- Phase I: Easy products to administer, such as mandatory life insurance tied to micro-finance products.
- Phase II: Products get more sophisticated providing more options and benefits, turning into voluntary schemes, usually based on health, life and funeral insurance type of products while adding distribution channels to reach a broader audience.
- Phase III: More complex products with emphasize in adding value to customers and an extended network of multiple distribution channels.
In my conversations with South African insurers, it’s clear that whilst committed to these targets, tapping into the previously uninsured market remains immensely challenging. The innovation is mostly occurring in the area of products and premium collection. Tying product requirements to the needs of the uninsured is a sure-fire way of garnering interest. House, motor policies have little relevance for those who own none of these assets. However, household contents policies, funeral policies and term life are of interest.
One of the constraints for insurers has been and still is the collection of premiums. With many people not having bank accounts, credit/debit payments or direct debits are just not possible. Mobile phones are being used in one or two cases to purchase insurance. Voucher cards, paid for by cash upfront, offering term life insurance can be bought at supermarkets and other consumer outlets.
Technology can play a role in supporting this small but growing market. Low-cost policy administration and claims systems can form the heart beat of such an operation supported by a flexible product configuration tool. There is little need for broker/agent or consumer portal technology. Products in these markets such as shack insurance, life insurance for a month, or crop insurance may seem unusual but can be supported through the use of modern packaged tools. One of the more unusual product characteristics is the method of premium collection. For example, premium paid upfront, or monthly, or paid via a mobile phone account (or other third party collector). This flexibility needs to be supported a modern product configuration tool.
In South Africa, as in some other emerging countries, tapping the previously uninsured is a government enforced social objective and this has focused insurer’s attention on this challenging area. Micro-insurance is unchartered territory and as such it’s not possible for insurers to look to established markets for best practices. Successful insurers in these markets will continue to innovate in areas of product design and premium collection and this analyst will be keeping an eye on how this market evolves.