Ecosystm Snapshot: Southeast Asia’s US$100 billion Internet economy to Boost Fintech Growth

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According to a recently-released report, e-Conomy Southeast Asia 2019 by Google, Temasek Holdings Pte and Bain & Co., Southeast Asia’s Internet economy could exceed US$100 billion this year (a 39% increase from 2018) and will touch US$300 billion by 2025. The report states that Southeast Asian’s are ‘the most engaged mobile Internet users in the world’, and the region is becoming one of the world’s fastest-growing areas for Internet users – fueled by 360 million existing online users.

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.”

Source: SEA Consumer Payments, e-Conomy SEA Report 2019

 

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.

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InsureTech: Transforming the Insurance Industry

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The global insurance industry today faces several challenges  – starting from the shift in the demographic patterns and the disease burden, to managing an ever-growing agent ecosystem,  to responding to customer expectations. The advancement in technologies and their adoption is creating opportunities for insurance companies to modernise and reinvent themselves through new product and services offerings and by evolving their business models.

Drivers of Transformation in the Insurance Industry

  • Global Competition. Over the last few years, leading insurance providers have been looking for a share of the global market and are no longer content with their traditional domestic markets. They especially want to get into markets where there are fewer players and/or larger population. The Indian insurance industry, for example, has seen a number of new private entrants over the last decade, attracted by the large population base and by a high percentage of young population. Many of the leading global insurance providers have partnered with Indian counterparts for a presence in the market. The story is similar in several emerging economies. While the presence of insurance providers is good for the future sustainability of a country, the market is extremely competitive. Investing in technology can be the key differentiator in capturing a larger share of the pie.
  • Customer Expectations. Today’s customers are tech-savvy and expect a certain level of service and at their fingertips too. Moreover, easy access to the internet equips them to do basic research to evaluate their best options. The Fintech revolution also impacts the customer base, as they expect services such as instant approval and prefer to purchase items only when they require them. This ‘on-demand’ market has fueled the microinsurance industry and opened the gates for smaller providers.
  • Regulatory Requirements. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of the previous decade and with new entrants in several countries, regulatory authorities are working on an overdrive to bring better accountability to the insurance market. Moreover, in most countries the regulations have incorporated market conduct guidelines aimed at consumer protection.  Reporting, service level and fraud prevention requirements will see an increased uptake of technologies that can assist in fulfilling compliance requirements.

Key InsureTech Technologies

  • IoT. The auto insurance companies were the first to leverage IoT and telematics to enhance navigation, safety and communication features that could help customise the premiums payable. The home insurance sector has already leveraged it using sensors and connectivity to assess and reduce risks to the properties they insure  – large providers such as Allianz, Aviva and AXA have been working on their IoT ecosystem. This has immense potential for ‘usage-based’, personalised product and premium offerings in the health and life insurance industries (provided they work within the purview of compliance requirements).  Ultimately sensors are not the most important technology in an IoT solution – the analytics solutions that can derive intelligence from the sensor data are. IoT+AI will give that much-needed edge to insurance companies.
  • 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 insurance providers 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.

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