George Kesselman is one of the first individuals to spearhead the Insurtech movement in Asia by founding Insurtech Asia Association. His new startup, Anapi is aiming to build the future of Insurance. Today you get an exclusive first look at George’s latest ambitious endeavor.
Having spent four years in the region, Asia will always hold a special place in my heart.
When I was preparing to leave Asia at the beginning of 2017, I was a bit of unsure of which path I was going to go – both in terms of industry and geography. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to pursue a career in tech.
Fortunately, a conversation in February 2017 with my good friend and former colleague at Prudential helped showed me the way. This friend and colleague is George Kesselman.
As we sat having lunch at a Korean restaurant in downtown Kuala Lumpur, he opened my eyes to what Insurtech was and the opportunities that it presented to transform the Insurance industry.
As some of you know, I did some work with George as part of Insurtech Asia Association last year.
This year, my focus became more on the US and George’s focus more so on his new company, Anapi.
This week, I caught up with George to find out more about Anapi as well as what has been happening in the region.
In order to know George, it’s important to understand his background
George started in the Insurance industry by working with three incumbents; Prudential plc, AXA and then AIG. He and I met as part of Prudential’s global talent mobility program.
All of his Insurance experience has been in Asia, primarily Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia.
‘I’ve always been drawn to solve problems. I’ve grown to love Insurance the more I worked in it because the product really resonated with me. The ability to try and help people when things go wrong fundamentally appeals to me’, George shared with me.
He went on to add, ‘The more work I did in Insurance, the more I realized that solving the big problems and fixing Insurance from within was an exceptionally difficult task and that was a very eye opening thing for me. It’s very difficult to change anything from the status quo and at that point I started thinking that if I could not solve this problem from within, how can I solve these problems?’.
One of the biggest problems that he saw, specifically in his last role, related to claims.
‘The variability of claims was something that really bothered me because it is at the core and heart of Insurance. You want to do what is fair and as quickly as possible, but you also have to be aware of fraud risk too. In order for me to fix claims, the products needed to be fixed too, because ultimately if the products are more robust, the claims process are going to be more onerous’.
Towards the end of 2014/beginning of 2015, he left the corporate world, started traveling the region and other parts of the world to explore this concept of Insurtech. Eventually he founded and launched Insurtech Asia Association in April 2016.
His thought was, ‘maybe the way to solve Insurance problems is not by trying to solve it from within but by trying to bring in innovative startups and Insurtech to solve the problems together with Insurance companies’.
‘We have had a pretty good success with it (the Association). There has been more awareness started through meetups and roadshows in the the region. We clearly saw that there was a lot of pent up interest and demand from the Insurers to do work together with a startups. At same time, I came to a realization during the middle of last year that much of the problems being solved were pretty narrow in scope. Somebody was solving a little bit of better distribution, incrementally better service or a product proposition that was slightly tweaked and/or more customer friendly’, he explained to me.
‘That’s where it really dawned on me that in order for you to change the fundamentals of the Insurance you need to change all three pillars at the same time’.
What are the three pillars and what is Anapi?
An means ‘safety’ in Chinese (安) and API is application programming interface. Anapi is building an API-first Insurtech that is catering to digital ecosystems.
‘Anapi rebuilds the fundamentals of insurance from product, to service and distribution. All three, at the same time, with a digital DNA’.
- Distribution – Distribution comes through an API, so any digital business looking to provide Insurance can offer it through a single standard API. ‘We believe this is powerful because in our case, digital partners don’t need to integrate with Insurance company A for one product and Insurance company B for another product. We are developing a digital pipe that is highly scalable’, George explained to me.
- Product – He further went on to say, ‘through the initial partnerships we have had, we realized we also needed to redefine the product, because if you have a new pipe, but you’re pumping something that is more of a traditional product, it will not work. So, we started co-creating new digital products with Insurance carriers and reinsurers that are much more data driven and smaller in scale, rather than the all-encompassing bundled products that are currently on the shelf. By redefining the product, it makes claims a lot more seamless, which is one of the key things that was on my mind when building Anapi’,
- Service – Lastly, Kesselman added, ‘If we cannot redefine claims and cannot make something that is absolutely seamless, then there is little point to do it. Because our products are very clean and digitally-oriented, they are binary in terms of risk, which leaves little room for interpretation in the event of a claims. Having products that are simple allow you to easily define the rules for paying claims, and when you connect to a payment system, as we have just done with a bank in Singapore, then the claims decision can be quick, with payment going directly to the client’s bank account.
The combination of having a simple product through a standard API, means that the data collection for issuing a policy will be easier at the front end, as well as claims payout on the backend.
George shared with me that the first risk they are looking at is travel/flight delay, then health/telehealth and then Cyber Insurance.
Anapi is a technology enabler that will partner with Insurance carriers and reinsurers to offer digital-first products. George has indicated that they don’t have ambitions to get an MGA or an insurance license.
George did share with me that announcements are coming in August in regards to some more details around the product and partners. Stay tuned…
What’s happening in the rest of the region?
Lastly, George and I discussed some of the recent happenings across the Asia region. I wrote about Asia last November and have been following the space closely.
Getting perspectives from someone on the ground there is always interesting.
On a macro-level, George shared that he feels like the interest and excitement around Insurtech has started to plateau or even slow down. Part of this is due to the fact that there are no real big digital-first challengers in the region that are making noise (with exception of Singapore Life, FWD in certain markets and Ping An and Zhong An in China).
Further, due to the existing, primarily tied-distribution networks across the region, it is difficult for some carriers to expand into digital only products.
As such, many of the carriers in the region are focused on improving various parts of the value chain and giving better tools for customers and agents.
On a more micro level, some of the interesting developments we discussed were:
- Thailand has started seeing some movement with the recent launch of Fairdee along with talks of a potential investment in Roojai by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
- On an ecosystem front, there have been a few interesting moves, including Allianz’s investment in Go-Jek and partnership with 11street, the partnership between Grab and Chubb, and Sun Life’s partnership with Lazada.
- In Japan, Tokio Marine’s investment into Metromile and how it can impact wider auto market in Japan will be something to watch
- India, which I covered a few weeks ago, has tremendous opportunity and we have seen some further investment there with online Insurer Digit last week.
- And in China, Ping An continues to make big moves, most recently with the launch of its accelerator.
Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.
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