Metropolitan Cover2Go first in the world to bring insurance to low-income, unbanked market with SilverBridge (previously known as SDT).
Metropolitan, one of South Africa’s largest insurance companies, is one of the first insurance providers in the world to deliver products to the traditionally under-serviced, low-income, unbanked market.It has done this through innovative product design, marketing and service channel development, and by partnering with SilverBridge Software Solutions for the Exergy life assurance application to administer policies in the new company, Metropolitan Cover2Go.
People in the low-income market have a clearly identified and articulated requirement for insurance, but they are difficult to reach as they are typically unbanked and geographically dispersed, and costs prohibit reaching these customers in conventional ways. The reasons for this range from complexity in the sales methods to the high costs associated with supporting legacy technology.
“Using SilverBridge’s Exergy, we delivered a full-blown offering so quickly that it caught the market by surprise,” says Raymond Africa, head of IT, Process and Infrastructure at Metropolitan Cover2Go. “We have done significant research globally, and as far as we can see, we are first in the world to be able to market Cover2Go’s particular products using the channels that we do, and using a model that permits straight-through processing.
“We had a vision for the low-income, unbanked market to access insurance cover at an affordable price point, and through new channels, using new payment methods.
“Our objectives were simple: to attract and acquire new business through new products, new distribution channels, or new payment methods, and any combination of these, while keeping costs to an absolute minimum.”
The low-cost delivery channels Cover2Go has created to deliver insurance products are, among others:
- Cellphone: People purchase directly via their cellphone. Given that South Africa has one of the highest penetrations of cellular technology in the world, this is the ideal channel through which the public can buy products.
- The Internet: This is a must-have delivery channel in any market, but given the low penetration of the Web in the low-income market, it is not yet ideal. However, the company is gearing itself for this rapidly expanding method too.
- Terminals in spaza shops: With tens of thousands of terminals, running Microsoft Terminal Services or any other protocol of similar nature, Metropolitan Cover2Go allows members of the public to buy products directly. The terminals are linked to the Exergy Express back-end via GPRS and connect directly with realtime, straight-through processing, with no manual intervention at all. Cover2Go aims to take this model into other markets in Africa where such technology is already tried and trusted.
- Off-the-shelf insurance: Through an off-the-shelf funeral product distributed through a national retail chain in South Africa, Cover2Go has once again demonstrated that the unbanked, low-income, cash market can be included in the population that enjoys cover. Tapping into the systems that exist in the retail chain, Cover2Go has developed a product that is easy for the customer to acquire and activate and the monthly premiums are payable in-store in cash.
Africa notes: “Cover2Go started out with its own, in-house-developed application, written in Delphi. Although it allowed us to get out of the starting blocks very quickly, we soon discovered that we were reinventing the wheel. We then decided on getting an off-the-shelf application that would meet a number of criteria.”
Those criteria were:
- A more robust policy administration system that would dovetail with the current contact centre -and possibly replace it.
- The application had to be written in an accredited international language, and comply with international architecture standards.
- It had to seamlessly integrate with AccPac and Cover2Go’s partner systems, including their SMS/e-mail facility and automatic take-on.
- It had to integrate with Microsoft tool-sets such as SharePoint and Outlook as well as the Partner workflow system.
- Finally, Cover2Go was looking for a supplier that was prepared to partner with the business and “was as passionate about the business as its champions”.
SilverBridge fulfilled all criteria, and together with Cover2Go and its development partners was able to implement Exergy’s base implementation model as configured in the Exergy Express version, in just two months in a fast-track process, going live in April 2008, with SilverBridge staff doing the actual implementation and a Cover2Go team providing detail and specifications. The application, written in Microsoft’s .NET framework, runs in a 64-bit VMWare infrastructure against Microsoft’s SQL Server database.
Exergy has conferred a number of benefits. Its flexibility has allowed Cover2Go to design and bring new products to market, quickly and easily. It is a stable and mature product, with all the service-oriented architecture (SOA) interfaces for integration and using best-of-breed third-party tools.
“But our biggest benefits have been seamless and automatic policy issuance, and the ability to reduce the cost per policy,” adds Africa. “The Express implementation has served as an enabler of our business objectives – it is these objectives which drive our business. As an organisation we subscribe to the view that business drives technology decisions, rather than technology driving business decisions. Exergy fits into this philosophy, and will play a significant role in enabling our strategy.”
The application has been written in such a way, and was delivered at such a price point that it allowed Cover2go to offer insurance products at an affordable cost per policy. Cover2go has ambitious plans for Exergy:
- It will develop a contact centre front-end to replace its existing Delphi application;
- Policy number warehousing, where Exergy is pre-loaded with policy numbers, along with attachment of supporting voice files;
- Voice logger integration;
- Extensive reporting, using the suite of Microsoft products;
- Data mining, running against a time-based snapshot of operational data; and
- Workflow integration into Microsoft’s SharePoint and internal end-to-end business workflow
“We have enjoyed working with the SilverBridge team,” adds Africa, “finding them trustworthy and reliable. The application itself is robust and powerful.”
“Exergy enabled Cover2Go as it represents a new view of insurance,” says Freda du Toit from SilverBridge, a company in the JSE AltX-listed SilverBridge Holdings group. “It represents a break from the past as it encapsulates current best practice, does away with the baggage of legacy systems, and enables new process models and delivery channels.”
SilverBridge operates in 12 African countries and clients include Metropolitan International (Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria), Cover2go, Real People and Standard General.