Not every insurance company CEO gets to the UN on a regular basis! Green Delta Insurance boss Farzanah Chowdhury told us about her mission to get Bangladesh insured:
Farzanah: I’ve been in the inclusive insurance business for about ten years. Green Delta is Bangladesh’s leading non-life insurer and the largest market player in the country. We’re known for our corporate governance and the diversity of professionals on our board - including doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs - and we have always been a first mover in terms of product innovations and improvements.
Despite going through an economic transition, Bangladesh still has the lowest insurance penetration rates of all the emerging Asian economies - less than one percent. Very little has been done to get low-income customers insured - that’s where Green Delta comes in. We started with small micro health and crop insurance products in 2010, then we partnered with IFC to improve service delivery, now we’re a one-stop financial service and insurance platform. One day we might step out of Bangladesh and go regional.
MiN: What is your focus?
Farzanah: We don’t just want to sell the products themselves, we want to sell our clients their dream. We develop different products aimed at different market segments - entrepreneurs, homemakers, students and workers - we know what they need and want. We’re particularly successful with insurance products for women - in 2016 we launched Midetita (‘She Sacrifices’) and since then it has evolved with different added-value features. We’ve now reached more than 100,000 women. We focus on innovation, outreach and impact, and provide access to financial training and tech to help women address their financial independence issues - many woman can’t even go into a bank by themselves.
Focusing on women and young people led me to think about how to leave no-one behind, and how to align insurance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are actually helping our revenues - we’re focused on impact, and our SDG reporting is aligned with UN standards. This year I was invited again to the UN to talk about the benefits for us as a corporate to be engaged with the SDGs, and our value-added comprehensive insurance product for women has been recognised by the UN as a pioneer.
MiN: The recent International Conference on Inclusive Insurance (ICII) was held in Dhaka - what was that like?
Farzanah: As a board member of the Bangladesh Insurance Association (BIA), it was challenging to convince other members - but it was fantastic to host the ICII with more than 500 delegates from all over the world. I spoke on several panels - one on understanding the role of different stakeholders and another on developing weather index insurance markets. That’s something we desperately need in Bangladesh because of our vulnerability to climate-induced extreme weather. I told the audience that not many insurers wanted to jump into crop insurance, but that Green Delta has chosen to, partly because of the large revenue potential in a fast-growing economy.
I also presented at a session on the role of insurance in post disaster recovery. I strongly believe we need insurance to support mental health recovery after disasters - money isn’t everything, people need to be able to access free personal counselling and treatment.
The conference was a great chance for Bangladesh to become an insurance hub, to bring everyone together under one platform. It definitely raised awareness about microinsurance in the country, with our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaking so passionately about increasing insurance penetration to those that truly need it.
MiN: Why is important for you to be a member of MiN?
Farzanah: It’s where all the SDGs come together. It’s a platform and network where we can all join our efforts and make a change in the countries where we operate in underserved sectors of society. Awareness of insurance and financial education has to be improved, and the Network is powerful tool to work towards that. It’s very important to contribute what we know so we can all become influencers. Financial and digital literacy is an area where together we can help raise the bar and standards for inclusive insurance.
It was a great experience to attend the July Member Meeting (JMM) this year for the first time. All those experts! I was really honoured to give a presentation on South Asia. I learned a lot, and I realised I am not alone - in Bangladesh there are very few people talking the same microinsurance language, but being at the JMM gave me strength to continue my work.
MiN: What’s your message to other MiN members?
Farzanah: Come to Bangladesh, see what we are doing! There are good things happening. Help us develop the products and take advantage of a young population. There’s a huge potential in what can be done for the future generations.