Office of Insurance Commission, Thailand secretary-general and insurance commissioner Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn offered some insightful remarks for insurers during the opening keynote session of this year’s FT Asia Insurance Summit held virtually on 12 November.
Mr Thaveechaiyagarn opened by acknowledging that we cannot yet quantify the financial effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the insurance sector in Asia – but from an underwriting and an investment perspective the blow is likely to be severe. The economic downturn coupled with geopolitical tensions and the resulting uncertainty over investment sentiment will undoubtedly affect the profitability of the sector as a whole, he said, as the pandemic “leaves a deep scar on our region.”
But Mr Thaveechaiyagarn was quite clear that, “This means that the insurance industry must adapt and introduce new products that are more inclusive to attract the attention of customers. We must use digital channels to communicate and increase trust in insurance.”
He stressed the need to turn the current crisis into an opportunity to provide better insurance products. “Our next challenge is technology development,” he said. “Digital transformation is happening throughout the insurance value chain. One size does not fit all anymore and so we need to optimise technology to increase sales volumes and to help customers more.”
Mr Thaveechaiyagarn then pointed to the opportunity for data analytics and predictive analytics to help with claims processing and fraud mitigation.
He pointed to The Center of InsurTech, Thailand (CIT) as an initiative to make sure that the nation remains at the forefront of technology adoption – to develop solutions to some of the bigger issues facing Thai society and in particular ageing populations. “It would be great to produce a study to look at pensions across Asia Pacific,” he said. “Many people have a fear that they will be poor when they are old – and this is where insurance comes in.” It is clear that InsurTech will play a central role in this, he said.
However, he concluded, we must not lose sight of the other significant risks that we face – particularly climate change. “Fortunately our insurance sector has a better understanding than other industry sectors of the risks involved – since the effects of climate change are getting stronger every year.”
Mr Thaveechaiyagarn then pointed to the need for sustainable insurance – which will be a critical component of the survival of the industry. “All of this will turn into countless opportunities for insurance,” he said. “Belief is what makes things possible in insurance.” A