too far away to tell. But she noted that companies will redeploy 80% of staff to do jobs they currently cannot spare the headcount for. Virtual assistants have also led to new human jobs, such as a “preceder”—a person who trains the machine. Humans are still required in HAVA (Human-Assisted Virtual Assistant) systems where both humans and AI are used “What is known though, is that those attending this conference have the opportunity to create the future and provide the leadership for it,” she said, exhorting delegates to let their kids get as digital as possible and game as much as they want to.

The discussion was chaired by Deloitte Consulting LLP Principal Neal Baumann.



Experts urge fundamental rethink of health insurance

L-R: Ms Jayne Plunkett, Ms Ka Man Wong, Ms Penny Wan, and Mr Jason Sadler

The insurance industry needs to re-examine and change its health philosophy going forward, as what it currently offers is “disease insurance and not health insurance”. This was the key message crystallised from two panels that sought to discuss insuring the 100-year life, and health protection innovation.

The way health is defined and how health care is delivered is changing, but insurers are – unfortunately – fundamentally rewarding doctors for treating diseases, rather than encouraging better health outcomes. As such, the incentive to detect and prevent illnesses early is lacking. It is also hard to bring health insurance to the lower income demographic because it is easier to charge those people at the top of the pyramid – this invariably exacerbates the perennial protection gap.

Mortality studies have shown that 1 in 3 today will live to 100, a longevity fact that the industry must recognise and that with it comes the increased burden of chronic illnesses. Insurers thus need to re-evaluate their KPIs – from disease treatment to improving wellness – and look to partnering their customers early on in the protection journey. They also must shift from a view of treatment to predictive and preventive care – given what tech advances can bring

And instead of underwriting a customer only once in their lifetime, insurance companies need to change their assumptions and explore how they can be dynamic in their underwriting to support their policyholders over their lifespan, panellists said.

L-R: Mr Robert Burr, Dr York Yat-Ngok Chow, Ms Joanna Wong, and Dr Antony Vriens


The discussion on partnership also extended to the collaboration between the insurers and health care providers. The experts agreed that there needs to be a more concerted effort to solve the information asymmetry and fragmentation between insurers, health care practitioners and patients. Aside from feedback from policyholders, panellists noted that insurers should also listen to input from medical professionals in order to better develop solutions.

Meanwhile, the increasing pace of technological advancement and adoption, along with evolving population demographics will also fundamentally impact health care models and funding. Both insurance and health care industries will need to redesign their product and service offerings to cater to new trends. For example, digital will enable common health care to be delivered at home, while hospitals and specialist centres will cater mostly to complex and emergency cases.

The discourse also touched on the possible use of science, such as genomic testing, in underwriting. But aside from hereditary conditions, panellists noted that most other diseases were all in early stages of research, and thus cautioned against using “scientific fortune telling”. Prediction of diseases, they said, should be backed by robust statistics and clear interpretations, as well as considered from ethical and clients’ emotional perspectives.

Led by Swiss Re’s Regional President for Asia, Ms Jayne Plunkett, the dialogue on “Insuring the 100-year Life” featured Mr Jason Sadler, President of Cigna International Markets, Cigna Corporation; Ms Penny Wan, VP & General Manager, Japan and Asia Pacific, Amgen; and Ms Ka Man Wong, AXA’s Regional Life Chief Actuary & Inforce Solutions.

The panel on “Innovating Future Health Protection Today” meanwhile, comprised Dr York Yat-Ngok Chow, Chief Medical Officer & Corporate Advisor for AIA Kong Kong and Macau; Dr Antony Vriens, Manulife’s Head of Technical Services; Deloitte Consulting Partner Joanna Wong; and was moderated by Swiss Re Head of Life & Health Robert Burr.



Takeaways from the 28th PIC

We canvassed several delegates for their key learning points over the past two days.

“It’s really amazing how fast the business environment is changing, and crucial how the industry must keep on our toes and remain relevant to our customers.”

Ms Mona Lisa B. Dela Cruz
President and Chief Operating Officer
The Insular Life Assurance Co Ltd

“The opening session on Day 1 was good because it gave a broad view on digital platforms, what Asia is doing, and the key trends in the regional landscape. Day 2’s session on“Insuring the 100 Year Life” also gave a futuristic view of how things may pan out.”

Mr Samdarshi Sumit
Chief Retail Officer, Retail Business
Generali Life Assurance (Thailand) Plc.

“I thought the CEO panel was most outstanding and I got a lot out of it. Everyone had such a different perspective. I really appreciated the interpretation about death of BRICs and rise of ‘ICASA’. India, China, Africa & Southeast Asia are in line with what we’re seeing in terms of population growth and opportunities.”

Ms Bernadette L. Nadeau
Director, International Operations
LL Global, Inc.

“When I see peers develop digital and InsurTech, my question is how can we compete with tech companies with Big Data and larger resources? Hearing from Aviva’s CDO about Board support for InsurTech development and that there’s no way of convincing them when returns will come, compared to acquiring a distribution team, that’s something I fully agree with. It may take years and you don’t know whether it’s worth investing, yet it may be too late if you don’t invest now.”

