Singapore Life, a five-year-old fintech startup, turned a profit in its first year of trading in a fast-changing landscape thanks to a focus on giving the customer the sort of straightforward experience the sector hasn’t offered before, according to its founder.

Walter de Oude, CEO of the market leader in direct-to-customer life insurance in the city-state, puts the brand’s success down to the “simple mantra” of providing customers with a better life insurance experience through the efficiency of technology.

“Customer-centricity has to be front and central to everything,” he told a recent Singapore event. (For more, read WARC’s report: How digital insurer Singapore Life became profitable in a year by being customer-centric.)

“We realised that customers are not necessarily looking for the products and services that we have historically pushed,” he explained. “What customers are looking for is a way of engagement.”

Most people tend to put off addressing life insurance because they find it confusing or they’re too busy to sit down and think about it. And even if they do, they face so much choice it’s difficult to make a decision.

“People either look for advice, or they look for simplicity,” de Oude said. “We’ve gone the simplicity route to make life insurance really, really easy.”

While car insurance and travel insurance are often bought online, “life insurance is still not quite there”, he observed, adding that this makes little sense. “Life insurance is much simpler. If you die, your family gets the money, and if you don’t die, that’s even better – straightforward, yes?”

There is some complexity in that “I have to be honest with my disclosures”, de Oude conceded. “[But] the systems are now remarkable enough to help you to be honest. We’ve found that if you are answering the questions to a life insurance application online, you are much more likely to be truthful.”

One of the startup’s key innovations, for instance, comes from working with a reinsurer to develop “quite smart” medical underwriting algorithms that are integrated into the Singapore Life platform and can ask the right questions at the right time, guiding applicants through the process.

It’s efficient, straightforward and easy, he said, “without really any need for peeing in a cup or going for blood tests”.

This has so far enabled 85% of customers to get “straight through the process” without human intervention.

Sourced from WARC