The Asia InsurTech Podcast spoke with Hamilton Angluben, the founder and CEO at Kwik Insure about how digital transformation of insurance has accelerated in the Philippines.
Okay. Hi, this is Michael Waitze, and welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. This is the only podcast in Asia focused on insurance that gives entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and investors a platform to discuss how technology is reshaping the insurance industry in Asia, and frankly, globally. Today, we are joined by Hamilton Angubin, the founder and CEO at Kwik Insure. Hamilton, it’s great to have you on the show. How are you doing?
Hamilton Angluben 0:30
Hi, Michael, great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Michael Waitze 0:32
It’s my pleasure. Before we jump into the meat of the conversation, what do you think is the biggest trend in insurance and InsurTech in the Philippines and by definition, the rest of Southeast Asia?
Hamilton Angluben 0:43
For here definitely, its digitalization. Insurance has been here for more than a century. But it’s only after all during the pandemic, that a lot of these insurers have been forced to, you know, go through their digitalization journey, whether it’s enhancing their their agent tools, the way they sell business, or for aiding into selling insurance online, a lot of the insurers are doing it for the first time, right? And not not really by choice, but but they’re forced to do that to remain relevant and, you know, to be able to do keep doing business.
Michael Waitze 1:19
I want to get back to digitalization and digital transformation inside the insurance industry, obviously, a hot topic, particularly because it seems to me like that pandemic has accelerated a trend that was moving nice and slowly. But now, like you said, it’s not a, I’d like to do this. It’s a necessity. And I want to talk about that a little bit more in a second. But can you give our listeners a little bit of your background as well for some context.
Hamilton Angluben 1:42
Regarding my insurance experience, I was previously a general manager at Cebuana Lhuillier, it’s the largest pawn shop chain in the world. And we service over 25, more than 25 million clients. From there, we sold micro insurance, we bundled all these micro insurance products with bill payments, remittances, lots of different ways. We sold insurance both digitally and physically through the branches. From there, I became a general manager at casado is the largest digital lender in the Philippines. Yeah, really a startup, a huge startup during the time. And from there, yeah, we launched quick ensure last year, around June.
Michael Waitze 2:25
And are you a technologist at all? Or do you have a tech team that does all the tech and all the tech building stuff for you?
Hamilton Angluben 2:31
I am more on the business development side and partnerships. We do have a very strong tech team with us.
Michael Waitze 2:38
Can you talk a little bit about how partnerships between incumbents and startups have kind of changed over time? Right? I think in the old days, people were really afraid big incumbent insurance comes like oh, here comes another startup. And the startups are more looking at the insurance companies and saying we’re gonna disrupt you and destroy you. What is it like today in the Philippines?
Hamilton Angluben 3:01
I think it’s very when it comes to insurance, I think it’s very different because we launched at the height of the pandemic, late q2 last year. And as I mentioned earlier, a lot of the insurance players were still, you know, new to digital selling. And so we were practically the main channel or almost like the only channel where we’re insurers would be able to sell digitally. And so it was really a real advantage for us. Even though you know, we haven’t really launched we already had more than 15 partners in our first three months. So it was very easy in terms of acquiring partners during that time.
Michael Waitze 3:41
But the market in the Philippines in particular, well, not just in the Philippines, but in the whole region is becoming quite competitive, particularly from a distribution standpoint. I see a lot of really well funded companies coming into the Philippines because they see it. It’s such an untapped market. How do you look at that sort of competitive landscape today? It’s very different than it was even just a year ago. Yeah.
Hamilton Angluben 4:02
Yeah, definitely. One of the things is that we are, of course, insurance is a highly regulated business, right. And so some of those who want to do to enter, they’re here for quite a while even before us, but they never really able to launch anything because they weren’t, they weren’t able to get the proper licenses. And so as far as you know, any InsurTech here, I’d say we’re the only ones really, you know, operating at this scale.
