Member profile: Denis Garand & Associates

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Denis Garand is the president of Denis Garand & Associates and has served on the MiN Board of Directors since 2014 and has been the Treasurer since 2015. He has been a microinsurance pioneer since 2001 and was involved in the MiN - and its forerunner the CGAP working group on microinsurance - since the very beginning. Coming from an insurance background, Denis wanted to “create a dialogue between insurance companies and people with good intentions.” He will be stepping down from the Board at the end of this year, and we would like to thank him for all of his invaluable contributions.

MiN: As a long-tenured member, describe the MiN’s role during its nascent years.

Denis: The role back then was to inform all the different parties – insurers, regulators, donors on what could potentially be good practices and explore what could possibly be done and identify the barriers.

With microinsurance, we wanted to do something different and the regulatory side had never even considered this idea of reaching lower-income populations. As a group, we were trying to figure out what the major issues were.

The one issue I ended up working with was the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). We brought together over 30 practitioners from four different continents, and would have rigorous discussions to settle on the KPIs. Developing the KPIs was really a collaborative effort and they have proven to be an extremely powerful tool for people in the microinsurance world since.

MiN: What are you currently working on?

Denis: There are two sides to what I do: I work in Canada with insurance companies and regulators, and I work in microinsurance. I’ve recently been in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - a country with fairly poor economic and health indicators and with a state-run monopoly insurer. Two years ago the government legislated to open the market, and the regulator has been accepting applications from insurance companies. I’ve been working with MicroSave looking at potential products and pricing points. DRC is an untouched market with a lot of needs, so we’re hoping the next six months will see companies coming in.  

My other main focus is Universal Health Coverage (UHC). A big challenge globally is how to reach the informal sector - in one country, we designed a potential UHC system and drafted legislation to set it up. But elsewhere it’s just not possible, the conditions aren’t right at the moment to even try.

MiN: Where do you see untapped potential for microinsurance?

Denis: The microinsurance market has not developed as much as we had hoped. Many regulators still don’t understand consumer protection and they tend to be too rigid, which hinders market development. However in some countries - such as the Philippines and Ghana - the regulators have helped enable the dialogue with industry and as a result microinsurance has taken off.

In a lot of countries, a very low percentage of coverage suggests something wrong with the regulations. Everywhere I go I’ve seen many different projects where regulatory issues have really slowed down the process. There needs to be much greater dialogue with regulators to help them understand how they can protect their regulatory needs whilst providing greater access to insurance.

Technology can be used to improve access. For example, the RSBY scheme to provide health insurance for families below the poverty line in India used biometric enrolment, which was a great way to create coverage for everybody. Index-based crop insurance is another example, using satellites to measure crop growth. There’s a lot of potential to provide much-needed assistance to people in different countries.

MiN: What have you learned from your work in microinsurance over the years?

Denis: It’s hard to quantify, but I have really relearned what insurance should be and what its social purpose is. On the health side, it’s been fantastic learning to take a more holistic approach. The whole field of health coverage really has a long way to go - we are really only starting to understand a more holistic approach and making quality and efficiency improvements to improve the outcomes of people’s lives. I feel lucky to have been in this space at this time and working with various different people – so it’s been a fantastic learning experience for me.

MiN: What’s your take on the microinsurance versus inclusive insurance debate?

Denis: It’s both! The great thing I’ve learned from microinsurance is that it enables us to re-understand the fundamentals of insurance and how to reach and serve people. That’s been the greatest benefit to the insurance industry. There’s a whole sector in the market that insurance companies have never touched - what we would call the “inclusive” space. Once they understand the micro, they are better positioned to reach that market. There is a real need to understand the micro first, before getting into the inclusive market.

MiN: Provide three particular highlights, memories or breakthroughs of your time as a member of the MiN.

Denis: In general, just getting together in various meetings and sharing learnings from each other is how I have learnt a lot in this space and is extremely valuable. I think there’s still so much to learn. People who are worried about giving away trade secrets – we are talking about a global situation where most people still have no coverage, so it seems like we won’t be competing for a long time.

Developing the KPIs was instrumental in helping a lot of organisations make improvements that were essential and helpful to everyone involved in microinsurance.

There’s still work to be done in the dialogue with the regulators, but we have come a long way, thanks to the MiN, and as a result populations that previously weren’t, are now getting access to coverage.

MiN: As an outgoing member of the MiN Board, how do you assess what has been achieved, and what still needs to be done? Where would you like to see the MiN embarking on in the next five years and beyond?

Denis: People underrate the vastly beneficial value of the dialogue the MiN develops between various parties. The purpose is really to continue this dialogue and bring out valuable information to the members. That’s been great – it’s always been there, but the MiN is now better structured to do that. 

The reality is that we still have a lot of people that haven’t been reached, so there needs to be improved dialogue and discussion of why that isn’t happening. The potential of using technology to increase access may be an important part of that.

I would really like to see a measured increase in the number of people that have access to insurance products all over the globe - that would be achieving the MiN’s goals. That still requires a lot of dialogue with all the different parties – donors, insurers, regulators, mobile network operators and anybody else involved in this field.