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NTUC Income: A snack-sized innovation

Publish date: 06 May 2021
Max Tiong, Vice President, Digital Transformation at NTUC Income, told Efma’s about how their SNACK innovation is designed to meet changing customer expectations in Singapore.
How has the advent of digital and data has made this possible?

The pace and adoption of digital and data has been increasing in the last few years. From paying with e-wallets for online shopping, food delivery, and ride-hailing services, to checking on monthly utilities bills and social security details, almost everything can be done with a smartphone today. Also, the Singapore government’s efforts to promote digital services such as MyInfo via SingPass login (SingPass is the national digital identity framework initially developed for online transactions between citizens and over 60 government agencies) has allowed any SingPass app user to be able to sign up for Income’s digital insurance products seamlessly.

As customers become increasingly digital-first and are making purchase decisions that are not just lifestyle-driven but also based on simplicity, flexibility and choice, we knew we must evolve our insurance propositions to meet customers’ changing expectations in the digital-first economy.

Innovating with like-minded insurtech solution providers and partners has boosted Income’s technical capabilities to readily and seamlessly integrate with other digital ecosystem partners. This allows us to deliver innovative digital insurance products tailored to modern lifestyles, at an increased speed and scale.  Ground-breaking innovations like SNACK by Income reimagine the way that consumers today engage with, purchase, and obtain insurance protection – prioritizing simplicity, flexibility, and choice.

SNACK is a testament to Income’s customer-centric approach to innovation; bringing greater value and convenience to the customer experience by reducing manual processes and paperwork, as people engage with and enjoy enhanced access to insurance products that are increasingly tailored to their needs. When approved, claims are also paid out to the insured via their PayNow digital bank accounts (PayNow is a peer-to-peer funds transfer service available to retail customers of participating banks in Singapore).

Technology has certainly enabled Income to be agile in the evolving marketplace for insurance and will continue to play a critical role in how we reimagine insurance for the benefit of our customers. These include the use of AI in dynamic pricing to help us develop and grow new business models such as usage-based insurance and modular subscription-based insurance, enabling us to bring to market more groundbreaking solutions like SNACK.

What specific challenges did you have to overcome in developing and launching this? 
Launching and implementing a novel concept in the market meant that it was also in its way, a first for many who worked with us – internal stakeholders, vendors, partners, and customers. Together with our internal stakeholders, we were constantly exploring unchartered territories and innovative workarounds.

This includes pricing the insurance coverage of a single micro-policy, creating a product construct that is within legal and regulatory requirements as well as testing and refining a design that is intuitive and fits the customer journey we envisioned. So, it was natural that we faced some skepticism for such a novel product, but more importantly, for partners who share the same vision as us and believed in the SNACK by Income concept, it brought to life synergies to co-create this product together with us. It was also interesting to see how versatile this modular approach was, and how it has since allowed us to plug and play seamlessly into our partners’ platforms.

As we tested and refined the product together, our relationship with partners evolved and sparked off new propositions within SNACK, such as SNACKUP, which created a wider network effect and brought SNACK closer as a product to the lifestyle and e-commerce sectors. On the consumer side, bringing this product to market meant that we had to deliver a clear understanding of such a novel concept. Coming up with the right messaging and educating users about SNACK was key, and the multiple rounds of customer testing and iterations provided a good foundation to ensure our messaging was relatable and relevant to our target audience.

Are there updated numbers on those three key achievements - I ask because those numbers look to be to the end of December, and we are now at the end of the next quarter. Also, is this likely to be extended elsewhere (does NTUC Income have partnerships elsewhere in the region, or could it work with other players to roll out a similar offering elsewhere)?

SNACK’s customer engagement has grown by 50% in the most recent January-March quarter this year. We are currently working with partners to identify opportunities to bring SNACK’s architecture and product offerings to consumers in neighboring countries in the South East Asian region. These partners include insurance companies as well as lifestyle brands. As these commercial discussions are still ongoing, we are unable to disclose any partners by name right now.

What benefits does NTUC Income derive from winning the March innovation award? Has it won other awards for its product? 

Winning the Efma-Accenture Insurance Innovation of the Month Award for March 2021 is indeed a privilege and an honor for Income. More importantly, it shows us that we are on the right path with regards to innovation and making insurance relevant and accessible to the modern consumer and also to the millennial generation. Innovation is never an easy journey and it takes courage, perseverance, and faith when the going gets tough and we hope that winning this award sends a message of encouragement to all our vendors and partners who have been on this journey with us, and will also inspire future partners to embark on this exciting journey with us, to break new ground. To date, the other awards won by SNACK are:
· US CIO 100 Award 2021
· Singapore Business Review Technology Excellence Award 2021 (Mobile - Life Insurance)
· SG:D Techblazer Award 2020 – Best Adoption (Enterprise)
· Mob-Ex 2020 – Best Use of Mobile: Insurance Services - Bronze award
· 2021 Indigo Awards – Mobile App Design - Silver

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Customers and partners who had signed up for SNACK and SNACKUP share our belief that this product makes insurance more accessible. SNACKUP takes insurance accessibility to a higher level by including lifestyle merchants and participating brands, as they engage with their own customers by rewarding them in a new way through complimentary insurance coverage. It is still a very new concept for some people out there but we hope in time they can see how SNACK and SNACKUP are indeed game changers both within the insurance landscape and also in the larger connected ecosystem beyond insurance.