2022: the year that tech gets human

By Marius Botha*

Marius Botha is Group CEO of African InsurTech aYo Holdings

Until recently, digital transformation was mistakenly assumed to be a matter of tagging the word ‘tech’ to the end of practically any industry, throwing some technology at it, and sitting back and waiting for disruption to happen.

FinTech, and particularly InsurTech, is no different. There’s no doubt that the traditional insurance industry is in major need of an overhaul. But in 2022, digital transformation is firmly focused on the customer.

Here are my top four trends to watch in the InsurTech industry this year – particularly across Africa, where the growth and diversification of telecommunications is fuelling an unstoppable wave of financial services uptake.

A greater focus on customer scalability

 A big learning for any tech company is that what worked yesterday doesn’t necessarily work today. We’ve got to start learning to unlearn as we try to work out how to scale in a world of changing customer behaviour. I see more InsurTech companies getting brutal with products and services that fail or lack the potential to scale, and a greater focus on testing, questioning, and re-creating products and solutions from the ground up that will scale whilst still focusing on solving past “neglected problems” for customers.

The big questions the industry will be asking in 2022 are: how do we re-learn what matters to customers? How do we go beyond offering standard products to giving our customers more choice in how they meet their personal financial needs? But to do so in efficient, scalable ways.

The rise of co-opetition

 We live and work in a sharing economy. The days of trying to dominate every area in your industry are long gone. You can’t be a specialist in everything, and it’s simply impossible for single industry players to cost-effectively solve all financial inclusion challenges on the continent. To scale, we’re going to see more InsurTechs embracing symbiotic partnerships where each partner plays to their strengths.

Seamless, omnichannel CX as a basic requirement

 Smooth digital customer experience (CX) is no longer a unique selling point. It’s table stakes. We’re tracking a young, growing population with increasing digital skills, who have access to more affordable smartphones. Ask yourself: why should they spend more time on your digital real estate compared to other product providers? Omnichannel ecosystems are deliberately blurring the lines between physical and online, between agents and self-service, and between people and bots in the pursuit of the optimal customer experience. As many tech companies are finding, providing a seamless experience that works for all customers across various platforms is difficult to deliver.  We’ll keep on iterating to get the “basics” right.

Making payments easier

 Just as we work to provide an omnichannel experience for our customers, the industry is grappling with the challenge of evolving our payment and collections platforms to an omni-payment approach. In other words, how we allow our customers to pay for financial services in the way that they choose at any given point in time – cash, debit order, subscriptions, airtime, mobile money, and even data (which is not yet a currency?) In Africa, airtime remains a challenge, as there’s a huge problem of people’s airtime balances being depleted by rogue subscriptions that they unknowingly subscribed to. In 2022, the industry will have to find better and more customer friendly ways of collecting payments/premiums.

The bottom line? There’s no doubt that the InsurTech industry must continue to use technology to reduce transactional friction, to be able to deliver cost-effective products and services to broader audiences, and to provide more choice. But in 2022, we’ve got to focus on using our technology capabilities to improve every customer’s experience whilst we pursue scale and efficiency. That’s key as we follow a deliberate strategy to become a Financial Services Platform that all people on the African continent can access and use easily.

*Marius Botha is Group CEO of African InsurTech aYo Holdings

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