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Prudential supports people's financial and health goals with Pulse app

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner12/4/2020 06:19 AM GMT+08  • 8 min read
Prudential supports people's financial and health goals with Pulse app
Prudential believes in going on a journey with its customers, by supporting them through their health and wealth goals
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Insurance provider Prudential sees its role going beyond simply telling people to “buy insurance”. Instead, the life insurer believes in going on a journey with its customers, by supporting them through their health and wealth goals, says Ian Warford, chief information technology officer at Prudential Singapore.

The push for this mission comes as Singaporeans have one of the highest global life expectancies, at 83.6 years. Still, over half or 55% of some 1,214 residents surveyed in Prudential’s “Ready for 100” report indicated concerns over being healthy and wealthy enough to live till 100 years old.

One way the life insurer is looking to address this is with its Pulse by Prudential digital health and wellness app. Launched in April at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the app offers a suite of health features. It will soon add wealth-centric elements that are designed to support people’s financial needs, as they live longer, says Warford, who is also the chief revenue officer for wealth at Prudential Corporation Asia.

The way he sees it, what makes Pulse unique is its features addressing people’s health and wealth needs on a single platform.

With 44% of some 1,200 respondents in Prudential Singapore’s recent “Saving for 100” survey indicating doubts on either having or being able to save enough to support themselves till their passing, these features appear to be addressing a pressing societal need.

Next year, the platform will introduce Ruby, an AI-powered chatbot that can assess users’ financial needs and educate them on how best to plan their finances. The chatbot is intended to complement Prudential’s financial consultants, by providing a holistic picture of a customer’s needs.

“Insurance remains a people business. With smart technologies such as Ruby, we are able to take our understanding of the customer to a whole new level and deliver a more superior engagement experience,” Warford tells The Edge Singapore in an interview.

To illustrate this, he uses the example of a person who is keen to know how he can save up for his retirement. Once he inputs this goal on Ruby, he will be put through a series of questions covering areas such as his lifestyle, savings and spending habits, before being given suggestions on how to achieve his goal. Users looking for more in depth financial advice will also have the option on Ruby to connect with a financial consultant — either virtually or face-to-face. Warford notes that Ruby’s AI capabilities, “when combined with the emotional intelligence of a financial consultant, helps provide a more consistent and seamless experience for customers”.

Another possible addition to Pulse is a Wallet feature that users can potentially tap on to pay for their premiums, receive claims and collect rewards, in a convenient way.

Health is wealth
Prudential’s motto is, if its customers are healthy, it is healthy as an organisation. The insurer has put this into practice with features on Pulse that serve to prevent, protect and postpone the onset of chronic diseases in its users.

One way it is doing so is through its AI-powered Symptom Checker, an interactive platform which provides users a better understanding of the symptoms they may be experiencing. It also directs them to healthcare professionals should they need further advice. A sepa rate feature gives users the option to consult a doctor virtually at any time of the day.

Another feature on Pulse called Healthcheck puts users through a virtual assessment and provides insights on chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension they may be susceptible to, based on their responses to a questionnaire. Findings are subsequently presented on a “Digital Twin”, which is a graphical illustration of the human body.

More recently, the app offers tools such as the calculation of users’ body mass index (BMI) and wrinkle index based on a selfie users upload. It also allows users to connect their wearables onto the app to track their weight and stress levels.

These health features were rolled out to address a worrying trend: Singaporeans spend an average of 10.6 years in ill health, with two in five aged 60 and above grappling with three or more chronic illnesses. Through the health features on Pulse, Prudential is looking to be a partner in users’ health journey by understanding their health concerns and providing tips on smarter lifestyle choices.

Since its launch, Pulse has beendownloaded over 120,000 times in Singapore, says Warford. He notes that the number goes up to over 12 million downloads across 11 Asian markets including countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Millennials aged between 20 and 30 years old form a significant number of Pulse users in the region.

Interestingly, the app’s features are built according to the needs of its users in the different countries. For instance, Pulse’s Malaysia vesion includes a “Gout Busters” feature which has information on the causes of gout as well as the health products that can prevent it. Warford adds that such features can be offered across the geographies that Pulse is offered in, since it is developed on a “single platform” model.

SEE:Prudential Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore in collaboration to help SMEs grow

Journeying with customers
While the Covid-19 health-cum-economic crisis has accelerated the push towards digitalisation, through apps like Pulse, Warford stresses that financial consultants play a critical role in serving customers.

“Insurance is still a people business at the end of the day. Technology serves as an enabler in helping us serve our customers even better,” he muses. Prudential Singapore has an agency force of over 5,000 financial consultants working to meet the needs of its customer base of over a million. The company is looking to hire 500 more financial consultants in 2021 than it did this year, in light of the awareness and interest in insurance that the Covid-19 health crisis has brought on.

Prudential has also rolled out a slew of digital solutions to support financial consultants, just as it has done for customers. One such tool is the PRURemote Advice that was launched when the “circuit breaker” kicked off in Singapore. This video conferencing and e-signature tool offered advisors a platform to provide financial advisory and complete policy sales online.

Another feature is an instant underwriting solution, which uses a rule-based engine to provide an immediate decision on a customer’s policy application. Here, customers are made to answer a set of questions, and are notified almost immediately if their application for an insurance cover is successful or requires further review. Once an application is approved, customers will receive an electronic policy contract in as quickly as two hours. In contrast, approvals previously took between a day to a week, depending on the type of policy.

Tech, the way forward
The seamless experience that Prudential offers to both its customers and financial consultants stems from the investments it has made in technology. Last year, the life insurer spent some £400 million ($715.95 million) in technology regionally.

Looking ahead, Warford shares that Prudential will continue to invest in technology so that it can support people in achieving their health and wealth goals. The Pulse app will be key in facilitating this, he says, adding that it is intended to keep “Singaporeans healthy, wealthy, and well prepared for the future that awaits [them]”.

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