Analysing the current and future potential of the Southeast Asian Internet economy across its six largest markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – it has been a momentous time for online travel services, online media, ride-hailing services, eCommerce, and digital financial services to leverage digital tools.
Southeast Asia’s Internet Economy is expected to grow
Southeast Asia’s fundamental changes in consumer behaviour and engagement with mobile internet have grown demand for eCommerce and Ride-Hailing services.
eCommerce is the largest and fastest-growing sector with more than 150 million Southeast Asians engaged in online shopping, and this is indicative of the fundamental changes in the way people consume eCommerce services.
Growth of digital financial services
Currently, Southeast Asia lacks adequate financial services as out of nearly 400 million adults in the region an estimated 98 million are underbanked and 198 million are unbanked.
Commenting on the expanding Internet economy, Ecosystm Principal Advisor – Growth & Expansion, Paul Gestro said “Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia will be the markets that could benefit the most from the US$100 billion Internet economy. This is primarily because a large percentage of the population in these markets is unbanked. With the growth and access to some form of banking (traditional or virtual) and the ability to transact a payment, this will have a huge influence on Fintech solutions.”
Another key trend is the growth of digital payment and financial services in the region. The growth of digital financial services will make the Internet economy more wide-ranging and consumers will enjoy greater access to Digital Payments and eCommerce.
Gestro added, “Insurance, payments and investment services will add to what we do now with ride-sharing and food delivery services. We will instantly make decisions on insurance and investment products and deals backed up by seamless payment mechanisms and different forms of payment.”
While most Digital Financial Services are still nascent, Digital Payments are expected to cross US$1 trillion by 2025 and this could open investment opportunities.
“The open investment opportunities for investors in Southeast Asia’s internet economy will be investing in applications that are mobile-ready. There will be a growth in mobile transactions and services, and companies that take a mobile-first approach will be the investors’ target,” said Gestro.
The report advises governments of Southeast Asian countries to align digital financial service regulations across the region to facilitate the development of regional business models and help channel resources towards investments in world-class tech and talent.
Despite the growing Internet economy, talent constraints remain a pressing concern as the Internet economy expands. Gestro said, “programmes in schools are required to promote a digital understanding and offer clear pathways to build knowledge and skills required for an Internet economy. This also includes companies who should be offering internships and working closely with universities to make sure the courses match where talent is needed.”
The use of mobile phones and mobile applications will connect consumers to a raft of services they previously lacked, and allow business owners and leaders to reach a whole new population of customers that was previously under-served. There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure Southeast Asia’s Internet economy reaches its potential.
AI – Machine Learning. AI and machine learning make it possible for insurance companies to mine both structured and unstructured data. The use cases range from underwriting, claims management and personalised offerings through behavioural data and sentiment analysis. There are examples of early adopters in the auto industry – but again there are obvious and wider use cases, that can benefit risk modelling, pricing, customer acquisition, and agent and channel efficiency.
AI – Virtual assistants/Chatbots. This falls right in with managing customer experiences. As customers expect more self-service (yes, the future will see less agents!) several insurance providers are using chatbots at several customer touchpoints, covering departments such as Sales and Claims. This will increasingly be the norm as smart phone (and app) penetration increases and the target base becomes younger. There are online-only insuranceproviders where clients interact with chatbots services and they are able to cater to a larger, untapped, mass market. There are more advanced adoption examples such as USAA’s use of intelligent personal assistant equipped with an NLP engine that have been trained with a deeper knowledge of policies. Virtual insurance agents will become more of a norm in the near future.
Which brings us to the important question on how insurance companies are planning to leverage InsureTech. Multiple stakeholders could benefit from InsureTech adoption. The Claims department appears to be a key stakeholder, focused both on fraud prevention and automation when it comes to transaction and processing. Sales and Customer Service appear to be next in line, where personalisation of product offerings would equip the teams better for a competitive market.
Challenges of AI Adoption in Insurance
It is obvious that the insurance companies are still at a nascent stage of adoption of AI and InsureTech. While cybersecurity is a recurrent concern (as it should be), it is a common concern across any technology area. The biggest challenge that the insurance industry faces in adoption of AI and other data-driven technologies is the actual data management – from access to integration. The industry may be data-intensive, but the data exists in silos. In the end an InsureTech implementation should benefit multiple departments – Underwriting, Claims, Sales and so on.
Several insurance companies will look to consulting firms and systems integrators to create a roadmap to their transformation journey and enable the data integration – especially as technologies evolve and when internal IT lack the right skills to manage these projects.
The technology that will be the key component of InsureTech and transform the insurance industry is AI. In spite of the challenges of adoption, the industry will be forced to transform to survive in the highly competitive market. Companies in emerging economies will especially benefit from investing in AI – in fact, India and especially China will see a surge in InsureTech investments.