SINGAPORE (Nov 11): Insurance company Prudential’s corporate mission is simple: Keep on innovating to help everyone live well.

So, when it comes to catering to the changing needs of older Singaporeans, the insurer’s chief commercial officer Goh Theng Kiat tells The Edge Singapore the company plans to take that creed to heart by helping “customers live better and manage [their] healthcare costs”.

Gone are the days of insurers collecting premiums and paying for treatment when a person falls ill.

“We are looking at the way the insurance business is conducted quite differently”, Goh explains, referring to how the company now looks at its customers’ wellness holistically.

Data released by the United Nations (UN) in 2017 shows that the number of Singaporeans aged 65 and older is likely to hit 26.6% by 2035, more than double that in 2015.

With this in mind, Goh says Prudential aims to use technology to help its customers live and age better.

Since 2017, the company has adopted a “3 Ps” strategy of prevention, protection and postponement, catering to the disparate healthcare needs of its customers. Under prevention, Goh says customers are given “simple nudges” encouraging them to eat better and adopt a healthier diet. Protection, on the other hand, serves customers with existing healthcare conditions while postponement encourages immediate treatment to “delay the severity and degradation of illnesses”.

“Tech has been very helpful in this regard”, Goh says, adding that Prudential has been working on strategic partnerships to help its customers meet this 3P goal. In May, the insurer announced a collaboration with UK-based health technology and services company Tictrac to assess customers’ eating habits. Tictrac provides personalised wellness services to consumers, engaging them on their lifestyle goals and helping them lead healthier, longer lives. “This gives them a holistic view on how they are progressing towards their health and wellness goals”, he adds.

Prudential also signed a regional partnership with UK-based Babylon Health in August 2018. That union gives Prudential access to a suite of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered health services, including personal health assessment and treatment information, empowering users to proactively manage their health.

These initiatives serve to address Singaporeans’ concerns on healthcare costs as evidenced in Prudential Global Group’s Healthy for 100? Healthy Care in Singapore report compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Here, nearly half or 49% of 203 doctors surveyed expected Singaporeans to face more than one chronic disease as they live longer. These include dementia, heart problems, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer.

The report also noted the importance of enforcing preventive care at a younger age. For instance, only 45% of respondents felt that Singaporeans between 25 and 45 were proactive in preventing diabetes. This contrasts with the 66% between 45 and 65 and 69% for those aged 65 and above, a sign that people become more proactive in looking after their health as they age.

Rethinking insurance

Apart from playing an integral role in every phase of its customers’ healthcare needs, Prudential is going a step further with its innovative financial solutions. For one, it has been rewarding customers with the private hospital rider in its PRUExtra Premier policy with a 20% premium if they do not make any claims in a year. So far, Goh says over 80% of Prudential’s customers on this plan have benefited.

With better health also comes longer life expectancy. As such, the most recent policy rolled out by the insurer in September sees it extending its group insurance to corporate clients aged up to 100. “This is a huge difference from traditional group policies,” says Goh, who notes that such policies usually cover employees up to the age of 75 and include covers for hospitalisation, surgeries, and outpatient as well as dental services.

Longer life coverage also means a slew of newer policies such as the PRUActive Retirement and PRUActive Saver policies, which serve to protect customers for more years. For example, PRUActive Retirement provides Singaporeans with a “stable nest egg upon retirement” through its higher retirement income, while PRUActive Saver allows customers to fix their policy term at any number of years between 10 and 30 years and pay premiums over a period ranging between five and 30 years. The minimum amount of annual premium payable ranges between $1,200 and $5,000, depending on the length of the premium payment term.

With savings policies being fixed traditionally at 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years, Goh believes that the flexibility of PRUActive Saver enables customers to customise their savings plans according to their own needs and expenses. “We are looking to contain the rising costs of healthcare that come with a longer life expectancy, and so the policies are intended to give customers the flexibility based on the healthcare expenses they have or expect to have,” he says.

Improving customer-centricity

While Goh believes that such flexible policies will give Prudential an edge over its competitiors, he also concedes that these features alone are insufficient in reaching out to customers in the long term. “We are not just defined by our products,” he says, adding that “a good product has to be complemented by effective customer engagement”. And for this, the insurer is working with tech partners to improve the way in which it interacts with its customers.

“[We are looking to improve holistically]: customer’s [understanding] of what’s available, [policy] purchase experience and servicing or post sales [enquiries]”, Goh explains. For starters, the company’s close to 5,000 financial advisers are “digitally enabled to help them better engage customers and work smarter”.

Even so, Goh notes that customers prefer having face-to-face interactions with an adviser to air their concerns and decide on the best policy. The company uses PRUForce, a customer relationship management solution it co-developed with software company Salesforce, to help advisers manage their prospects’ information and keep track of their interactions. PRUForce is linked to PRUOne Express, Prudential’s point-of-sale tool that allows customers to get their policy illustration seamlessly within seconds of a sale.

Launched in September, it allows customers to get their policy illustration seamlessly within seconds of a sale.

In line with this, Prudential has been trialling a digital-based underwriting solution to approve policies more quickly since April. Depending on the type of policy, approvals typically take a day to a week. The new trial, however, performs real-time risk assessment so policy applications can be made in minutes while policies are issued in two hours. All this is done swiftly with customers answering a series of questions tailored to their profiles. They will know almost immediately whether their application for insurance cover is successful or if it requires further review.

Goh believes this expedited process will make the buying and selling experience hassle-free for both consumers and advisers. For now, the digital underwriting feature is only available for PruTriple Protect, a critical illness plan that provides protection against multiple illnesses. Over 6,500 PruTriple Protect applications have been made through this platform since January, and now the rules-based engine and analytics platform developed by UK-based tech firm UnderwriteMe is to be extended to Prudential’s complete suite of savings, investment, protection and medical plans by 2020.

And to address customers’ ad hoc queries and enhance its post-sales service delivery, in 2017, the insurer rolled out AskPRU — a chatbox to help advisers respond to customers’ queries about their policies, anytime and anywhere. According to Prudential, since the introduction, there has been a 40% decline in its contact centre volume.

Tech-ing the way forward

Leveraging the latest technology remains key for Prudential. To that end, the firm invests £400 million ($704 million) in technology across its 12 Asian markets annually. Goh says the company is also always on the lookout for the right talent, with digital experience from various sectors.

As such, Prudential also makes heavy investment in its human capital. For example, it is looking to improve the productivity and capabilities of its staff by sending them for courses such as those by SkillsFuture, so they are up to date with the latest trends in the technology sphere.

Through the insurer’s strategic partnerships with the Singapore FinTech Association and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, solutions are co-developed to address areas such as improving customer engagement.

For its SME customers, the insurer launched PRUWorks, its digital platform providing convenient access to insurance, employee benefits and business solutions based on the size, needs and budget of corporate clients. The insurer has also tied up with organisations such as ClassPass, the subscription-service for fitness classes, in line with its motto of encouraging customer wellness.

In short, Prudential’s myriad of offerings look to groom advisers and create better policies that contribute to its cause of helping customers live well.