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Health insurance focus: Individual Private Medical Insurance - A golden ticket for intermediaries

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Oct 2014

The emergence of individual private medical insurance caught many corners of the health insurance market off guard when it came to prominence. Now, year on year, the market grows exponentially; yet many brokers and intermediaries still have not dipped their toe into this lucrative market. Mr Phil Austin of Cigna Global iPMI lifts the lid on where the market is headed, and how brokers can benefit from a partnership with his company

There are 50 million expats in the world. This number has grown, year on year, and is expected to be over 60 million by the year 2020. It is not often that a new opportunity in the insurance market presents itself by virtue of drastic shifts in how and where people live their lives, so it is easy to understand why the expat-driven individual private medical insurance market (iPMI) is fast becoming a hot-topic for professionals all across the industry.
The big question we are struggling to understand is why so many brokers and intermediaries have yet to throw their weight behind this type of product. We cannot speak for our competitors, but at Cigna, individual private medical insurance has been a huge success after just a few years; with far greater successes planned as we invest in this area of the market.
When premium service meets premium product
For most people, having a Cigna product means receiving excellent customer service and high quality products, all underpinned by an extensive global medical network. 
Our vision for an iPMI product range was a simple one: Take the robust and efficient Cigna medical network, tailor a health insurance product to meet the needs of the mass affluent globally mobile population, and retain the exceptional levels of customer service that the Cigna brand is built upon. 
The Cigna iPMI products are at the higher end of the market in terms of price, but this is by design as the business strives to differentiate itself on benefits, rather than price. We have developed a premium product that we believe is among the best in the market for expats seeking health insurance. The policy benefits we can offer outstrip our competitors in most cases, and this comes at a premium.
Our customers value the key product differentiators such as full cancer care, full medical underwriting, and benefit limits at the higher end of the scale. This, coupled with a 3-tiered product structure and flexible add-ons, positions Cigna as the iPMI provider of choice for the affluent globally mobile population.
Focus on expats
Benefits aside, at first glance, the Cigna iPMI product range looks similar to a normal high-end health insurance policy. It is only when the global sales, support and claims infrastructure are analysed, we begin to see why so many expats are choosing Cigna. 
This is because we are truly global. We have a medical network of over 1 million clinics, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. This supports our current customer base, which has a presence in over 180 countries, and in five languages. We also offer 24/7 customer support and claims functionality for our customers all over the world.
Focus on partners
Operating a business where affluent expats are the target market all over the world requires key strategic partnerships if the business is to thrive. 
With the geographical diversity of our target market, if we think that we could achieve our potential without establishing and developing key intermediary relationships, that would be beyond naïve. Asia, in particular, is a key market for us, given the huge expat population, and overall strength of the insurance market in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia especially.
Our support network for intermediaries is as good as it is for customers, with highly competitive commissions and online sales tools thrown in to boot. We are keen to speak to the right intermediaries in Asia to help grow our business (see contact details at end of article).
Focus on growth
It would appear to be a good time to be trading in the global iPMI market, given the rapid and relentless growth in opportunity brought on by a year-on-year increase in the number of expats in the world. 
To capitalise on the ongoing market opportunity, we have, as a business, established clear exponential growth in the three short years we have been trading. The key to continued growth at this rate is to invest in scaling up our current model, while also exploring new opportunities in the process.
Particularly for the broker market, our people at ground level are of vital importance. All sales boil down to relationships. You have to have offices in the countries and local people as your sales representatives as ultimately, they are the subject matter experts.
It cannot be emphasised enough the importance of addressing the needs of our customers and making sure our products are relevant, the price is right and the support is impeccable. So we are working to add more to our “value add” services. We have several options that we are working towards, each of which will set us further apart from the competition.
Staying one step ahead of the game
To further improve our product proposition, we are putting the finishing touches to a new travel safety smartphone app and researching some exciting new expat services that customers will be able to reap the benefits of in 2015. 
We continue to strike a fine balance between new developments, and improving business drivers that we already have. Key examples of this for us include expanding our multilingual capabilities, introducing a fully automated underwriting system, enhancing our already “best-in-class” DTC (Direct to Consumer) journey, and perhaps most importantly, establishing partnerships with intermediaries in key areas.
Mr Phil Austin is Head of Cigna Global iPMI.
If you are an intermediary, and interested in Cigna’s iPMI partnership opportunities, please visit where you’ll be able to sign up for a free specialist webinar on the subject.
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