Michael Waitze 4:33
Really, do you partner with other startups as well? I think a lot when I talk to startups in the Philippines, particularly in the FinTech sector, about Ayana, who is connected not just in the major cities, but into all the provinces as well. And do you think about partnering with startups like that to do distribution across the whole country? Oh, yeah,
Hamilton Angluben 4:51
definitely. For example, we are partnered with what we haven’t launched where we already partnered with a company called mole thesis. They’re the ones who do the apps and the websites for the different key cities here in the Philippines. That’s an example. We’re partnered also in G-cash, largest events, 50 million users. And so we have a project with them launching very soon.
Michael Waitze 5:16
That’s interesting, like, how are you innovating around this space? And how do you work with the incumbents to innovate in the insurance space?
Hamilton Angluben 5:25
I think they already looking at us as a distribution channel. And so our idea is to be able to create a multi channel platform, right. So I mean, insurance penetration here is very low at 1.6%. And so it’s not enough to be able to be readily available in just one channel. So it’s like, you have to be like Omni person. Alright. So like for us, we are available in our website. We’re available in shop the WHO more and eventually all these digital finance apps. And so really distribution you’re correct is the name of the game industry. We’re trying to partner with as many people as we can.
Michael Waitze 6:05
And can you talk to me about the role that embedded insurance plays? I feel like that’s the new buzzword.
Hamilton Angluben 6:10
Oh, definitely, if you take g cash, for example, right, they do have that 50 million user base. And so that is a great distribution channel just because of the sheer volume, the number of people who open their apps, right, just seeing your brand inside of those apps already. Plus and being able to distribute efficiently, people are so used to navigating through these apps. And so the trust, is there the familiarity? Is there, the ease of use? Is there. Right. And so being where the consumers are is really the name of the game terms of distribution.
Michael Waitze 6:45
Yeah. And how about travel? I mean, the travel business has been decimated over the last couple of years. And that was one of the biggest places where the original embedded insurance took place. Do you see other products coming out? I’ll give you an example. In the United States, there’s a company called extend and extend to basically looked at the Apple Care Model. And most people look at Apple Care and don’t think it’s insurance. Right? They just think it’s, you don’t I mean, it’s so weird. It’s just, it doesn’t say insurance anywhere in it. And extended basically looked at that product and said, Wait a second. First of all, it’s way too expensive. Apple Care is way too expensive. It doesn’t make any sense, right? At least for me. But if every product could have Apple Care embedded into it, is the idea. And extend is building that product. Do you see the place for that in the Philippines as well?
Hamilton Angluben 7:40
I definitely the creating new products. And embedding them into existing services is something that we’re looking at, we are a brokerage. And so we work with a different companies give them feedback, and they give us their new their their products. And so when it comes to, like be being embedded, when it comes to, you know, trying to come up with these new products, it’s something we’ve worked closely with the insurers and the distribution channel. And so we find out the needs of the, the the partner distribution channel, and we find out what, what’s available on the size of the insurance and we try to come up with, with the products that match each round.
Michael Waitze 8:23
And do you have a product roadmap in mind, in the sense that, are you looking around out there and saying, I wish this product existed? I wish that product existed and when either somebody comes to you to pitch it to you, when you go out and find somebody who already has that product and then put it into your distribution channels? Is that something that’s possible as well?
Hamilton Angluben 8:39
Oh, yeah, both ways. You know, we we do come up with a number of we think about a lot of products, like for example, we’re coming up with an event cancellation insurance, right? A lot of weddings, a lot of these corporate events or whatnot. So we were coming up with that one, and in some some, some insurers come to us and say, Hey, this is a comprehensive insurance package. That’s prepaid like whatever you pay $100. And it’s a fixed coverage. So things like that, which really both ways and sometimes even even our clients, or even the distribution channels have their own ideas, what they do want. So it’s really one of the advantages of being a brokerage, having that flexibility to partner with anyone to work with anyone. And having the choice of and the breadth of choices assume to get the best product from I think that’s a real advantage for us.
Michael Waitze 9:36
And do you do product surveys with your existing customers? Or do someone like G cash give you access to their 50 million users and say, Hey, let’s try to figure out exactly what they want and then build specific products for them.
