I've spent a lot of time recently talking with colleagues and insurance industry insiders about reaching potential customers in younger demographics. Most of those conversations, unsurprisingly, have involved carriers connecting with customers via their Web sites. However, a recent story out of the Philippines serves as a reminder that there are other ways for insurers to expand the scope of their multi-channel distribution models.According to the Sun.Star Cebu (a Cebu City, Philippines-based newspaper), Sun Life Financial has partnered with ePLDT, a communications technology company, to introduce Lakbay ProTXT and Family ProTXT, two "pre-paid card"-style personal accident insurance products that can be purchased through text message.
According to the Sun.Star article though, ProTXT cardholders can, through a text message, choose to purchase insurance for a period of 15 days to a year. Riza Mantaring, chief operating officer of Sun Life Financial Philippines, told me via e-mail that Sun Life is currently piloting the products, which sell as pre-paid cell phone cards. The card can be activated via cell phone.
Meanwhile, clients can access policy information by texting a keyword along with their policy number and PIN to Sun Life Mobile. If clients have an electronic wallet on their cell phone, they can pay premiums from the phone as well.
Mantaring explained that, while it has only average transportation and communications systems, the Philippines has an advanced cell phone infrastructure and one of the highest text messaging rates in the world. The country has about 40 million cell phone users, but only 1 to 2 million internet users. "We realized that servicing via the cell phone could become an effective means of generating sales," Mantaring wrote.
While Mantaring reports that there are no immediate plans to apply the text messaging approach in other markets, this seems to me like the kind of concept that could pop up in North America sooner rather than later. Young people are increasingly comfortable communicating to one another via text message, and it stands to reason that, as they mature, they'll be just as comfortable purchasing insurance that same way.
Maybe it's time to add another channel to your multi-channel distribution strategy.Sun Life Financial is offering text message-based insurance products to customers in the Philippines, according to a newspaper report.