MetLife, Manulife find strong insurtech partnerships in Asia

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Insurtech's profile in Asia is growing rapidly, particularly in the emerging technology hubs of India, China and Singapore. That's according to Kevin Angelini, head of strategy for the Insurance Consulting and Technology business in Asia Pacific at Willis Towers Watson.

Innovation labs, for one, are becoming more common in Singapore, especially due to incentives created by the government to establish such structures. Companies such as Manulife, MetLife and Aviva have all established innovation labs in the country, some with financial support from the local government, Angelini notes.

Meanwhile, China continues to lead the way in developing new AI and mobile applications. In the last couple of years, India has also caught on in a big way—with many of the funding rounds last year in Asia obtained by startups based in India.

“We’ve seen the first wave of startup companies come out of accelerators and have now formed some interesting partnerships with insurance companies.,” said Angelini. “One example is ‘Boundlss,’ an artificial intelligence health coach that came out of Startupbootcamp, and has now partnered with AXA in Hong Kong.”

For many insurers, Asia is viewed as a new source of growth, as profits remain flat or continue to decline in their home markets, Angelini added. Asian consumers are historically also fast adopters of technology. The industry’s goal is to foster innovation without having too much influence from traditional insurance processes; and develop products in an innovation friendly environment.

On that note, regulators in Asia typically play a dual role; both supervising the insurance companies in the sector and promoting the development of the industry. Many regulators have been active in developing innovation sandbox concepts in both Singapore and Malaysia, in order to encourage technology and innovation partnerships with insurance companies.

However, much like the U.S., “regulation tends to be stronger in the more developed markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea, not only in terms of supervision, but also in terms of consumer privacy and how data can be used,” Angelini concluded.

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