Insurers to partner local tech firms to develop new insurance technologies

Great Eastern is among the four major insurance companies which will team up with local tech companies to develop digital products.
Great Eastern is among the four major insurance companies which will team up with local tech companies to develop digital products.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Four major insurance companies will team up with local tech companies to develop digital products such as chatbots and phone apps.

Prudential, NTUC Income, Great Eastern and MetLife's LumenLab are the first insurers in Singapore to make the move, under a government-sponsored programme aimed at helping local tech companies develop their expertise and scale up globally.

At the same time, local businesses like insurers can use these tie-ups to find ways to take advantage of digital disruption to transform themselves, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Transport Janil Puthucheary at the Innovation Labs World event on Tuesday, when the four insurers signed a memorandum with IMDA to join the programme.

"We are hopeful there are opportunities to explore the boundaries in innovation and develop new products in both directions," added Dr Janil, who is also Minister-in-charge of GovTech.

The collaboration is part of the Accreditation @ SG Digital programme, which was started in 2014 to help local tech companies partner businesses in various industries, such as banks and property developers, for their mutual benefit.

It is led by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

There are 31 tech companies accredited under the programme today, including local data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber-security firms.

Prudential's senior vice-president and head of its strategic engagements transformation Kalai Natarajan said customers who seek insurance already expect insurers to provide digital services, but the industry is generally slow on the uptake.

Ms Kalai added: "Customers want their lounge room experience - watching Netflix and ordering food online. They want that exact same experience when buying insurance. I've got 50-year-old friends who say if you can't sell it to me on a mobile app, don't even bother."

Insurance technologies include AI-powered insurance assistants, phone apps that can streamline the insurance buying process, and the use of blockchain technology to carry out transactions.

A global trend study on AI by Tata Consultancy Services on last year found that the insurance industry outspent all other industries on AI, investing on average US$124 million (S$169 million) in AI systems, compared to a cross-industry average of US$70 million (S$95 million). The data is gathered from 835 executives across 13 industries.

IMDA's chief industry development officer Howie Lau said: "Some solutions can only be found by doing, because (many companies) are at a stage where they cannot simply cut-and-paste solutions from somewhere else.

"These solutions may not be so obvious now, but partnerships can result in people finding a new path, adapting technology in an interesting way."

A pipeline of more than 1,500 public and private sector projects, worth around $260 million, was created since the programme started four years ago. Of these, more than 360 projects have been awarded, raising more than $150 million for the accredited firms.