Can Asia Become the Global InsurTech Hub?

By Elena Mesropyan for LTP

In 2015, investors around the world poured $2.6 billion into InsurTech. There are already over 1,300 startups from across the world focusing on the insurance industry – one of the most massive and complex ecosystems with large and powerful corporate players already taking steps towards riding the wave of disruption.

As for this year, recent estimates suggest that $1 billion has been invested in InsurTech ventures across 47 deals in the first half of 2016. Health insurance-related startups claimed the three largest deals of 2016 YTD, but startups across P&C and life insurance are also seeing an increasing amount of investment.

Some of the success catalysts for InsurTech startups have been technologies like big data, Internet of Things (IoT),mobile technology, AI, social networks and blockchain. Interest from VC firms and dedicated accelerators/incubatorshas also been speeding up the traction.

But success in InsurTech is far from being a similar path in every corner of the world as there are regions particularly important for entrepreneurs to consider from a strategic point of view. Asia has recently been under the spotlight due to hallmarks of the market making it possible for InsurTech to thrive. There are particular hubs in Asia that have attracted special attention, like Singapore.

Alex Lin, the Head of Infocomm Investments, has well summarized Singapore as a market offering outstanding opportunities for startups. First, entrants get an access to a single market size of over 625 million people – the third-largest in the world; greater than the European Union (504 million) and the United States of America (319 million). Second, as Lin emphasizes, Singapore’s government has been forward-looking in paving the way for innovations to happen, at the same time measured, so that associated risks are managed. And third, Singapore has seen a significant increase in the number of accelerators setting root to nurture innovative businesses.

Earlier this year, George Kesselman, the CEO of InsurTech Asia, shared his insights with Startupbootcamp on the emergence of InsurTech ecosystem in Asia, stating that Asia is attractive from both, an insurer and an InsurTech perspective due to the size of its significantly underinsured population.

“The region has traditionally seen a large part of the risks self-insured through family and community networks. As the region experiences rapid growth in the affluence of its population, together with an aging population, the risk exposure is then becoming even more apparent and the need for alternative risk transfer mechanisms, including insurance, increase,” Kesselman noted.

He also added that there are locations in Asia that have the greatest potential to drive a prolific InsurTech ecosystem – China, India, and Singapore, in particular.

It’s not only the market size that’s representing potential – funds poured into the insurance industry in Asia are quite impressive. In April 2015, — Manulife Financial has reached a multiyear deal valued at more than $1 billion that allowed the Canadian firm to exclusively distribute its insurance products through Singaporean lender DBS Group Holdings Ltd.’s branches across Asia.

As reported by Reuters, Singapore and Hong Kong – two of DBS’s strongest markets – are seen as profitable for insurers due to their status as Asia’s main wealth management centers and an aging population. In fact, citing Swiss Re research, Reuters has reported that Singapore is an under-penetrated market, with per capita life insurance premiums significantly lower than many other developed economies.

The edition also reported that AIA Group struck a 15-year exclusive deal with Citibank in Asia in 2013, for which AIA said it paid an $800 million upfront payment. Prudential plc also struck an agreement last year with Standard Chartered, agreeing to pay $1.25 billion in fees, to extend its current agreement for 15 years.

Given the scale of the market and the fact that less than 6% of Asian population has life insurance, Asia represents a goldmine for InsurTech to bank on as well as an unprecedented opportunity for institutional insurers to expand.

First appeared at LTP