Digital future gives insurance new life
Virus fears are shining a spotlight on a once-marginal segment of the industry
The pandemic has forced businesses across sectors to rapidly digitise as consumers are kept indoors because of government-mandated lockdowns or out of fear of contracting the coronavirus.
The trend has been keenly felt by the insurance industry, where the once-marginal digital sales channel has seen a boom in premiums, with firms holding the best online positioning reaping the greatest rewards from the new revenue stream.
According to the Thai Life Assurance Association, new premium sales from digital channels totalled 52.1 million baht in March.
Digital sales alone contributed 0.3% to total new life insurance premiums between March and June.
First-year premium payments, whereby customers pay insurance premiums annually for long-term protection, totalled 10.1 million baht each in March and April, growing to 13.3 million baht in May and 15.4 million baht in June.
THE BIG DOGS
In the first half of 2020, FWD Life Insurance and Allianz Ayudhya Assurance played an aggressive role in digital retail sales, sharing 45.9% and 30.6% of first-year premiums payment from digital channels, while Ocean Life Insurance held third place at 7.6%.
Another three companies, Southeast Life Insurance, Manulife Insurance Thailand (MIT) and Muang Thai Life Assurance (MTL), controlled market share of 3.1% to 3.3% each.
MTL offered digital sales for both first-year premiums and single premiums, tallying 5.4% of total premiums, or second in the industry, for the first six months of the year.
PhillipLife Assurance Thailand topped the category for digital single premium sales with 126 million baht in the first half, a 91.3% market share.
Suthiphon Taveechaiyagarn, secretary-general of the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC), said digital sales include non-complex products on company websites, social media channels (such as Line and Facebook) without insurance agents, and digital "face-to-face" sales in which agents connect to customers directly online via teleconferencing, as well as any electronic channels/devices.
The OIC tried in March to drive digital sales of insurance packages.
"Although the digital channel is tiny at present, a bright future is visible," Mr Suthiphon said. "Many insurance agents have used digital face-to-face as a virtual channel to sell products during the pandemic."
The development of digital insurance sales in the 5G era could be comparable to the exponential growth of e-commerce trade after the Bank of Thailand launched the PromptPay money transfer system.
"IT innovation, mobile phones and wearable electronic devices are a part of today's consumers' daily lives," Mr Suthiphon said. "The adoption of 5G will help people and businesses send/receive enormous amounts of data quickly at a cheaper cost, and businesses can use this data to analyse risk and offer insurance premiums matching an individual profile."
In the future, insurance agents could sell insurance face-to-face as holograms projected to customers.
"This is just a starting step, so we must prepare for the future," Mr Suthiphon said.
Mr Suthiphon said technological innovation will help transform the entire process of insurance sales from developing insurance products to issuing insurance policies to customers.
Insurers can use sensors and the Internet of Things to provide customer claims data.
Technology will prove an important part of the claims process, as customers can take photos or videos of accidents and send the data to insurers to process claims immediately without the need for surveyors.