Underwriters told to seize inclusive opportunities

The global insurance industry has been told it has to drastically increase its focus on inclusive insurance as significant surge in the global demand for health insurance across the world’s emerging economies offers “the most significant market and ESG opportunity in decades”.

According to the findings of the Microinsurance Network’s Landscape of Microinsurance Study 2021, released today, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to identified demand for health insurance for low-income communities, with more than 104 million people now covered globally, in a surge that sees the opportunity for health provision eclipsing the former leading services of life and personal accident insurance.

As a result of the report, which features data from more than 200 insurers across Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, insurance providers are being urged to review their inclusive insurance offerings in order to tap into the commercial opportunities presented, whilst supporting some of the world’s most vulnerable communities and economies with enhanced protection through insurance.

It has been launched on the opening day of this year’s International Conference on Inclusive Insurance, hosted by the Microinsurance Network and the Munich Re Foundation, where more than 1,000 experts from some 100 countries will discuss and identify ways of accelerating growth and economic viability in inclusive insurance for emerging markets, including the impact products have on everything from climate change to digital health solutions.

The report found up to 377 million people are now covered by a microinsurance product in the 30 countries included in the data, with health by far the most popular product, followed by personal accident (36 million), life (29 million) and credit life/loan protection (18 million). However, these figures still represent only 5% of the global population, showing the opportunities for insurers across the world.

Katharine Pulvermacher, executive director of the Microinsurance Network, said: “The report shows the huge impact COVID-19 has had on insurers and low-income communities as the pandemic has heightened awareness of the risk of not being insured, driving up significant demand for health insurance. This shift presents the biggest opportunity for the sector in decades.

“Whilst for many years, life insurance has been the starter product for insurance providers moving into the inclusive insurance market, we can see this has now been taken over by health policies in many countries, presenting a huge opportunity for insurers looking to enter the sector. For example, in Mexico only one in ten licenced insurers were identified as active in inclusive insurance. In Pakistan, Jamaica, Cambodia and Bangladesh, less than 20% were identified as active in the segment. We are encouraging those looking to enter the market to engage with us and the insights of our members to take advantage of the market opportunity, whilst ensuring as many people as possible have access to insurance when they need it most.”

The growth in health microinsurance has also been supported by a range of new services to support customers’ changing needs and ability to access and pay for products, including health education and telemedicine. There has also been a rise in digital platforms, such as ride-hailing applications and e-commerce platforms, delivering health insurance and reaching millions of new clients with coverage which can be bundled with existing services.

Micro or inclusive insurance products are developed specifically to serve the needs of the low-income population, with cover working towards profitability or at least sustainability. The Microinsurance Network is a not-for-profit association of 70 institutions and 450 experts across more than 60 countries committed to delivering inclusive insurance for billions of people worldwide. Its annual Landscape Report, the only study of its kind, shows the impact targeted products can have for the billions of households and small businesses across the world, still struggling without any form of insurance safety net.

Garance Wattez-Richard, head of Axa Emerging Customers and a member of the Microinsurance Network, said: “The 2021 Landscape of Microinsurance is a call to action for the sector to make protection more accessible, affordable and relevant to those who need it the most. I invite insurers, large and small, local and international, experts and newcomers in inclusive insurance, to not only read this report but to also take part in the next edition of this annual barometer to obtain an ever more comprehensive landscape.”

Luxembourg’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Franz Fayot, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the real need for health insurance in emerging markets across the world, and the impact inclusive insurance products can have for those who still have little social protection in their communities. It is important we continue to monitor the changing face of the microinsurance landscape and look at new ways we can continue to support developing countries as we move towards improving resilience for all.”

As a result of the report, which features data from more than 200 insurers across Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, insurance providers are being urged to review their inclusive insurance offerings in order to tap into the commercial opportunities presented, whilst supporting some of the world’s most vulnerable communities and economies with enhanced protection through insurance.

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