Wed | Mar 29, 2017

Digicel enters microinsurance market with Swedish partner

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
File Digicel Group regional headquarters on the waterfront in Kingston.

Mobile insurance product provider Milvik, a Swedish company which trades as Bima Mobile, is seeking a country manager for operations in Jamaica amid plans to roll out a mobile platform for microinsurance products.

Its targeted clients are mobile companies and insurance providers.

Digicel Group spokeswoman Antonio Graham also confirmed that the regional telecoms has invested US$5 million in Bima under a partnership to be rolled out in Asia Pacific and the Caribbean.

She did not outline how the funds would be spent, but said last Thursday that the partnership has already been launched in Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Digicel customers in those markets can now register for paid life insurance products for "a few US cents per day, with claims paid within 72 hours of submitting the necessary paperwork", Graham, the head of group public relations, said via email.

"Both markets leverage Bima's expertise in mobile-delivered insurance, wherein customers can pay for insurance cover via their prepaid airtime. This model provides a safe and trusted route for customers to register and pay for valuable insurance protection," she added.

Neither the Bank of Jamaica nor Financial Services Commission has responded to queries regarding Bima's mobile insurance plan for Jamaica.

Bima, as indicated in its advertisement, sees the Jamaican market as underpenetrated for life, accident and health insurance coverage, "yet nearly everyone owns a mobile phone".

The company said on its blog that "this presents an opportunity for both mobile companies and insurance providers to expand insurance provision to millions of Jamaicans using the ubiquitous mobile platform".

Graham said: "The market opportunity for microinsurance in Asia Pacific and the Caribbean is vast, with insurance penetration at less than seven per cent as a percentage of GDP."

Inside Jamaica, the only microinsurance provider to date is GraceKennedy's insurance subsidiary, JIIC, which last year rolled out two products for medical and a weather-related Livelihood Protection Policy.

Bima, in its advertisement for a country manager, says it will provide product development expertise to insurance companies.

Microinsurance, it points out, is characterised by low premiums and low coverage limits and designed for low-income customers normally not served by social or commercial insurance schemes.

And it notes that mobile operators provide the key for mass adoption of microinsurance as they can "rapidly cover entire populations with their transmission and distribution networks".

Bima is headquartered in Stockholm. The company launched in late 2010 now claims market reach of seven million people across eight countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Honduras.

A company representative promised to provide information on the product and launch dates for Jamaica on Monday, but did not follow through.

Graham said Digicel's investment will provide "resources and insight to help Bima rapidly build its presence" in this region.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com