IAG defects to fintech-friendly Singapore

Insurance Australia Group is set to launch an insurtech innovation hub in Singapore, tightly embedding the insurer inside Singapore's golden age of global innovation acceleration.

The hub - Firemark Labs - will be IAG’s incubator for the splicing and stretching of start-up, research and technology partners with the goal of co-creating new products and tech development across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Tapping into the tech-savvy Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) initiative, whose diverse functions include continually driving the city-state’s promotion as a centre of innovation in the financial sector, the incubation will bind the insurer to the broader region and go some way to establishing the insurer as a foundation stone in the innovation community’s insurtech district.

According to research from Citi, IAG is well positioned moving into 2017. The insurer is sitting pretty for an estimated interim earnings target of around $415 million and $881 for the full year to June. This is well up on the net profit of $625 million struck in 2016.

Janos Barberis, founder of FinTech HK, believes there are opportunities for Australian innovators as the global fintech industry - attracted by Asia's unique investment climate and regulatory support - moves ever eastward.

“Australia’s financial services sector must look to China and Asia to get a better understanding of how this sector is developing,” Barberis said.

And, according to Julie Batch, IAG’s chief customer officer, IAG is the first Australian insurer to launch a space dedicated to insurtech in Singapore. "IAG will join a network of global innovators with hubs set up in the technology hotspot,” she added.

Wider strategy

The Firemark Labs fulfills part of IAG’s wider strategy to update customer experiences in a transforming sector through the implementation and application of data, innovation and digital technologies.

According to Batch, the Lab will be backed by IAG’s $75 million venture fund, established in December 2016 for investing in, and partnering with, start-ups and emerging growth businesses.

MAS chief fintech officer, Sopnendu Mohanty told AB+F that as the first Australian insurer-backed lab, Firemark will further add to the growing diversity of Singapore’s “vibrant” fintech ecosystem.

“IAG’s initiative presents an exciting platform for both the insurance and innovation community to come together and co-create innovative Insurtech solutions across retail and reinsurance applications for the region," he said.

“The (cooperative) will further bolster Singapore’s development as the global insurance hub."

With operations in Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Thailand, and Indonesia, IAG’s businesses underwrite close to $11 billion of premiums yearly, through it’s swag of umbrella brands, including Australia’s NRMA Insurance, NZI, State, AMI and Lumley Insurance (New Zealand); Safety and NZI (Thailand); AAA Assurance (Vietnam); and Asuransi Parolamas (Indonesia).

IAG said the ‘Firemark’ branding refers to a fire-proof metal plaque used in the 18th century to show that a building was insured and hearkens back to a (happier) time “when insurers were shaping the future of the modern industry".

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