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Dr. Patrick Chin, Head of Digital and Head of Branding, Asia Pacific at SOMPO, details the wide-ranging ecosystem of innovative projects at the insurer.
What makes your company truly innovative?
SOMPO is the largest general insurer in Japan with over 100 years in operation across 30 countries with over 80,000 employees. Always eager to discover new frontiers, SOMPO is transforming into a global force for advanced technology and innovation; especially one that advocates sustainability through digital research and development, cybersecurity and InsurTech.
We Adapt – We translate and localize our new global brand vision as a theme park for security, health, and wellbeing for our internal and external stakeholders into a digitalization effort to improve customer experience and all touchpoints, driving efficiency and revenue. Especially in the current VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world with constant seismic changes and uncertainties caused by climate change, global pandemic, and economic developments. Being highly adaptable is fundamental.
We Experiment – Over the recent few years, SOMPO has accumulated over 100 proof-of-concepts (POCs) worldwide with support from our three digital labs in Silicon Valley, Israel and Japan. Many are already in production making an impact to our business. We will elaborate more on four of the POCs in this article.
We Innovate – An innovation roadmap to transform our growing retail market in Asia from being digitally active to digitally competitive is in place. Changing our culture is the key for SOMPO to be a leading example as an innovative company offering solutions to our customers beyond insurance.
What are the major goals and results obtained from your ongoing innovation strategy?
In Asia, excluding Japan, SOMPO Asia focuses more on non-life insurance and we are now the Top 10 Largest Non-Life Insurance Companies in Indonesia and Malaysia. With more than 70 years of trusted presence across 14 markets in the region, SOMPO Asia has been transforming with the global trend of sustainability and digitalization by implementing initiatives using cutting edge technology and InsurTech to improve customer experience at all touchpoints, driving efficiency and revenue.
One of them was the launch of Longan Parametric Weather Insurance in Thailand in early 2019. Longan is a major export crop and longan farmers face high risks from the impact of drought and other weather calamities. Satellite data was gathered and analyzed by Sompo Global Weather before utilizing to develop this innovative product to assist the farmers in managing their risks.
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is another technology that the SOMPO Group has been using to research and develop innovative solutions. Since 2016, Sompo Digital Labs have been set up in Tokyo Japan, Silicon Valley USA, and Tel Aviv Israel. Collectively, the labs have been identifying innovative start-ups and partnering with them to create new products and services for a digitally savvy generation.
SOMPO Asia has also been collaborating with Infocomm Media Development Authority, a Singapore government agency, in their Open Innovation Platform (OIP) to match problem owners to solution providers, especially innovative start-ups who dare to think out of the box.
Through OIP, SOMPO Asia found the perfect partner, Zumata – a company that builds A.I.-powered chatbots – to develop a digital solution to seamlessly handle end-to-end customer journey from enquiries to performing sales transactions and post-sales follow-ups. The POC that was recently completed in Singapore and the Philippines was especially useful during the recent lockdown due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Customers do not need to leave their homes and they are able to enjoy a comprehensive purchasing experience at their fingertips. This initiative has gone live in the Philippines subsidiary, PGA Sompo, in early June, while production deployment in Sompo Insurance Singapore is underway.
Another initiative that SOMPO Asia’s Digital Team has developed using A.I. is the A.I. Fraudulent Claims Detection. The team wanted a solution that could expedite the current manual claims reviewing process and improve customers’ claims experience, including a quicker payout. A machine-learning solution was developed to process, identify, and rank suspicious travel and personal accident claims. All suspicious cases are filtered for further investigation by human specialists.
This project was in partnership with AI Singapore under their flagship 100 Experiments Program. In the pilot run at Sompo Insurance Singapore, there was an improvement of 90% in spotting fraudulent claims. 10-20% of their customers whose claims have cleared the application were able to receive their claims payment within minutes. They previously had to wait for days and even weeks.
Internal employees could also use the time spent on manual filtering to develop higher capabilities and skill sets for suspicious case analysis and investigations. Production deployment in Sompo Insurance Singapore was launched in end-June 2020.
In the recent Singapore Business Review Technology Excellence Awards, we won the A.I. Award for General Insurance with this A.I. Fraudulent Claims Detection technology.
Through our annual qualitative and quantitative market research, we listen to what our customers across Asia want and need. Using these consumer and industry insights, SOMPO Asia has been building an innovation roadmap to transform our growing retail market from being digitally active to digitally competitive. What customers want in this current age of digitalization are solutions to be convenient, quick and cashless.
This gives an opportunity for SOMPO Asia’s subsidiary in Thailand to leverage the country’s over 44 million LINE users to be the first insurer to launch on-demand travel insurance on the LINE platform, incorporating Slice ICS as a global InsurTech partner. Thailand has the second largest LINE app users in Asia after Japan with more than 63% of its population active on the social platform.
Thai people love traveling and Japan is one of their popular destinations. Being a Japanese brand promising the highest quality of service, SOMPO Asia decided to leverage this trend and launch our proprietary travel insurance product, TravelJoy, on Sompo Insurance Thailand’s LINE. Available in English and Thai, customers are now able to purchase their travel insurance for less than USD20 in under 3 minutes. Within the first three months after launch, there was 100% increase in travel policy sales (more than 1,200 policies) with a conversion rate of 40%.
How is a culture of innovation achieved across your company?
Build cross-functional innovators – Build a multi-department team of innovators across the global and regional digital, IT, branding, marketing, sales, and other functions with a clear roadmap to lead the company through transformation.
Train employees to embed into transformative culture – Our SOMPO Design Thinking Ideation Workshops focusing on enhancing the customer journey and experience, and Innovation Management System that have completed training for more than 100 employees across Asia.
Competition & compensation – Through SOMPO’s internal open innovation competition, “Now, Everyone Can Innovate”, we turn ideas into commercial business-impacting projects. Currently, we are running a design thinking competition: Innovating our Customer Experiences across the 12 retail offices in Asia. Employees are free to submit individual or team ideas on a digital portal within 30 days. After which, the shortlisted finalists will be open to all the employees for public voting and a POC will be created based on the winning idea.
How does your company manage the overall innovation process?
Partnering with an agency, we design our own roadmaps. Our projects adopt an agile methodology, whereby an idea informed by customer insights is formulated to market fast through several sprints.
Insights → Ideation workshops → MVP test → Refine → Measure → Refine again until ready for production for A/B testing market
Most projects are driven by the center of excellence in SOMPO Asia, helmed by a cross-functional steering committee. Innovation in Asia sits within the regional digital and branding team, which also collaborates with other global functions to form the global innovation platform. One of our global digital projects is supported by Accenture Japan.
A typical process starts by building informal networks to garner the local subsidiaries’ senior management’s support and buy-in across the region. Once a project is formalized, the current APAC digital and branding team will take on new FTEs to push for innovation agenda.
This is a perfect ecosystem example of how advanced financial services, insurance products, and technology can partner to create an innovative service and reinvent customer experience. SOMPO wants to be recognized as an integrated global brand that offers more than insurance, a theme park of services that provides solutions to ensure our customers’ security, health and wellbeing.
Download the full paper "Innovation in insurance: The end of insurance as we know it" and read the other exclusive interviews.