Hamilton Angluben 9:49
As always an ongoing discussion. We we all we we haven’t done a survey yet with a partner, but for us internally to our existing clients. We do a bunch of surveys all the time. And so yeah, customer feedback is very important for
Michael Waitze 10:06
us. I was talking to Sebastian Gaudin, who’s operates the care voice in China. And he was talking to me about populations specific, or population based insurance, where there’s a specific cohort of people that may need a specific type of insurance. Right, that’s different than everybody else. So not for everybody. But just for like, for people that ride horses, or from people that race cars or things like that, do you look at that at all as well?
Hamilton Angluben 10:34
I think at this point, we are trying to as a startup, right, we are trying to to get the most sales and the most growth, the most number of users, right? And so we are looking where we can we can get that most growth. But eventually the idea for us is to be like, No, there’s either the shop or the Amazon of insurance, at least here in the Philippines. So quick insure becomes the top of mind brand whenever someone wants to buy insurance. And so that’s something we want to build a strong brand.
Michael Waitze 11:06
Makes sense? And what are those products now where the most sales are like, what are you super concentrated on?
Hamilton Angluben 11:13
We are seeing a lot of traction for of course, of course, health care and health insurance life as well. We were focusing also on auto but we see I think there’s there’s a bit of a decline, right, because people are not going out as much. So basically, yeah, life insurance, health insurance, and auto auto insurance are our leading categories.
Michael Waitze 11:39
And do you partner with banks as well, I mean, in most of the developed world, bancassurance has been one of the biggest distribution mechanisms for insurance, mostly larger ticket insurance. But do you see the banking system and even some of the Neo banks like tonic bank, in the Philippines as distribution mechanisms for you or distribution partners for you?
Hamilton Angluben 11:59
Oh, yeah, for sure. We would love to partner with them. We are at early stage discussions with some of them. But I think it takes time to to partner with Max, if you know what I mean, for sure. And rightly so because we’re both highly regulated. And I think that’s really one of the challenges.
Michael Waitze 12:19
Can we back up again for a second? So you said you were the general manager and I want to make sure that I got this right. At the biggest pawn shop in the Philippines.
Hamilton Angluben 12:28
No, in the world in the world. Yeah, there’s a couple of general managers, because it’s a it’s a huge conglomerate. But I handled all the auxiliary services outside of pawning. And so you have remittances insurance, cash management services, and other services that because it was a 2500. branch company. So imagine the Philippines has more than 7000 islands, right? Yeah, we were all over the Philippines. And it was like the pawn shops were like the default bank for the lower income segment.
Michael Waitze 13:04
Yeah, fair enough. They’d go in and sell things. If they needed cash, they’d go back and buy them back. If they could afford it, I completely understand. Was that your first introduction into insurance?
Hamilton Angluben 13:15
Yeah, and in fact, it was a real eye opener, because we mostly sold fire insurance. So every time there was, there was a fire, at least, you know, 10% of that population would have our insurance, you see that you see the relevance, and being able to help the lower income segment.
Michael Waitze 13:35
Why was fire insurance so important?
Hamilton Angluben 13:39
For when it was easier to sell, it included fire insurance plus an accident. We noticed during the time that every time a fire is something that would really wipe out, someone’s you know, financial position are all their belonging. So we thought it was very relevant for that segment.
Michael Waitze 14:00
Right. And so you did those that job and then you did your next job for a while. And then you just said, Wait a second, I just want to be an entrepreneur. And there’s there’s such a massive space, you said 1.6%? That’s a that’s a GDP relative number, right? Yes. Is insurance. And what was the driving factor behind you just going out on your own and starting this?
Hamilton Angluben 14:18
I’ve always had this, you know, entrepreneurial itch. And and so I was exploring at the time, I looked at insurance, and I saw and I thought that, hey, no one is here in terms of being an InsurTech. Right. And so we are really the first in the Philippines. And, you know, it’s great being a first mover and of course it has its own challenges. But really the idea is to capture a large share of the digital insurance pays in the Philippines as fast as weekend.
