Singlife CEO shares why going digital early on helped with changing times

Digital insurer, Singlife’s chief executive officer, Walter De Oude shares how being digital helped the company through the transitions and what’s in store for the platform’s future.

The new normal we live in currently requires strict social distancing, be it at lunch with our colleagues or having business meetings with potential clients. Due to the emergence of these new practices, businesses across the world have had to accommodate accordingly.

Several saw great difficulty in doing so early on while others having had implemented work-from-home practices breezed through the new normal.

“I think the main thing about Covid-19 was, it reduced the interaction between people causing any businesses to rely on interactions to be affected. In Singlife, we ramped up the adoption of digital technology on the advisory side allowing us to execute consultations with potential clients digitally. This was done early on allowing to us to easily adapt to the sudden change in circumstances.” says Walter de Oude, Chief Executive Officer of Singlife.

Very much like Malaysia’s Movement Control Order, the island nation had announced circuit breaker measures early April.

“I think we were very-well prepared, we were quite lucky that being digital has been part of our operations even prior to the pandemic. The stability of our communication platforms gave us more confidence so we didn’t have any worries with the transition,” he says, referring to the series of Zoom attacks that took place when the work-from-home practice took place globally.

“For us, we have seen quite the opposite. The company hired 20 percent more staff in the last couple of months and growth has been consistent ever since,” Walters tells BusinessToday. He believes the lack of face-to-face meetings while had its downsides, at the same time offered a lot more. “It helped us make communication among employees more collaborative and offering us more time to get more work done.”

“The pandemic has shown us that meetings aren’t as useful as they seemed before. However, I do believe in the necessity of them during townhalls to discuss certain matters that may not be suitable for digital platforms,” he says.

The insurance platform existing in a digital ecosystem contrary to its other counterparts in Singapore also saw more growth in all segments of its business operations during the worst-hit moments of the pandemic.

With Singlife, Walter says, customers get to sign up for their account within minutes and get started. This method during the early months of pandemic in Singapore has led to an increase new sign-ups. According to Walter, the platform registered 300-400 daily signups during the period.

The Singlife Account is an insurance savings plan that earns a crediting interest rate, customers are also given the choice to take their money anytime.

On a limited time offer, Singlife is also offering retrenchment coverage on the Singlife Account. Users who are retrenched and remain unemployed for at least four months, will be able to claim a retrenchment benefit, based on their spend on the Singlife Visa debit card, for a period of three months, up to $10,000. 

Beyond the Singlife Account, the life insurance platform also offers term life, critical illness and cancer plans which can all be purchased via online.

Despite Singapore unemployment rate being at its highest, Walter says no claims have been made so far.

And leveraging on the success the pandemic offered the digital insurer, Walter says Singlife will be minising paid marketing on the Singlife Account Ads.

In terms of competition, Walter says Singlife is definitely piquing new interests among Singaporeans. “People’s mindsets are changing and there is a real appetite in the market to try new things. Singlife is offering new ways for people to invest their money and our relationship with Singaporeans have only got deeper since we started,” Walter says.

“We are currently positioning our product in the critical illness segment. We used to get customers between the age of 50 and 58 but now, 34 is the average age of our core customer. Being in a digital ecosystem has allowed us to expand our reach to the younger crowd helping us to balance our demographics,” Walter shares with BusinessToday.

As of recent, the digital insurer had also acquired a majority shareholding in Aviva’s business in Singapore and following the acquisition, Walter says Singlife now has an appetite for expansion across the region.

The insurance platform has tied up with several partners in Philippines to offer their services. The chief executive officer is currently eyeing Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

“When it comes to Malaysia, there isn’t much of a difference in the way the regulations work. The products in the insurance market tend to be very similar as well. While Malaysia is more of an agency market and tends to focus on more stable products, I believe we can bring similar offerings here (Singapore) over there,” Walter says, aiming to use one core technology to bring Singlife’s products across the region.

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