Michael Waitze talked to Walter de Oude, CEO of Singlife, for AIP’s podcast episode number 36. Read more about the Siglife story here:
The Singapore headquartered neo-insurer, valued at $360M , acquired a license from the Monetary Authority (MAS) in 2017 and began selling life insurance policies after buying Zurich Insurance’s Singapore business
SingLife closed a $90M Series C funding round on 1st July 2019 . This announcement was quick follow-up to a previous $33M capital infusion in January 2019  by Aflac Investments and Aberdeen Standard Investments.
About Walter, CEO of SingLife
“A giant amongst men” – an apt description of Walter de Oude, CEO of SingLife
A quick glance of Walter’s profile reveals he isn’t your scrappy start-up guy rocking up with a Patagonia vest, khaki pants and Starbucks vanilla soy latte. Previously the CEO of HSBC Insurance in Singapore, Walter means serious business. He is a qualified actuary and began practicse in 1995.
Singlife and Fintech
In a LinkedIn post in August, Walter (CEO of Singlife) shared his vision of SingLife becoming a “super FinTech” bringing together protection, savings and spending (core financial requirements) under a single banner.
However, SingLife has been making forays into FinTech since the beginning of this year:
Acquisition of Canvas by YoloPay
In February 2019, Singlife paid $2M to acquire Canvas by YoloPay – a pre-paid debit card for children together with the capability for parents to track spending. A YoloPay MD was hired to head up Singlife’s FinTech unit.
Why did Singlife acquire Canvas/enter into FinTech?
- Increased customer touchpoints: Insurance companies struggle to establish deep relationships with their customer because of inadequate customer touchpoints (only renewals and claims); providing a payments card creates a daily touchpoint which could create brand awareness and affinity.
- Alternative customer acquisition tool: Payment “platforms” such as Paytm and MobiKwik acquire customers by offering payments solutions and (theoretically) increase their contribution margin by selling insurance and finance products.
As it turns out in conversation, Walter suggested that expansion of Canvas has been shelved for the time being but brought extensive knowledge about FinTech and payments in-house.
Participation in Railsbank Serias A funding round
Railsbank is a London-based open banking and RegTech (regulatory technology) firm; Singlife was an investor in its recent $10M Series A funding round . Railsbank offers a set of APIs for financial services to be used by developers and product managers.
Why did Singlife invest into Railsbank?
- As Singlife looks to expand out into SE Asia, it may choose to integrate with channel partners (specifically super-apps like Grab, Go Jek etc) to offer its insurance products; Railsbank might be the answer to integration problems.
- The APIs provided by Railsbank will accelerate the development of SingLife’s account service.
Railsbank CEO Nigel, commented that it took 2 days to build a prototype for SingLife and 3 months to launch (impressive KPI).
Launch of the Singlife Account
At the Singapore FinTech festival, SingLife launched the SingLife account along with a Visa co-branded debit card.
SingLife’s objective is to allow its customers to:
- Manage funds seamlessly (payments through Visa co-branded debit card)
- Protect themselves from downside risk (life & health insurance provided by SingLife)
- Grow their savings over time (the next step in SingLife’s journey)
The launch features of the SingLife account are:
- 5% yield on the first SG $10,000 in the SingLife account; 1% yield on deposit up to SG $1,00,000.
- A novel unemployment insurance benefit
- Sum insured = Average of previous 3 months spend on the SingLife card.
- Trigger condition = Unemployment for 4 consecutive months
- Term life insurance cover with sum insured = 5% of the account deposit value.
The right way to think of the SingLife account:
As Walter puts it, the SingLife account is precisely a Unit-Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) or Investment-linked Insurance Plan (ILP).
- Life insurance companies, like SingLife, are money managers – the SingLife account won’t be a challenge to manage given the management team’s past experience with life insurance contracts.
- The “interest on deposit” is precisely a yield which you would obtain from a ULIP contract.
What is next for Singlife?
“We’re not looking to be a one-trick pony” – Walter on SingLife’s future
Walter provides us with some hints during the conversation with Michael:
- Expansion into new geographies – Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Walter also suggested that SingLife is in advanced stages of acquiring an insurance licence in at least one of these countries!
- Building out the SingLife account
- Addition of new features – foreign exchange (watch out Revolut), investments etc
- Full roll-out: The SingLife account is currently in beta with early adopters slowly getting access.
Views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent those of Accenture, its management, its employees or its affiliates. This article does not constitute investment or any other form advice. The author bears no responsibility in the event of financial or other loss arising from actions taken by the reader or any related party on the basis of information represented in this article. The author does have any financial interest in any firm mentioned in the article above; this article is produced for educational purposes. For any further queries or complaints, kindly email me at email@example.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rahul is a Consulting Analyst at Accenture; he is currently the Cohort & Communications lead at Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab in London. Prior to joining Accenture, he was an Insurance Product Manager at Laka Insurance, a London headquartered early stage InsurTech start-up which recently won at the British Insurance Awards 2019.
He spent his childhood in Mumbai, India and holds a master’s degree in Statistics from the University of Warwick. As an Ambassador at the Asia InsurTech podcast, he has a keen interest in the InsurTech ecosystem in Asia. If you found this article interesting, feel free to reach out via LinkedIn or Twitter. Any comments, feedback or constructive criticism is welcome.