Member profile: Microinsurance Master

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Microinsurance Master is a recent specialised training initiative founded by long-standing member of the Microinsurance Network, Bert Opdebeeck. Bert spoke to us on this exciting new venture, as well as how he has seen the MiN and the sector evolve throughout the years.

MiN: When and why did you join the MiN?

Bert Opdebeeck: It was obvious for Microinsurance Master to join the Microinsurance Network since Day 1. Being part of the Network demonstrates our strong commitment to contributing to the development of a strong sector and helps tremendously in connecting us with relevant pioneering organisations and ideas. Personally, I’ve been an active Microinsurance Network member since 2006, as part of my previous job at BRS.

MiN: As a long-tenured member, describe the MiN’s role during its nascent years and compare it to where the organisation is at today. How have you seen the MiN evolve?

Bert: In its early days, the CGAP Working Group on Microinsurance was mostly an informal meeting place of microinsurance funders and TA providers. Together with the sector as a whole, the Network evolved into a more structured organisation with a sharper understanding of its vision and strategy. The Network’s membership grew both in terms of size, but especially in terms of diversity, which is a great, still ongoing, evolution.

MiN: What is the main focus of Microinsurance Master? What excites you most about it?

Bert: Microinsurance Master is the sector’s first leadership programme. It is a two-week immersion training that we will run in 2019, for the 2nd time at Pioneer Microinsurance in the Philippines, followed by eight weeks of tailored coaching by industry leaders. Our focus is to strengthen and inspire key decision-makers and their organisations to make them and their microinsurance beneficiaries thrive.  I am really excited by the encouraging results of the first graduates of Microinsurance Master. And I am very much looking forward to the second edition of the programme that will start next February.  

MiN: What is your current view of the microinsurance market? What are the main challenges and what are the main untapped opportunities you see for the sector?

Bert: Microinsurance is in many respects, still a blue ocean. Research across the world clearly demonstrates the untapped demand for microinsurance. At the same time, we know from a range of reports and from my own experience that microinsurance can be a viable business model for insurers and its intermediaries while contributing to the resilience of low-income communities.  Many organisations want to grow in microinsurance, but struggle to get their activities off the ground. This, I believe is because microinsurance is not business as usual. Low-income communities and microinsurance products are both unknown quantities, requiring one to step away from the traditional way of working, and adopting an innovative mind-set and customer-centric approach, like a start-up. At Microinsurance Master, we teach and coach practitioners how to set up a thriving microinsurance practice.

MiN: Where do you see the MiN today and why?

Bert: The Microinsurance Network was, and still is the sole international meeting place for microinsurance practitioners and stakeholders. That’s unique, especially given the plenitude of associations and marketplaces in the insurance or microfinance sector. It allows the Network to keep a good pulse on the sector and to promote good practices on important themes like regulation or investments, in consultation with its members. The Network should continue to strive to include key industry players and to be the “spokesperson” of the sector.

MiN: Going back to your track record in the sector and with the MiN, what would you say were some of the key lessons taken from projects you were involved in over the years?

Bert: That’s two questions, so I will answer it in two parts. From the Microinsurance Network, we learnt that it allows experts to join forces on activities you cannot do alone. Back in 2007, ADA and BRS (two members of the MiN) facilitated the development of the microinsurance key performance indicators. Their association with the Microinsurance Network ensured a quick recognition and adoption of these indicators. ADA and BRS continue to promote these indicators today.

For the sector, I wish the speed of progression and growth had been much faster. There is a high mobility of people and organisations moving in and out of the sector. These new entrants are increasingly looking for learning opportunities to strengthen their activities. It is therefore great to see that, along with Microinsurance Master, a range of new training activities have emerged this year: the regional workshops by the Microinsurance Network, the Microinsurance Diploma in Egypt by the Microinsurance Centre at Milliman and the Impact Insurance Academy by the ILO’s Impact Insurance Facility, all of which are partners of Microinsurance Master.  

MiN: What are particular highlights/memories/breakthroughs of your time as MiN member?

Bert: The formalisation of the Network into a separate organisation, the spin-off of the regulation working group into the Access to Insurance Initiative (A2ii) and the establishment of the microinsurance key performance indicators (KPIs) are definitely three achievements that come to mind. And, as mentioned before, the fact that the Microinsurance Network is the only international microinsurance platform demonstrates the quality of its work. For me personally, it has been a joy to experience and contribute to some of these accomplishments from the front row.

MiN: Finally, sum up what direction would you like to see the MiN embarking on with an eye to the next five years and beyond? What is there to be done still by the MiN – both at regional and global level?

Bert: Having multilingual activities should be a key priority for sure. I spoke before about the need for knowledge dissemination. This is even truer for practitioners who don’t speak English, so most of the work produced is not available for them. We are also missing out on so much interesting work that is being done in regions, where English is not fluently spoken.

I’d like to end by repeating that the Network should continue to strive to include key industry players and to be the “spokesperson” of the sector.