Manulife has recently linked up with Brinc, a global venture capital and accelerator firm, to foster partnerships with startups
Reflecting on the past year and a bit, it’s easy to feel as though time stood still. Lockdowns, working from home and travel restrictions have all contributed to a sense of hibernation. But below the surface, things are buzzing in many aspects of work and life. The pandemic has been an accelerator for technology usage. And companies that are looking to get ahead are accelerating their digitisation agendas.
While this is true of most companies, in the world of insurance, it is particularly relevant. After all, it’s a sector already in the midst of seismic change. Rapid advances in technology, changing customer behaviour and an environment where customers are looking for more protection are fundamentally changing the industry. For insurers, there’s an existential need to keep up.
At Manulife, the pandemic hasn’t been a catalyst for change per se, because change was already underway, since we embarked on our digital transformation journey several years earlier — a strategy taken up with real zeal in Asia. But the pandemic has upped the ante to change faster. Manulife has responded by doing just that, fast-tracking digitisation efforts across the region.
More than C$700 million (US$579 million) has been invested in new digital capabilities globally since 2018. As a result, customers in almost all of Manulife’s Asia markets can now submit claims electronically, including on their smartphones, while agents can close deals virtually and through electronic point of sales systems with auto underwriting built-in.
To further accelerate that rapid pace of digitisation, we wanted to tap the very dynamic fintech, insurtech and healthtech community in Asia. So, in December 2020, Manulife linked up with Brinc, a global venture capital and accelerator firm, to launch Manulife BOOST, a programme that is essentially designed to identify established start-ups with which to collaborate and form meaningful partnerships.
The idea is to have the winning startups work with Manulife’s Asia business units and innovation teams on proofs of concept to validate solutions that ultimately improve and protect people’s health and financial wellbeing — and then potentially scale those solutions to millions of customers across the region.
Twelve finalists, three key themes
Manulife BOOST received almost 300 applications when it opened for entries at the beginning of the year, and 190 of these met the programme criteria.
That number was whittled down over several rounds of selection to just 12 finalists, all with creative business ideas that are based around three key themes central to Manulife’s ambition to be the most digital, customer-centric global company in the industry: cultivating a health services ecosystem; creating personalised and impactful customer journeys; and boosting agent performance and productivity.
The final round, where each of the 12 start-ups pitched to Manulife leaders in Asia, took place in May. The two to three winning cohorts are now being selected to develop their ideas with Manulife in Asia, and will be announced in the coming months.
The themes for the programme are also framed against the pandemic and its impact on our lives and our work. Helping to inform that was our Asia Care Survey. The most recent survey findings, released in January, spotlighted some emergent trends that echoed feedback from insurance customers on the ground.
Among those surveyed in Asia, 92 per cent said they had increased monitoring their health and well-being, while 95 per cent are taking actions to improve their overall health. The survey showed that 71 per cent planned to buy insurance, while over half (52 per cent) said they prefer to manage their policies through digital means like mobile apps, including for claims and payments.
While speaking to insurance agents remains important, it found the use of digital tools for a self-service approach to be very popular. The findings were useful in highlighting how people have put renewed emphasis on their health and mental well-being.
This includes more exercise and healthier diets. The survey results also revealed the familiarity and liking people have for using wearables and other fitness trackers.
Benefits startups and Manulife alike
The BOOST programme has obvious benefits for Manulife, which can work with startups and support the development of new cutting-edge technology for the insurance sector. More generally, working with start-ups drives greater innovation and an agile mindset, while increasing the access and adoption of technology.
The exchange of ideas between different teams also nurtures fresh perspectives that, for the case of Manulife, helps address Asia’s rising health, protection and retirement needs.
For startups, a partnership with Manulife offers an invaluable experience, with learning and growth opportunities. They can have access to tools, resources and expertise via Manulife’s innovation lab, where teams of business strategists, experienced designers and engineers work with them exploring innovative technologies. The startups also have the opportunity to tap into Brinc’s global network of mentors, investors and service providers.
The 12 finalists comprise three on the customer journey, three on agent enablement, and six with a focus on the health services ecosystem.
- CareVoice, an integrated digital ecosystem for customer health management
- Insurely, a digital insurance wallet and marketplace
- Planner Bee, a digital financial and insurance aggregator’
- BeeFintech, a SaaS and CRM tool for insurance brokers and agents
- Gnowbe, a rapid authoring and collaborative learning tool
- Rallyware, a performance enablement solution to engage a distributed workforce
Health services ecosystem
- DocDoc, an AI-driven healthcare solution for insurers and employers
- EloCare, a menopausal diagnosis and tracking wearable and platform
- Homage, a personal care solution to provide on-demand holistic home caregiving to seniors
- Mixcare Health, a quality and affordable healthcare solution for SMEs
- OME Health, a personalised nutrition and coaching platform
- Pulse Active Stations, an AI- and IoT-enabled health kiosk for lifestyle diseases
They originate from a diverse set of geographies, including mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Sweden, the UK and the US, and are all looking to deploy their solution in Asia. All the finalists have at least a functional prototype and demonstrated product-market fit with proven customer traction.
An intriguing mix of ideas
The mix of startups in the final is intriguing. On the health side, their specialisations include fitness and wellness, telemedicine, health kiosks, and care homes for the elderly. These are all big subjects in areas we’ve all heard so much about over the past year.
The other finalists cover end-to-end digital health services, insurance policy and financial data aggregation, performance management and learning, and a customer relationship management (CRM) solution for brokers.
Again, all essential ingredients for the insurance industry — if done well, can make a huge difference to addressing Asia’s growing health, protection and retirement needs.
All of the proposals submitted are highly relevant to our business and if they can pass the proof of concept, it would be easy to see them going to market — a Manulife one — in the not-too-distant future.
Regardless of the outcome, all the finalists will have achieved high visibility and will go away with meaningful feedback and recommendations on how to advance their ideas. For the winners — there will be two or three — it will mark the start of a collaboration with Manulife to hopefully bring their products to the fastest-growing as well as the most dynamic region in the world.
This article was originally published on e27: https://e27.co/how-manulife-is-making-lives-better-and-healthier-in-asia-through-startup-partnerships-20210608/