Other parts of this series:
- Top insurance innovators shine despite COVID-19 cloud
- COVID-19 prompts insurers to boost healthcare innovation
- The 2021 Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards ultimate entry guide
- Innovating in insurance – one (digital) step at a time
- Innovating in insurance – high-tech meets reputational risk
- Innovation in Insurance: Platform-based portfolio protection
The annual Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards recognise the insurance world’s most innovative and inspiring projects. With the April 2 deadline to submit entries looming, I felt Southeast Asia-based insurers and insurtech firms might be inspired to hear from 2019’s overall bronze medal-winner: Singapore-based insurtech HedgeSPA.
HedgeSPA is a cloud-based investment analytics platform that helps institutional investors like insurers automate their investment processes, achieving as much as 15 percent outperformance unleveraged in less than five months.
Founder and CEO Dr. Bernard Lee says the firm was motivated to enter in 2019 largely because it was part of Accenture’s Fintech Innovation Lab. The application process was made via a dedicated website.
“Then we canvassed for votes by asking our friends and business contacts to vote with postings on social media,” says Dr Lee. “Thankfully, our friends responded.”
A cross-platform portfolio nurse
HedgeSPA’s award offering is not “a typical client-facing insurtech solution,” says Dr Lee. That can make it tricky for insurance professionals with a pure sales or underwriting background to grasp its value the first time they hear about it.
Its solution is a robust investment platform powered by AI, big data, actuarial maths and graph theory that scans a massive volume of data from the internet, subscription and in-house sources, including market, reference, historical, fundamental data and news.
It manages the long side of the portfolio and automatically performs both asset and liability management, and is designed to meet both existing and future regulatory reporting requirements.
Dr Lee says users can export their insurance policy pool information directly from Salesforce or similar platforms into its solution. HedgeSPA processes that data into relevant liability profiles against assets held, along with standard assumptions like mortality, surrender rate and maximum age.
“The HedgeSPA platform can generate automatic rebalancing recommendations along with Solvency 2-style calculations to meet capital adequacy requirements so that users can nurse any portfolios in trouble back to health in two quarters, or shift the entire distribution of portfolio outcomes to the right by a meaningful amount, like 50 to 100 basis points,” says Dr Lee.
That allows insurers or pensions providers to underwrite more competitive insurance products such as investment-linked policies or hybrid annuities, cut out middleman costs and better manage their asset pools. In that way, any excess of assets against liabilities can be booked as profits. (A video on HedgeSPA’s website has more details.)
Badge of honour
Winning the Bronze Award in 2019 helped by boosting HedgeSPA’s credibility as an insurtech solution.
“Carrying a ‘badge of honour’ from Efma-Accenture helps to ease the introduction process when we want to get into serious conversations with potential insurance or pensions users,” Dr Lee says.
The benefits filtered out from there. HedgeSPA was later shortlisted for and won other prestigious awards, like Japan’s FINOPITCH 2021 award, and it began projects with insurance firms. It also formed a partnership with Carabiner Group, a US-based registered Salesforce partner serving the finance industry, to generate actuarial parameters from policy pools to recommend portfolio changes. That connection has helped HedgeSPA in markets like Japan, says Dr Lee, where The Nikkei newspaper has introduced the company to the local finance and insurance communities.
Dr Lee says a key lesson for insurtechs looking to access the market is a simplification, particularly for those bringing innovative solutions that might fundamentally disrupt the industry.
“Invest the extra time and effort to make it easier for industry veterans to understand what you do,” he says. “Learning experts have determined that even seasoned professionals require the same information to be presented to them at least three times before they will get it.”
And, he adds, keep trying and keep pitching to as many people as you can find.
“It’s natural to be embarrassed after you fail a couple of times. Keep trying until you get it right.”
Finally, he says, take advantage of the publicity and validation benefits that contests like the Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards can bring.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Efma-Accenture awards, you can find out more in this post by my colleagues François Metzler and Steve Murphy, and you can get tips on submitting your project by reading my colleague Jean-François Gasc’s ultimate entry guide.
For now, I’ll close by saying that if you’re considering entering, please do. Participants like HedgeSPA know that taking part brings value in many areas: the chance to win, of course, but also the opportunity to show the insurance world that your firm is a recognised innovator, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in this space. It also means you can meet other industry innovators at networking events.
I look forward to seeing many applications from insurers and insurtechs based in Southeast Asia. There is so much happening in this region – and the Efma-Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards is the place to get recognised.