Ashley Kee is the Co-Founder of Bandboo, an Insurtech Start-up that provides a Technology platform that enables people to enjoy fair and transparent insurance coverage. He shares how Bandboo intends to reinvent insurance by making it transparent and lower cost, without the hassle of going to an insurance company.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
In my previous career, I was an Investment Manager with a local Private Equity firm, my experience spanned from reviewing potential investments, due diligence process and also portfolio management. I have seen first hand how numerous companies operate and can identify with what makes a good company tick. I’m a person who believes strongly in innovation to improve efficiency. I have always looked for an alternative way to do things, to test the boundaries of systems.
I have always been involved in business ventures since I was in my teens and I see this as natural progression in my life, I see this venture as a challenge to redefine the entire Insurance Industry.
What is your business venture about?
We operate an Insurance Platform that enables users to obtain Insurance Coverage without actually going to an Insurance Company.
We see a few issues with the current Insurance landscape
1) Problem: Conflict of interest
Insurance companies pay claims off their balance sheets. Profitability year after year is possible only if they collect more premiums than they pay out in claims. As every dollar paid out in claims is a dollar less in profit for the insurance companies, this incentivises them to make it especially onerous for policyholders to successfully file a claim.
We collect a nominal membership fee for customers to join the platform. A premium is also collected, and it goes toward covering claims only. Whether we pay out 1 or 100 claims does not affect our profitability. This removes any conflict of interest inherent within traditional insurance.
2) Problem: Opaque system
Policyholders do not how their premiums are calculated and know what they are used for.
All transactions that take place on the platform are logged onto our proprietary blockchain ledger. This ledger cannot be altered and allows for an easy audit trail. Any member can view the ledger online to know what the claim payouts for a particular month are and whether other members have paid their premiums and membership fees. This ensures that there is a high level of transparency in our operations.
No insurance company in the world opens up their books to the public like we do.
3) Problem: High cost of Insurance
Insurance is too expensive for many, leading to underinsurance for a large percentage of people.
We provide a 100%, unconditional rebate of premiums not used to pay out claims. Essentially, members pay only when necessary. If there are no claims the entire membership term, all premiums collected will be refunded. This allows our members to enjoy insurance coverage at the lowest possible cost.
What is your mission at the outset?
Bandboo’s mission is to reduce the cost of Insurance for all, by offering users a form of Insurance that is the cheapest possible cost, we offer a form of Insurance coverage that is equitable and fair to users.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Peer to Peer Insurance is not a new concept, having taken off in western economies since 2011. My partners and I have been planning this for close to the past 15 months, speaking with regulators, lawyers and industry experts to identify the relevant pain points, and then using technology such as Blockchain, Machine Learning and A.I to provide a solution.
What is unique about your business?
Bandboo is not required to licensed to be an Insurance Carrier, nor is it an Insurance broker.
What we have is a platform to enable consumers to obtain insurance like coverage via a completely different business model as the public knows it. Deduction for user premiums are literally made only after the claims have been made. Its akin to paying for fire insurance only after the house has burnt down.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
Our Go to market is a three prong approach.
We currently have a tie up with a group of Insurance agents who are helping us push this product out to their existing client base, we work on a referral fee basis with this group and share a portion of the membership fee we collect with them.
We also approach large organisations to help them structure a company specific product in accordance to the needs and wants of their employees, I feel B2B is the fastest way to scale and also acquire members.
Lastly, as our product is consistent with Shariah principles, and very similar to Takaful products, we are working to introduce a shariah compatible product to the muslim community in South East Asia very shortly.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
If we deliver on offering the cheapest possible form of Insurance product in the market, I believe that customers will stay on our platform as this provides them the best possible value. We all know Insurance is often treated as a burden purchase, its more often than not an obligatory purchase people do not want to make. By keeping this cost to an absolute minimum, I am confident that consumers will stay on the platform.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Clearing the regulatory hurdle has certainly been the toughest bit for Bandboo, even though it was ultimately decided that we will not require an Insurance license to operate. The authorities take great care in ensuring that all companies, start ups inclusive are in compliance with the legal framework and operate in a responsible manner towards consumers. Hence, despite the long hours the relevant authorities put in, the engagement process took more than half a year, keeping us in limbo.
Ultimately start ups need money to survive, without a clear view on the licensing end, our initial funding and traction was derailed. Thankfully, these issues have all been sorted out.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Everything that can go wrong will go wrong , with every up immediately comes a down. As a start up, you just have to able to weather the pitfalls and have a huge pain tolerance.
The best advice possible to to make sure you don’t give up and ensure that as a team, you have to stick together and go through thick and thin together.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I think the term Disruption is something that is overused, with funding on FinTech start-ups at an all time high, you see plenty of start-ups coming up with products to “disrupt” the market, many of them doing so just for the sake of starting something. I think ultimately, a problem has to be solved, if not you can never achieve growth and success. This is the problem we see in the local scene, as evidenced by the number of start ups who fail at the Series A/B stage.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
I am convinced that we are headed in the right direction and with more perseverance, we will be able to look back in years to come and see that we were right at the forefront of such a major change in the Insurance Industry, and increasing value to consumers, making the world a better place.
What’s next for you and for Bandboo?
We have just launched our product in Singapore, with Malaysia and Indonesia next to follow. We will be launching an A.I powered chatbot to improve our engagement with customers.
A fully automated blockchain powered product will be announced as well. Stay tuned!
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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