How was your transition from traditional financial and insurance services into the digital services scene?
I have always embraced change whether it was from a business perspective or a technological one. An interesting experience not related to any of my prior banking and insurance experiences but had an impact on my understanding of web-based applications was my work at an international media company. It was based in Bali, funded by Dutch investors and focused on online gaming. We were in fact developing a poker website. I learned the basics of running an e-commerce business such as buying domain names, SEO, web analytics, and viral / affiliate / email marketing from our partners who were well-known international companies based in Malaysia, Holland and the USA.
It was an eye-opening experience on using digital applications to interact with customers through the web. The process of drawing, animating, rendering different elements of poker to create a website was fascinating.
What are the upcoming technology tools or innovations that you believe can further revolutionise the insurance sector in Asia?
1) Artificial Intelligence
From a customer experience perspective, technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as deep learning play a big role in revolutionising the insurance sector. It will also allow insurance companies to delve deeper into their big data sets. When predictive data analytics and effective data science are combined with artificial intelligence, they can offer innovative solutions to customers.
Their main appeal has been the ability to collect and effectively analyse data, which changes the industry dynamics. With their nimble architectures and innovative use of emerging technologies, fintech companies differentiate themselves in niche segments such as insurance while solving key pain points for customers.
Much of the growth of this reservoir of data can be attributed to the increased adoption of the Internet of Things with advancements in deep learning. With more connected devices recording videos, measuring heart rates, or tracking deliveries, the world’s information is becoming increasingly digitised. Combining this data creation with advancements in deep learning for image and speech recognition, more and more information is not just saved and stored now, it is structured and analysed by artificial intelligence systems.
Insurance technology, better known as insurtech, is a rapidly growing industry that is beginning to disrupt traditional insurance provision in advanced and emerging economies alike while creating opportunities and challenges for incumbents, start-ups, and investors.
The opportunity offered by insurtech is particularly significant in emerging markets, where a large “protection gap” exists due to low insurance penetration. This has major development implications due to the fact that economic growth and insurance penetration are closely intertwined.
Technology and new business models are necessary to close the protection gap in these markets, and companies will need to be able to innovate – either internally, by partnerships, or by investing – to seize the opportunity. Total investment in insurtech were US$4.4 billion in 2018, according to FT Partners. That’s up from US$3.2 billion the previous year and over 200 transactions were made in 2018. While the level of investment in insurtech reached record highs, there were slightly fewer transactions last year, which likely reflects the fact that the market is maturing in developed countries.
Just as a fun question, being a former Philips staff member of their Core Banking Development Team, how do you see Phillips’ opportunity to impact the current fintech scene?
When I first joined Philips, I was surprised they even had a data services division because they were well-known mostly for producing household appliances and lighting fixtures. But less than two weeks into joining the company, I was sent to Philips’ regional support centre based in Hong Kong for two months of training and application development. Our biggest customer was Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) who entrusted Philips to develop and deploy its online banking system (OLBS). To cut to the chase, we were able to successfully develop OLBS in accordance to BRI’s specifications and requirements, and installed the system in a number of BRI branches on the major islands of Indonesia.
Eindhoven, where Philips Electronics originated, is also home to High Tech Campus that is also known as “the smartest square kilometer in Europe”. The business park was where Philips Research was located, it is a melting pot of tech-savvy talent where more than 140 high-tech companies and institutes reside. One of the most popular Dutch fintech firms is Adyen which means “start again”. In fact, the Dutch startup ecosystem spreads out from the southern to the northern tip and its scientific and tech achievements are second to none. Large banks and insurance companies across the Netherlands are actively embracing and supporting the innovation and transparency accorded by the fintech start-up scene.
Currently, Dutch fintech firms are focusing on big data, artificial intelligence, security and compliance while the dominant fintech trends at the moment are crowdfunding, open banking and digitalisation. Fintech facilitates personalisation, seamless integrations and UX interfaces by its very nature and benefits traditional financial institutions such as banking and insurance.
What are your thoughts on the Knowledge-as-a-Service economy?
This is a rather interesting question because it very much reflects how knowledge and wanting to know more about everything around us played a big role in my and my siblings’ upbringing.
Starting from elementary school through junior high and high school, my parents always encouraged us to read. So there was the standard set of the Classics Illustrated Collection and the Encyclopaedia Britannica volumes which served not only as resources for our school projects but also nurtured our curiosity. Therefore, not only did I and my siblings developed the “as is” mentality but also the “what if” mentality. We also came to realise that in certain cases, information was at a premium and to obtain it meant to buy it.
With the advent of the interest, the need to know became even more prevalent. Publishing houses and research companies realised their efforts in collecting, evaluating, analysing data and giving advice, professional opinions and recommendations had value. Thus, acquiring pertinent information on the latest developments in whatever industry you plied your trade in could generate revenue.
Further on knowledge as a service, forward-looking B2B companies have adopted a services mentality to cater to higher customer expectations these days. Many are shifting their models to be paid for successful outcomes rather than on product delivery. B2B companies have led the movement of businesses acting like publishers that many of them have full research, editorial, and production teams in house. Successful B2B companies have earned a reputation for creating credible content by focusing on the needs of their audiences, not on the products and services of their companies.