EP 87 – Ashish Kenath – Regional Lead Digital Ecosystems – Prudential Vietnam Assurance – What Happens To an Insurance Company As It Goes Through Digital Transformation

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Michael Waitze has been podcasting with some of the best investors and business builders globally and discussing all things startup with them from an Asian perspective. Michael worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo. Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used successfully to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is quite skilled at connecting people and capital to innovative ideas and is a trusted advisor to both investors and founders. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, having pioneered the concept of a podcast network in Asia while building the biggest and fastest-growing listener base in the region. His flagship website, AsiaTechPodcast.com, has listeners in over 100 countries and is available on virtually every podcast player that supports RSS feeds.

Fifteen plus years total experience as a consultant and business leader in the Insurance Industry helping CXOs and senior management teams determine strategic participation choices, create implementation plans and execute plans to achieve target business outcomes. End to end experience across the Insurance value chain, specialising in Strategy, Digital Ecosystems, ,Transformation, New Market Entry and Distribution. Diverse professional and cultural experience having worked across different locations: India, United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Vietnam,Indonesia, Thailand and Laos.

We spoke to Ashish Kenath, the Regional Lead – New Markets and Business Development at Prudential Insurance Growth Markets. Ashish has 15 years of experience in the insurance industry including a posting in the US where he worked for Aetna in Hartford, CT.  He received his MBA in HK and then joined Prudential.

He posited that one of the current trends for InsurTech ins Asia was the adoption of APIs to integrate legacy systems with non-traditional distribution partners to increase customer reach and become part of digital ecosystems.  Ashish also also noted that another trend was insurance companies offering bite-size products. This micro-Insurance is about customer acquisition.  Potential customers are also used to personalization and customization from the other mobile apps they use and the other ways they shop on their mobile devices.

We talked about how Ashish’s personal view is that InsurTech startups are not really viewed as challengers but more like entities they can work with to enhance the customer proposition.  Part of this is driven by the fact that the insurance industry as a whole is quite capital intensive and regulatory-driven, which puts a bit of a moat around the incumbents.

We went back to this idea that there has been a shift in customer expectations when it comes to their interactions with mobile apps.  It is no longer the case that insurance apps are being compared to other insurance apps.  They are now being compared to Amazon and Grab. Customers have shorter attention spans and have higher benchmarks for customer experiences and services.  

The onset of 5G on mobile devices means that even more service integrations will occur and will need to be part of the insurance digital ecosystem as well for these companies to survive.  If 5G lives up to its expectations, the ability to provide hyper-personalized products and services should explode.  These factors will help accelerate the shift from insurance companies providing only risk management to risk prevention.

Insurance penetration still remains problematic in Asia and we asked Ashish what types of things needed to change, besides the distribution mechanisms to attack this issue.  Bite-size products is one thing for sure, but more importantly, overall product innovation that simplifies the policy terms and makes it easier for clients to understand the products they are buying.  On top of that, it is also necessary to raise awareness of insurance products in general.

Trust and engagement also matter. As it stands now, most insurance clients feel like there is a sales process, a policy purchase and a claims process and nothing in between.  Insurance companies are trying to build engagement with their clients to close that gap and also hope that that leads to higher penetration numbers through increased trust.

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