Sunday, June 16, 2024

Exclusive: ‘Pushing the boundaries’ – Pearlyn Phau, DBS in “The Insurtech Magazine”

DBS was the first of Chubb’s banking partners in Southeast Asia to open Chubb Studio’s ‘insurance in a box’. Pearlyn Phau explains why it came at just the right moment

Banking now and into the future is no longer a go-it-alone venture, says Pearlyn Phau, group head of consumer banking products, marketing and ecosystem partnerships at DBS.

The largest and one of the most exciting banks in Southeast Asia, with more than 11 million customers and 29,000 employees, it has recently been crowned the world’s best digital bank for the second time and the world’s best bank for the third time by Euromoney and Global Finance respectively.

It’s earned those impressive mantles by delivering best-in-class customer experience and groundbreaking digital products, notably its mobile wallet PayLah!, which was released way ahead of its time in 2014 and now has more than 1.8 million users. You’d think that it would be big enough to stand on its own two, well-planted digital feet. But, according to Phau, if DBS and banks like it are to keep their foothold as a new type of competitor shakes the financial tree, they need allies.

Global insurance provider Chubb is one of them. The two giants entered a 15-year partnership covering Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, in 2018, bringing together two companies who have strength in their respective areas. Chubb, being a world-leading general insurance company, was able to bring to the table a full suite of comprehensive products, while DBS had its extensive distribution network, and the digital capabilities it has been building over the past 10 years.

“The important thing, though,” says Phau, “is having a common view towards digitisation of the insurance journey, which facilitates quicker, more contextual offerings for our joint customers.”

The Digital Imperative

In the white-hot cauldron of the Asia Pacific market, constant innovation is a necessity for banks to both retain and grow customer bases. A survey in early 2020 by revealed an estimated 980,000 Singaporeans, approximately 20 per cent of the adult population, have accounts with digital-only banks, with 488,000 more planning to open a digital account in the next five years.

Competition for that business has just grown even fiercer with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) granting digital banking licences to three tech giants and a financial consortium. A tie-up between ride-hailing and internet services giant Grab and Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) won one of the digital full bank (DFB) licences while a wholly-owned entity from Sea Ltd received another. MAS also awarded a digital wholesale banking permit to Ant Group Co, the financial powerhouse that was spun out from Jack Ma’s Alibaba, with a consortium of financial equity investment firms – Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong, and the Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management – securing the last.

“We are seeing a lot more evolution in the ecosystem landscape,” Phau says. “Fintech companies have started to mature and have ambitions beyond their original mandate; they are coming into the banking space, they are lending money, they are taking deposits and giving out retail investments. We are also seeing the emergence of virtual banks and digital standalone banks.

“More recently, of course, COVID-19 has accelerated digital adoption and digital disruption. We are seeing a lot of changes in the marketplace; partners’ business models altering; customers’ behaviours and expectations evolving, as well. And I think there are going to be a lot more changes in the months ahead.”

Speed in adapting to those changes is crucial, and working with a like-minded partner helps, says Phau.

“The bedrock of our partnership with Chubb, in terms of our culture, in terms of where we see our future together, is really about doing what’s right for our customers. It’s about aligned work cultures, it’s about leveraging on technology, and also having a shared vision for innovation. Chubb’s commitment to digital innovation, its active collaboration with partners, and offering a suite of market-leading products, across different customer segments, makes it an ideal partner for us. It also helps us to deliver the digital customer experience that we are known for.

“One good example of that has been the development of a complementary COVID-19 cover, which is clearly a very relevant product in today’s world. Both organisations wanted to do right by our customers, and we were in a position to help. More than a million customers and their families signed up for this cover in under a month, allowing the two organisations, by coming together, to offer a level of assurance in customers’ moment of need.”

While being able to offer timely, contextual insurance products, helps embed banks in customers’ lives, for Chubb it’s an opportunity to gain access to a market almost invisibly, particularly in Asia-Pacific where consumers are significantly underinsured, but at the same time have high expectations of being able to achieve any financial task through digital channels with ease.

In September 2020, Chubb announced it had developed Chubb Studio, a global platform that streamlines the distribution of the company’s insurance products through its partners’ digital channels, using an open API architecture. In effect, ‘insurance in a box’. DBS was the first bank in Asia to open it.

“We believe that the sharing of data in a secure manner and, of course, with consent, as well as an open API architecture, will be a gamechanger for both companies,” says Phau.

“Both DBS and Chubb have harnessed their digital capabilities to provide a convenient, seamless, and end-to-end purchasing experience for our customers.”

In fact, DBS didn’t waste any time leveraging Chubb Studio to develop and roll out three hyper contextual and relevant products in the closing months of 2020.

Mozzie Protect offers customers health insurance against dengue fever, which has the highest mortality of any disease in Singapore, which was rolled out for under S$0.25 a day. Against the moving backdrop of COVID-19, it also launched Work Anywhere, a product that protects against health and ergonomic risks associated with telecommuting. And then there’s the Staycation Project – another product of the pandemic.

“There’s nowhere to travel, right now, so there are a lot of people going on staycations,” explains Phau. “This product offers health protection as customers enjoy their next staycation.

Chubb Studio is enabling us to take a very agile approach to rolling out new digital products like this that are timely, while also allowing us to experiment and pivot.

“We believe that an API open architecture is going to be the way forward. For the customer, it means the process of applying for a product, or getting onboarded – the entire customer experience, in fact – is going to be seamless and is going to be a lot faster, because there is no need for the customer to go through the hassle of having to fill out information, when a lot of this data  already resides within the two organisations.”

Phau sees an even closer collaborative ecosystem developing between banks and insurance companies, two industries that she describes as having a natural alignment. At the heart of that, is the benefits that accrue from sharing and analysing data to provide enhanced, even holistic, services for customers.

“We get a lot of data from social media interactions and data interactions with our partners in the ecosystems,” Phau says. “Data is not just coming into us; it’s also coming off us. As well as the techniques that banks have acquired in data analytics and in modelling, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have allowed us to make a lot more sense of the abundance of data that we have.

Live more, bank less

“It is important for us to go beyond just product manufacturing and distribution, but really to understand what the job is to be done,” emphasises Phau. “By that I mean, when are we able to provide customers with insights and intelligence that goes beyond the obvious? How can we help customers anticipate their needs? How can we advise them and alert them? And how can we provide all this intelligence to the customer in an automated fashion?”

Today, when customers apply for a DBS product via its digital platforms, they’ll invariable find an insurance offer embedded alongside. It will be contextual and relevant, says Phau, helping the bank live up to its slogan to ‘live more and bank less’. And, for Chubb, it’s making its insurance protection both invisible and everywhere.


This article was published in The Insurtech Magazine #05, Page 8-9

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