May 30, 2017
Mobile microinsurance tech player BIMA was awarded the inaugural Reuben James Summerlin (RJS) Innovation Award last night.The RJS Innovation Award was established to commemorate the memory of the late Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) Manager, Reuben Summerlin, and honour his legacy to financial inclusion in the Pacific.
The Award is bestowed upon the outstanding PFIP financial service provider partner that has made the greatest contribution to Financial Inclusion in the Pacific for that year. Innovation can help reduce some of the challenges Pacific Islanders face in accessing financial services, particularly geographical distances in accessing the nearest physical bank branch, for example.
In presenting the award, PFIP Manager Mark Flaming said that BIMA for forging the way with innovative, affordable micro-insurance products across Papua New Guinea.
“Considering insurance is mostly taken out by breadwinners to reduce the financial burden on their families in case of their death or hospitalization, and that the average Papua New Guinean household has five members, we can infer that by 2016, almost one-quarter of Papua New Guineans (24%) were in fact benefitting from this one innovative product. This is an astounding achievement in a market such as Papua New Guinea and PFIP is proud to be working with BIMA, “he added.
Globally, BIMA is a leading player in emerging market microinsurance, utilizing innovative mobile technology to reach previously uninsured populations to reach 20 million people across 15 countries with health and life insurance coverage.
BIMA began operations in Papua New Guinea in 2014, and by the end of 2016 had enrolled a phenomenal 600,000 customers, almost 85% of whom being covered by insurance for the first time. PFIP provided an investment grant to BIMA in 2014 under the European Union’s RED 2 programme, enabling BIMA to expand outreach in the underdeveloped Highlands region, through reducing delivery costs, while improving customer service.
In a country where large sections of populations in the region remain unserved or underserved by traditional insurance providers, with an estimated less than 10% of the population having coverage, BIMA is showing how applying a “how to” mentality to a business opportunity can achieve results in terms of customer access, usage and coverage. In the space of a few years BIMA identified an opportunity, created a market and changed an industry.
BIMA attributes its success to a deeply embedded customer-centric approach, focusing on meeting a key and previously unmet need of its target customers in providing protection from financial shocks resulting from hospitalization or death. To do so, BIMA created a new financial services ecosystem that involves Digicel as the mobile network operator, Capital Insurance as the underwriting insurer and BIMA as agent, utilising the competencies, expertise and infrastructure of each partner in a collaborative way.
Having proven its business model in Papua New Guinea, in 2016 BIMA embarked on another innovation through an ambitious expansion strategy, setting up a ‘Pacific Hub’ in Fiji which will offer low-cost insurance to five countries in the region. So far, this has proven successful in Fiji with over 30,000 customers holding 57,000 policies by March 2017. BIMA thus embodies a truly innovative approach to financial inclusion in the Pacific, and sets a clear example for others in the financial services sector.
The Awardee for 2016 was selected based on evidence of innovative client-centred approaches and products that best serve under-served segments of the Pacific population, leading to large-scale uptake and hence substantial impact on financial inclusion in the region.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped 1.5 million low-income Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.