Insurers must do more to tap digital technology: Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a health and digital innovation showcase in Prudential Singapore's new office at Marina One.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a health and digital innovation showcase in Prudential Singapore's new office at Marina One.PHOTO: PRUDENTIAL SINGAPORE

Insurance firms can - and must - do a lot more to take advantage of digital technology, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

Mr Tharman said at the launch of Prudential Singapore's new office at Marina One that health insurers can tap digital technology to go beyond paying for medical claims to preventive care and encouraging a healthy lifestyle and habits.

He noted that some insurers have already begun tracking users' health and habits through fitness devices and apps, and pricing in premium discounts for healthier lifestyles.

Healthcare itself can also be delivered and administered more effectively with digital technology, Mr Tharman noted, and insurers should encourage this.

"Tele-health is increasingly being used, saving patients time and money. Here in Singapore, we have been rolling out TeleRehab services for stroke patients.

"It delivers better health outcomes because doctors can monitor patients and make sure they follow through on rehabilitation without the inconvenience of regular physical travel to the clinic."

Apps and social media also present insurers with more touch points to engage their clients, Mr Tharman added, while telematics and Internet-of-Things devices enable data analytics, allowing insurers to deliver more customised and innovative products and services.

At the backend, he noted that the life insurance industry is testing artificial intelligence and blockchain to automatically trigger and settle claims.

With such changes, the role of the insurance agent will also evolve, Mr Tharman said. From selling life or health products, he must now offer more holistic wealth and risk management advice.

"Given the growing demand for risk management and compliance-related roles in the industry, I also encourage insurers to consider reskilling some of their agents to take on such roles," he said.

The new PRU Workplace aims to promote such change. The insurer has two floors totalling 80,000 sq ft at the new office, which houses 1,000 employees.

The office's open plan is designed to inspire innovation and build a creative work culture to support the company's future growth.

It includes social spaces, activity rooms - such as one in which employees can play with Lego bricks as they brainstorm ideas - nature-inspired nooks and rest pods for naps.

Employees also have the flexibility and autonomy to work from anywhere and at any time.

"Just as we are challenging our people to make a mental shift to a more creative and collaborative culture, our physical workspace and work policies must equally support our journey," said Prudential Singapore chief executive Wilf Blackburn.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Insurers must do more to tap digital technology: Tharman'. Subscribe