Michael Waitze 14:51
And can you talk a little bit about the challenges of starting during the pandemic, whether it’s just like Team organization or race The right amount of capital or just any part of the challenges structurally for starting a company when nobody’s going outside or people are afraid of getting sick and dying.
Hamilton Angluben 15:10
Yeah, I think the recruitment wasn’t so hard. I think a lot of people were were looking for jobs at the time. But I’d say it would be the, the paperwork, right, the regulatory requirements, because a lot of the offices were closed. And so when they’re closed, I think our government has, you know, limited laptops and, and so when they’re closed, there’s nothing really is going on. And we probably could have launched as early as last year. But you do have to understand that, yeah, it took a lot longer than we, we hope to, and that was the biggest challenge. But you know, the, I would say, we were very fortunate, I think we were able to get our brokerage license in about seven to eight months, which is still fast. Is it even without the pandemic? And so yeah, very thankful to the Insurance Commission for that.
Michael Waitze 16:08
In some countries, the regulatory bodies, and the insurance Commission’s have said, we’re not giving out any more licenses. Right, Thailand is one of those countries where I think there are 70 Insurance licenses. And that’s it. And actually, what they want to do is encourage consolidation. And very few InsurTech themselves actually have licenses, I think, outside of or inside of Thailand. Then what is the regulatory environment like in the Philippines? And also, is there a regulatory sandbox where you can test products with your partners, before they actually go out to for mass distribution?
Hamilton Angluben 16:41
Yeah, we in the Philippines, there was also some consolidation. Right, but mostly on the insurer side, so they increase the capital requirements. And so really encouraging consolidation. But on the on the on the brokerage side. So far, there hasn’t been any limitations. I think the idea is to, to really try to have to increase our, our penetration here. And I think broker brokers is really having more brokers is would be an advantage to our country.
Michael Waitze 17:13
And how about the sandbox? Is there a regulatory sandbox, we can do product testing yet or not yet.
Hamilton Angluben 17:19
There was we weren’t part of it, we went and really went straight into getting a full blown brokerage license, I think it was very critical for us to get a brokerage license, but one, a brokerage license would allow us to sell directly. So we’re not a web aggregator who just displays products and then refers to do the insurance we are one of our promises is to be able to, to sell it to get people immediately insured. There is a sandbox, but we’re not part of it.
Michael Waitze 17:52
And does that mean you provide your own customer service as well as a fully as a fully licensed broker? Like you said, you’re not just an aggregator that has a website where people can click and then get introduced to other brokers? You are the broker? What does that mean from a customer service standpoint?
Hamilton Angluben 18:07
Yeah, of course, you do know that. Brokers represent clients. And I think that’s very critical for us. So that’s one of our main points for in deciding and getting a brokerage. And so one, we get to represent clients. So we one of the things that we do is we overflow claim service. On top of that, eventually, we’re working on a designated authority, eventually, if you can get that from our insurers to process claims to do underwriting. And so as you can see the brokerage license really critical and yeah, and being able to do all these things.
Michael Waitze 18:44
Okay. Can you talk to me a little bit about the significance of oft W’s are Overseas Filipino Workers, maybe just as a general topic, and then just so the rest of the world can understand what this means and why it’s a thing.
Hamilton Angluben 18:59
Yeah, there are over 10 million Overseas Filipino workers. And I think they bring about the same about 10% of our our GDP as well. So we refer to them as our modern day heroes, you know, leaving their families in the comfort of their homes for just for these high paying jobs. The have been a very important part of our economy. On our side, we we’d like to support them by offering these products that are available to all if W’s. But mostly, not only can they buy insurance for themselves, right before they name right. But they can also buy insurance, even when they’re abroad for their families here or for their properties in the Philippines.
