Marrying tech and insurance

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021 00:00 |

After seeing a gap in the industry, Eunice Maina leveraged technology to bring on board Kenyans looking for personalised covers.

Harriet James @harriet86jim

After working in a technology company for over five years, Eunice Maina, CEO of Bismart Insurance Aggregator, resigned and began selling life insurance as an agent.

It is during her interaction with clients that she had a light bulb moment on how insurance and technology could be combined to create a better customer experience. 

“I was the country sales manager for micro insurance when I noticed a huge gap in the industry.

We wanted to have access to mass market with simple products and discovered the only way to reach them was through technology,” she explains.

Considering that technology would simplify products and allow the company to scale at a low cost, she pitched the idea.

However, she noticed that being a big company, the decision-making was slow yet innovation required speed in execution and iteration.

She resigned in 2017 and created her own company that would offer the quick turnaround she needed.  

Eunice Maina, founder Bismart Insurance Aggregator. Photo/COURTESY

“The company started to tackle the lack of transparency in the industry by enabling customers compare insurance benefits, exclusions and price from multiple companies on a single platform.

  Secondly, it aims at solving lack of simple and relevant products to the Kenyan market,” she notes.

 Bismart provides clients with information to enable them to compare and buy premier insurance and investment solutions at their own convenience.

It also enables uninsured Kenyans to access the service through co-creating relevant products with existing affinity groups such as saccos, schools, welfare groups, and micro-finance institutions, and connecting them to insurance companies through technology.

The clients can review and rate their providers based on their experience, which  would force the players to compete in providing the best customer experience. 

Bismart recently designed a health insurance product called AfyaSmart.

“It’s the only cover you can share with friends or relatives who are not within your nuclear family.

The minimum number of individuals who can join are four people (either friends or relatives sharing one policy),” she says.

Once a client and friends or relatives decide they want an AfyaSmart cover, they head over to the website to view packages they can buy.

Once they choose and click buy, they will be asked to put their Mpesa number.

“You will receive a push message from Mpesa where you just put your pin, then provide required documentations for all members in cover.

Once you submit, you receive your e-card on email and that’s what you use at the Afyasmart accredited hospitals to access services.” she adds.

The Chemistry and Mathematics graduate believes Kenyans should consider insurance as it is the only product that restores you back to the position you were before a loss. 

“Many Kenyans are one hospital bill away from poverty; many are selling properties to pay hospital bills.

Insurance ensures you do not need to sell what you value to pay a bill; you pay a premium and insurance will pay the bill in the event you are admitted in the hospital,” she explains 

 Eunice says one of the biggest problems Kenyans have when it comes to insurance is that they do not take time to understand what they are getting themselves into.

“It is important that a customer read the policy document once issued and if they don’t agree with terms, they can cancel the cover so long as its within 30 days from the day of issue.

Online web portals such as Bismart breaks down information for customers for them to understand what they are buying beforehand  to avoid disappointment during claim,” she says.

Eunice admits their first days were challenging as people did not believe they could buy insurance online. Insurance companies were also hesitant to list their products on their web platform.

However, through consistency and persistence, they were able to bring some on board. The pandemic was also a breakthrough moment for the innovation. 

“The pandemic created an urgent need for insurers to reach their customers online.

In 2019, we had launched Pamsmart, our white label technology as a service platform for insurance agents, brokers, banks and insurance companies to enable them distribute insurance online, which picked up during this time,” she recalls.

With Pamsmart, their focus is to enable one million Kenyans build financial resilience through insurance. 

In 2018, after learning about the Women in Tech incubator programme, she was chosen to showcase her innovation, which helped in assisting her understand human centred-design, thinking when designing and developing products. 

The programme is a partnership by Standard Chartered and Strathmore University, where women take 12 weeks under the umbrella of mentors and coaches and learn how to develop their innovations.

The top five win one million equity free grant seed funding of which Eunice won. 

“I always get to the game to win. I just applied and was invited to pitch, I was not sure what it was, but I applied anyway and thank God I was a winner.

We got Sh1.1m, which enabled us experiment and find a product customers wanted and were willing to pay for,” says the author of Sell Me this Pen, in which she shares her journey as an insurance sales agent and entrepreneur.

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