Mr Tony Chow
Chief Executive
China Life Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd

“The panel on ‘Insuring the 100 Year Life’ was useful for me, as Nippon Life has begun to sell annuity insurance to help our customers accumulate wealth in the long term. I heard about how we not only have to sell such products to an ageing society but also have to use technology. I suppose we will have to look more into InsurTech.”

Ms Maria Oura
Assistant Vice President
Nippon Life Asia Pacific (Regional HQ) Pte Ltd

“It’s no longer about paying on bad news but improving people’s health and vitality—that’s how insurers must transform. As a regulator, we will look to facilitate what’s necessary as we would like the industry to meet the consumers’ needs.”

Datin Komalavalli K.R. Gopal
Deputy Director
Insurance and Takaful Supervision Department
Bank Negara Malaysia



Life (re)insurers shine bright at 21st Asia Insurance Industry Awards

Life insurers, reinsurers and service providers were among those honoured at the 21st Asia Insurance Industry Awards organised by Asia Insurance Review. The prestigious “Life Insurance Company of the Year” award was won by Muang Thai Life Assurance PCL for being a trusted lifetime partner for its customers through innovative life and health solutions.

MetLife Asia bagged the “Innovation of the Year” award for its virtual reality customer service platform through which customers can interact with an insurance expert avatar, thereby providing a quantum leap in customer convenience.

Meanwhile, RGA was awarded “Life Reinsurer of the Year” award for its stellar work providing cutting-edge in wellness solutions and its use of InsurTech to push existing boundaries in the life industry. In the exciting “Digital Insurer of the Year” award, Cathay Life Insurance was a cowinner for being a first-mover in many digital initiatives in Taiwan, and setting the standard for others to emulate within the region.

A leading proponent of digital insurance, Aviva’s Executive Chairman of Asia Chris Wei, was bestowed the “Personality of the Year” award for his advocacy role in using technology to transform the business in his organisation and the industry at large.

Last but not least, Mr Mark Tucker, immediate past-CEO of AIA, was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his decorated career in serving the life insurance industry.

Life insurance in numbers

  • Global direct life premiums totalled USD2.6 billion in 2016, up 2.5% in real terms.
  • China accounted for 96% of the 2.5% global growth rate.
  • While real premium income in the advanced markets declined by 0.5%, the emerging markets grew by 17%.
  • Growth was especially formidable in emerging Asia, fuelled by rapid growth in China where traditional life products were the key drivers.
  • Excluding China, growth in emerging markets was significantly lower, but still a hearty 5.7%, driven by gains in India, Indonesia and Vietnam.


Emerging market life premiums forecast to grow by 14.9% in 2017 and by 10.9% in 2018, sustained by robust growth of savings products, particularly in emerging Asia.

China will make a strong contribution as it aims to increase penetration to 5% by 2020, from 3% in 2014.



Industry honours luminary in grand gala

The Gala Dinner of the 28th PIC was a glitzy affair that saw guests wine and dine over performances and witness Mr Edmund Tse, Non-executive Chairman of AIA Group Ltd being honoured with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for being a beacon of Asia’s life insurance industry.



Digital disruption and the second-half of the chess board

Sounding a prophetic message of doom and gloom for the insurance industry with the advent and rapid progress of InsurTech, Mr Peter Hacker, Co-Founder & Partner, Distinction.Global, InsurTech opinion leader and author, gave insurers a wakeup call urging them to adapt and evolve or perish.

Technology and automation, he said, are moving at a pace that humans cannot match. “Disruption in the insurance and reinsurance industry has become the new normal. Anything that cannot be automated will be extremely valuable in the future,” he said, in a special keynote address yesterday at the SIRC. He mentioned here that creativity, intuition, emotion and ethics will be of immense value in the future.

Intangible assets and risks

Mr Hacker pointed out that, today, market capitalisation is driven by intangible assets. He said that while the conventional property and casualty risks will remain, the future will be dominated by mobility and intangible assets. “From an insurer’s point of view there are huge opportunities because as the more the risk becomes intangible, the higher will be its severity,” he added.

He said Asia is now at a stage where digitisation and online models are disrupting conventional business models. Three trends driving this revolution are the galloping growth of mobile devices, rising popularity of social media and wider acceptance of online commerce.

Asia, which is home to 60% of the global population, has 2.3 billion mobile subscribers, who form 58% of the total global subscriber base . Furthermore, it is the Asian mobile phone giants like Sony, Huawei and Samsung that have a combined 70% share of the global smart phone market.

“There is a huge opportunity for insurers here to develop covers for the intangible risks of these companies against cyber risk threats,” said Mr Hacker.

He highlighted that the ‘Want’ vs ‘Fang’ (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) race has just started where billions of people are connected to the Web and disruptions will happen in unprecedented waves. “The era of disruptive automation and digitisation is fast approaching and millions of jobs are at risk,” he said. He mentioned a recent report by the ILO which said that 56% of all salaried jobs in countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam could be replaced by automation and advanced technologies like 3D printing.

