MetLife takes up insurtech and will use big data to cover diabetes patients

Hong Kong Insurance Authority backs use of technology that will let insurers calculate risks viewed as beyond the scope of conventional analytical tools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 10:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 10:28pm

MetLife has become the latest insurance company in Hong Kong to take up insurance technology – or insurtech – development and extend its medical cover.

The Hong Kong Insurance Authority last month announced a number of measures to encourage the development of insurtech, which refers to insurance companies using technology to cut down on operating costs and to provide better products.

MetLife joins AIA, Manulife, Allianz and Zurich Insurance, who have also unveiled insurtech plans, and uses big data to cover people who previously could not get cover, such as those with diabetes. This is because insurtech allows for the calculation of risks viewed as too hard for conventional analytical tools to compute.

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“We recognise that it is difficult living with a disease like diabetes, which is why we are using technology to make it easier for our customers to record their health data and, by extension, manage their disease more easily and effectively. This makes medical protection more accessible to this group of people, something that could not be done without insurtech,” said Lee Wood, chief executive of MetLife Hong Kong.

“With advanced technologies, we are not just giving them one more channel to buy insurance, but providing a new experience that we could not offer before. Insurtech allows insurers to extend coverage to those who were previously uninsurable,” he said.

MetLife Hong Kong uses big data to analyse the behaviour of customers to determine their premium, and customers with a more healthy lifestyle can enjoy lower premiums than those who do not.

Insurtech is a fast-growing sector globally, particularly in the US and Europe, and now Asia-Pacific is also catching up. Data from venture capital database CB Insights reveals that insurtech investment globally totalled US$1.7 billion last year, doubling from 2014.

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Metlife’s Wood welcomed the Insurance Authority’s new measures to promote insurtech, which include the introduction of a “sandbox” that allows insurers to conduct pilot projects with new technology for selected customers before approval by the authority to expand to all their clients.

“I am delighted to see the launch of this sandbox in Hong Kong. The sandbox will provide financial institutions with a space in which to experiment with innovative products and services that meet the demands of our digitally connected customers,” Wood said.

“MetLife Hong Kong is fully embracing advanced technology to innovate how customers experience insurance and is exploring ways to be one of the first to “play” in this sandbox,” he said.

The company will also use more automation for its back office operations to speed up administrative efficiency and to cut down costs.