Mobile Options Fuel Insurance Surge


Insurers in Cambodia are finding that partnerships with mobile service providers are proving to be a lucrative way for signing up new customers

Partnerships with mobile service providers have greatly helped insurance companies with market penetration here, insurers told Khmer Times.

Last year, BIMA, an insurance provider, started working with Smart Axiata to provide life insurance to consumers. Forte Insurance started working with Smart to deliver personal accident insurance.

Now, just over a year together, the two sets of products reach more than 100,000 customers in total, and allow many more potential customers to grasp the value of insurance.

“We are indeed very happy with our results. Being the first to offer insurance policies via mobile in Cambodia has been rewarding,” said Yap Kokleong, chief marketing officer with Smart.

Cambodia’s insurance industry drew $32.2 million in premiums in the first six months of this year, a 20 percent jump year on year, according to the Insurance Association of Cambodia. Fire insurance rose 42.2 percent to $12.4 million, more than twice the total premiums of any other insurance type.

Personal accident insurance increased from $1.8 million in the second quarter of 2014 to $2.4 million in the second quarter of 2015. Medical and health insurance grew from $3.6 million to $5.2 million over the same period.

The exact breakdown in subscribers per underwriter is not available. However, BIMA country manager Amritha Mani had said that the company reached more than 75,000 subscribers for its life insurance product in late July. She added that BIMA and Smart add 10,000 customers every month.

“To place this in context, we estimate that Smart Life Insurance now accounts for about 40-50 percent of the total individual life insurance policies in Cambodia,” she said.

Forte’s figures were not immediately available yesterday.

According to Smart, interested customers choose insurance they want – either life or personal accident. The costs for these policies start at 2 cents per day, according to Smart. The mobile provider does not offer the same product from different underwriters.

Smart has a sales force marketing insurance products. The underwriters work with Smart and also their own outreach teams, holding seminars to teach potential customers about why insurance is vital. Overcoming ignorance about insurance is the key obstacle to growing the number of policyholders, according to the companies involved.

“Beside marketing campaigns to educate our consumers regarding insurance and its benefits, we have direct marketing campaigns via sales forces and call-center teams,” said Mr. Yap.  Ms. Mani said that customers appreciate the simplicity of mobile insurance due to its paperless registration and easy payment options.

Another life insurance provider, Manulife, does not work with mobile products to the same extent but enabled a mobile option for premium payments last year, in partnership with Wing. This delighted Manulife’s customer base, according to chief marketing officer Tola Ponlu.

He said that while he could not discuss Manulife’s future plans in detail, the international company has not ruled out a deeper partnership with a mobile provider in the future.

In April, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication Prak Sokhonn said that mobile phone operators had sold 20.45 million SIM cards by the end of last year. Cambodia has a population of 15.5 million people. BIMA cited an industry study which found that 93 percent of Cambodians have cellphones.

According to analytics firm GfK, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia increased their smartphone sales in the range of 7 percent to 27 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

Srey Tech, an Internet analyst, said that smartphones are Cambodians’ primary method of accessing the Internet and performing a growing number of tasks. Companies across industries have taken notice and started making sure their sites and services are mobile-compatible.

BIMA is no exception – its platform is integrated with Smart and works with all types of phones – from low-end feature phones to smartphones.