Back in late 2016, I vividly recall the bright growth predictions for insurance technology – with Singapore poised to be at the centre of this brave new insurance world. Now that 2017 is nearing an end, we can look back and find a bizarre turn of events.

On the start-up side, the market appears still consolidated: The usual names keep appearing, and it is good to see that many of them have grown into much more significant companies over the course of a year. Then, we saw the launch of widely-anticipated Singapore Life, the first life insurance firm to launch from scratch in Singapore for decades. Still, it would be a stretch to say InsurTech grew from strength to strength; we seem to have remained at the cusp of the revolution many predicted to unfold over the course of 2017.

On the corporate side, developments are encouraging however, considering the industry’s foregone pace of change. Vast improvements to digital service channels and the increasing availability of digital, direct and self-customisable products is a very positive contribution to industry modernisation. But is that the full, accurate picture? A closer look reveals a slightly different reality. When looking at corporate digitisation and innovation efforts, we often need not look far before we discover the name of a start-up responsible for the technology build of such initiatives. This aligns with my prediction earlier this year that InsurTech in Singapore and the region at large will mainly express itself through mutually beneficial partnerships between start-ups and corporates.

Part of the reason we see an increasing degree of collaboration is the realism insurers are practising in the face of the change ahead. Unlike banks, which have already had to make significant strides into the digital arena, many insurers still rely firmly on offline sales and service channels. From what I have seen so far, this makes many of them highly susceptible to new approaches – provided, of course, that compliance is accounted for, and a driving force is evangelising the new technology to be applied. Start-ups prove to be an ideal avenue for operational modernisation as they require a lot less resources 0n both sides, are fast-moving and relatively good at adjusting their product to individual company demands. Further, it appears insurers are realising the need for new processes in setting up collaborations or procuring the products and services of young, rapidly evolving companies: Standard operating procedure may simply stand in the way of getting the job done fast and effectively.

This development is extremely encouraging, and is expected to lead to valuable skills and knowledge transfer, in both directions. Just like the mounting flow of talent from to start-ups to corporates and vice versa – not just in FinTech – this can be hailed the fanfare of a progressively developing collaborative economy transforming the financial sector as we have come to know it. This is good news for the end user, who benefits from vastly improved customer experience. At this years’ Customer Experience Asia Excellence Awards, I was delighted that we were able to honour a large representation of financial firms with a place on the podium. Now, in place of leaving you with a grand prediction of what 2018 may have in store, allow me to close with a simple, exciting and irrefutable truth: Change is coming.

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Philipp Kristian is an innovation leader in Singapore and expert in building trust and value in the digital age. His eclectic experience spans across innovation strategy in Fortune 500 financial services, startup advisory and entrepreneurship, and he currently focuses on Fintech and Insurtech. From blockchain to artificial intelligence, smart contracts to chat bots, robo-advisory, alternative investments, to reimagining insurance altogether, he is deeply immersed in pioneering initiatives.In a whirlwind career across Europe and Asia, Philipp shaped new value propositions and experiences in startups and corporates. He was FutureBrand Singapore's inaugural innovation strategist, joined LumenLab, MetLife's first R&D hub as a founding member and then moved to Manulife's newly minted Asia LOFT. He is a St. Gallen Symposium Leader of Tomorrow, KAIROS Society ASEAN Fellow and alum of the dschool, a global leader in design thinking education.Philipp loves to enrich the innovation domain by sharing creations and ideas in preeminent publications and conferences — including The Economist Intelligence Unit, Techsauce Summit, Marketing Magazine and local tech publication e27, where he blogs on FinTech and InsurTech. As an evangelist of Asia's start-up ecosystems, he organises DrinkEntrepreneurs, a well-known startup event series with a global footprint.
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