Michael Waitze 19:45
Yeah, I mean, just so people can get a sense for this. Personal remittances as a percentage of the Philippine GDP has probably been rising steadily since 1980. But it just has it’s a real thing. Yeah, and I did some research right. So according to the World Bank, You’re right. It’s been approximately 10% For since for the past decade. But I want to put a number on that pre pandemic. So if you go back to 2019, if you look at the full size of the Philippine economy, that would be almost $40 billion coming back into the country every year. And it just opens up a really interesting market for potential insurance products for those people that aren’t necessarily resident. But like you said, our modern day heroes for leaving their families and going out and trying to create better lives for their families that are back in the Philippines. And, you know, I’ve been like I said, I’ve been in Asia for 30 years, and you see it throughout the region. These people are I mean, I would swear if I could, but they’re, they are heroic, but they’re also a huge source of income for the country. Are there specific products that get created for them? Can there be
Hamilton Angluben 20:54
we do have limitations in selling to or if W is one is we can only buy insurance for themselves before they leave? Or when they come back? And then leave again? Really? Yeah, because I think I think it’s one of I’m not sure if it’s just in the Philippines, but I think it’s probably an agreement between countries that you’re only allowed to sell where you’re only allowed to ensure at least for people who are residing or currently in, in the country. Basically, that’s the main limitation in selling to FWC. But for us being online, we are able to help them purchase insurance for their loved ones for their vehicle for their houses, buy health care for their for their families here. And I think that’s a huge service to them.
Michael Waitze 21:45
It’s a massive service to them. So what else can we expect from quick ensure as we go over the next two or three years,
Hamilton Angluben 21:54
of course, more and more distribution channels, I chair that one of the things that we found out and launching quick ensure was originally we had a fully digital customer buying experience, like the theory, the original theory was that, you know, some people don’t want to talk to agents. They buy their own insurance online without talking to anyone right now then as the months went by, when we put up our request the code in our website, that we were able to get more traction apparently, from that one. And and so we immediately had to form an outbound sales team, which doing very well. Yeah. So if you look at our model, we both have a direct to consumer approach, I’d say we’re very similar to lifestyle, policy bizarre, but we also have a b2b b2c approach, like the likes of Koala and butter police. We’re probably the only company in Southeast Asia doing both these models. And as I mentioned earlier, we do want to capture the digital insurance space here as fast as weekend.
Michael Waitze 23:02
So we had Penny Fajr on the show from lifestyle a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve had the founders, the other founders as well. One of the interesting things that I learned from Benny was the social media impact that they’re having. So they have 4 million monthly active users that come and read their blogs and their 500,000 People follow them on Instagram. Do you have a media strategy? That’s gonna help disintermediate the penetration issue that you brought up at the beginning of this conversation?
Hamilton Angluben 23:34
Yeah, for sure. In fact, I enjoyed that, that that podcast I listened to both of there’s a lot, a lot of gems in there. There are Yeah, I mean, and so we, one of our strategies definitely is on education, insurance literacy, you know, the penetration rate here is very low, really the same as any financial inclusion problem. So low financial inclusion means there’s no financial literacy, standard insurance, low penetration, low insurance literacy. So a lot of our campaigns are around education, all the insurance did bits, like what does a premium mean? Who was the policy owner? Was the beneficiary even you? You’d be surprised people don’t know these things?
Michael Waitze 24:21
No, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Hamilton Angluben 24:24
And so definitely education. It’s really a long game. But but you know, 1.6, the rest of the world is at 6.1 penetration. So we have a long way to go. And that gap is really where the opportunity is. For
Michael Waitze 24:37
us. It is it is but do you see a way there’s How do you How are you affecting that financial literacy? Do you do active campaigns to teach people about these things?
Hamilton Angluben 24:47
Oh, yeah, for sure. We we do have, for one we do have. As I mentioned, all our campaigns if you look at our social media accounts, every day they have like, quick insurance one Oh, or insurance literacy 101, or insurance word for today. It’s like, slowly by slowly you’re giving all these nuggets of information. And we do have seminars that we hold regularly about twice a month. Additionally, we do have affiliates. Affiliates are people who sign up. And then they get a special, unique code or a referral link. And they’re sort they’re able to refer clients to us and earn these referral fees. And of course, they they are, in a way our ambassadors and ambassadors.
Michael Waitze 25:35
Okay, I really want to thank you, Hamilton on Lubin, the founder and CEO of Quicken show for coming on the show. That was really great. Thank you so much for your time today.
Hamilton Angluben 25:43
Thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me.