Insurers will have their “Tesla” moment

Insurers and reinsurers will have their “Tesla” moment and for this, they need to adapt to the changes. “The industry will have to embrace InsurTech by working together with it and you can have your 'Tesla' moment, and I believe that we are at the beginning of a new age of insurance,” said Mr Hacker.

He called upon the industry to be at the forefront and not on the back foot by taking data driven decisions, re-skilling and being innovative. The insurance industry must focus on data analytics as well as hone skills and develop talent and leadership within the organisation. “This will require industry-wide collaboration, capital market backing and governmental support,” he said.



New insurer/reinsurer roles morphing into one

New models of reinsurers and insurers will emerge in the not too distant future, with the lines between them blurring as interconnectedness grows both within the insurance sector and outside it, said speakers at a panel discussion held at the SIRC yesterday.

Pointing out that there will be more consolidation of the roles of these players, Mr George Kesselman, founder of InsurTech Asia, said: “We will see a ‘hybrid’ period of quasi insurers/reinsurers, which will be more general in their roles, consume less value and which may take the shape of a multi-role entity.”

He said that reinsurers will move closer to the forefront of risks, and engage more at the distribution level, together with startups and new players. “Rather than wait for someone to send the risks to you, they would ask, how do you enable (covering) new types of risks?”

Another panelist, Mr Anthony Hobrow, CEO of consultancy NexAssure Group, expressed optimism that the business pie in this new environment is not shrinking, but will instead continue to grow. The trend is one of merely shifting the balance of growth from the West to the Africa and Asia, where insurance penetration is low and the industry has a less strong presence. “Risks are increasing, they are also just getting more technical,” he added.

Age of machines

A fundamental shift that the industry will need to get used to is that the focus of insurance, such as motor, will shift from human error to machine error and technology-focused people will be the ones driving change, said Mr Hobrow. For instance, in motor, insurance will shift from driver to manufacturer. Operations, processes and legal contracts will be automated, and insurance wordings will be prepared via artificial intelligence.

He noted that in tandem, the skill base that is required within an insurance organisation will shift enormously too--and not just at a junior level. ‘How many people in the boardroom really understand blockchain?” he asked, citing the challenges.


The exponential increase in data being collected means that there is a need to build talent in the Big Data domain, said Ms Natasha K Mak-Levrion, Founder and Managing Director of PPEARL Consulting, who was also a panel speaker.

She said that the (re)insurance industry will be looking out for computational thinking skills to make meaning of such vast amounts of data efficiently, with a view to shift “from insight to foresight”. The workforce will also shift from a mainly transactional nature to advisory functions, where the opportunities will be much greater.

“Providing solutions, not just products, will be the key differentiator,” she said. She added that the industry needs too to look at the needs of the millennial generation, including their need for speed and work-life balance.

Other speakers including Mr Marc Haushofer, Chairman of Singapore Reinsurers’ Association, held the view that the industry needed to diversify not just by recruiting young people, but also those who are not too close to the business of insurance.

“They should ask questions that we as insiders, would not. It’s really important that we learn to reduce the tradition of hierarchy, and bring in people who will challenge us,” he said.

Role of intermediaries and new trusted partnerships

As an insurance insider on the panel, Mr Paul Mang, Global CEO of Analytics at Aon, shared Ms Levrion’s view that advisory would rise, and that would apply to brokers too. Going forward, they would play the role of trusted advisors structuring solutions, not just making placements.

Still, this would build upon their traditional role of bringing together capital and exposure, which would still exist. He added that emerging risks are complicated and may require new partnerships to be formed among insurers.

New client expectations and mindsets

As urbanisation and development progress, Mr Mang said that the concepts of not just risks, but also volatility are changing, and so are people’s expectations of what is tolerable to them.

Margins of error are narrowing, while people also expect to live healthy and productive lives well into their 60s and 70s. The nature of interconnectedness has also led to new complexities and the need for analytics and new capabilities to address them.

Mr Kesselman cited the example of Uber, which had found it challenging to find an insurance industry player willing to offer a solution adapted to its business model until it finally found a partner in Aon. He said that the (re)insurance industry needs to change its mindset. It should not just look into selling products off-the-shelf, but should enter into partnerships and new collaborations in order to address new emerging fundamental risks.

He noted, however, that there will be an optimisation phase first in the coming years where manual processes would take time to move to digital ones, so that the efficiencies that the industry has to offer could be ‘unlocked’ as the sector makes a significant ”step change” to such an era.

The panel discussion was moderated by Mr Peter Hacker.

The three-day 14th SIRC ended yesterday. With the SIRC turned into an annual event from this year and next taking place from 30 October - 1 November 2018, the East Asian Insurance Congress will be held in Manila from 6–9 May 2018 instead of its customary calendar slot late in the year.



SIRC in a nutshell

Already miss the buzz and vibe of SIRC? Missed out on the biggest reinsurance event of the year? Check out the highlights of #14SIRC and we’ll see you again soon.


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