June Member Meeting: MiN and the big picture

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Big picture, big opportunities, big challenges, big insurance, big data - there was a lot of bigging up at the MiN June Member meeting held in Luxembourg last week. The main theme to emerge from two days of intense, and sometimes controversial debate was, where does the MiN fit into the bigger global sustainability agenda? And, as a consequence, another big question - how should the MiN position itself - micro, inclusive, sustainable, mass, popular?

It wasn’t all big picture debate though - the forty-plus participants were treated to presentations ranging from the next frontiers of microfinance (disruption by new models and cyber insurance) to new training programmes such as the Inclusive Insurance Innovation Lab (who would have thought that building Lego models could lead to better inclusive insurance?). We heard examples of how microinsurance can make a real-world impact, such as the Kenya Livestock Insurance Programme. There was a lot of blockchain talk, and exciting examples of its application such as the inclusive blockchain insurance IBISA project. All this, and speed dating too!

But it was the big question of how inclusive insurance can help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which ran through the meeting. “The number one asset of the MiN is the intellectual capacity in this room. There are so many  assets here, but the microinsurance community has not used them as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Butch Bacani, Programme Leader at UNEP’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance initiative. “There’s a whole movement in the global insurance industry to align themselves with the SDGs, and we are in danger of being left behind.”

Leaving no-one behind - in other words, being truly inclusive - is implicit in the MiN’s mission. No-one at the JMM disagreed with that. But how best to achieve it? Thierry Flamand of Deloitte reminded participants that the insurance industry is biggest global institutional investor and as such can have a huge influence on sustainable development - not just economic but social and environmental. Others pointed out that the absence of insurance “big boys” at the JMM was a reality check, indicative of the priority they give to inclusive insurance as part of their overall value proposition. Brice Bultot, Director at EY Luxembourg, asked if insurance companies are serious about principles of sustainable insurance, or whether it’s just a marketing ploy?

Not everyone was convinced that the MiN should align itself too closely to the global sustainability agenda. “Is microinsurance a hand-maiden to serve the SDGs?” asked one participant. Others supported the idea of the MiN remaining focused on a well-defined, but narrower niche. “We should focus on those things that we can fix, not be led by the nose by the broader agenda of the SDGs.”

Climate change resilience is a major component of the SDGs and many participants made the point that this is one area where inclusive insurance could really make a difference. “Climate resilience, not insurance penetration, is the problem that needs to be solved. Let’s look at the resilience we need to create and how can financial inclusion lead to that. We need to close the protection gap,” said Josh Ling, Director of Financial Inclusion at Mercy Corps. Risk management, and the part which insurance plays in it, was also discussed, as was the broader question of insurance role in creating resilient cities and economies - and where can the MiN add value? Should we spend time discussing climate resilience, or more focus on why many millions of poor people still cannot get insurance?

The need for inclusive insurance to align with the sustainable development agenda was emphasised by Romain Schneider, Luxembourg’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, in his closing speech to the JMM. “The task of risk reduction is fundamental. Inclusive insurance has worldwide role to play to protect people from risks,” he said. “Microinsurance is valuable tool to manage risks, and has fundamental role to help us reach the SDGs. I am convinced that microinsurance can help extend social protection to populations in developing countries.”

And the speed dating? Bert Opdebeeck, Founder of Microinsurance Master, had participants moving round the floor in lines, groups and pairs as members got to (re)connect with each other. It turned out the most experienced microinsurance practitioner in the room had been in the business since the beginning, whilst the latest “newbie” had started just that week - proving the old adage that it’s not what you know, but who you know!

A detailed report on the JMM is available to members here.