Member profile: Pioneer

Friday, April 24, 2020

Founded 66 years ago, Pioneer began as a traditional property and casualty insurer before adding life and health. It is now the Philippines’ premier marine, aviation and property insurer as well as a leading microinsurance provider. CEO Lorenzo Chan and Senior Vice-President and Head of Non-Life Retail Geric Laude say it’s all down to putting the customer first.

MiN: How is Pioneer helping MSMEs during this unprecedented time of public health crisis and the ramifications it has for businesses?

Lorenzo Chan: Mother nature seems to show us opportunities - just as we were thinking of expanding our calamity cover, Mount Taal erupted in January 2020, and we were starting on income and business interruption (BI) coverage for MSMEs when the COVID-19 lockdown occurred. Its almost as if we’re being nudged to complete our review and studies. We’re determined to improve cover for natural disasters and to simplify BI insurance for MSMEs.

MiN: Why is customer-centricity core to Pioneer?

LC: Im often puzzled when asked if customer-centricity is essential to business. Of course, to succeed you need investors, actuaries, accountants, IT, underwriters and so on - but where would they all be without the customer? At Pioneer, we understand the customer is the reason for our existence. In 2014 we reorganised the group away from product centricity towards the markets we serve. Instead of simply pushing products - which is often the norm for the industry - we organised and defined ourselves around the clients we serve.

Geric Laude: The goal should always be to provide better customer experience, but it must be supported by a willingness to re-organise structure, manpower and resources to deliver relevance and value for the customer.

MiN: Why was it important for Pioneer to be a host and partner of the Microinsurance Master accelerator programme?

LC: We have a vision to bring insurance to more people. Bert Opdebeeck, founder of Microinsurance Master, convinced us that we had a worthy story to tell and useful lessons to impart. We’re always inspired by the participants - they have a passion, desire and commitment to go beyond the status quo. We believe in starting with the customer, so weve always included sessions with clients in the programme. If our experience can help participants avoid the same mistakes and speeds up their efforts, then it’s worthwhile. 

GL: It’s a great opportunity to learn from insurance practitioners who champion microinsurance in their companies and markets. We can both share Pioneers brand of microinsurance and learn from others as we aspire to be even better for our customers.

MiN: How do you promote inclusive insurance?

LC: We travel extensively to share the Pioneer story, as well as hosting CEOs, NGOs, academics and think tanks for immersion and exposure sessions. We were due to host a joint MEFIN/MiN regional event in March 2020, but the pandemic meant it was replaced by a series of webinars (see here for a report). Hopefully we’ll be able to go ahead with sessions for two organisations, in North America and the Middle East, and we’re open to hosting another edition of the Microinsurance Master programme in 2021. 

MiN: What are the challenges and opportunities for microinsurance?

LC: Compared to a decade ago, the markets are more receptive to our offer but there’s still a lot of work to be done to give customers and claimants a positive experience. There is a business case for microinsurance, but to be sustainable to need adequate volume. There are only have a handful of players - driven, dedicated, passionate enough to pursue this and even fewer willing to put their money where their mouths are. InsurTech is an enabler for speed, accuracy, data gathering and efficiency, but it won’t replace the human touch completely - not yet anyway.

GL: Microinsurance only succeeds when insurers embrace inclusive insurance, regulators support it and - most importantly - clients recognise the need for insurance and are open to it. The Philippines is a good, though not perfect, example of how these three elements can combine successfully. Hopefully other countries in the region which are not quite there yet can benefit from our experience.

MiN: Why is the MiN important to Pioneer?

LC: We see it as an opportunity to learn and contribute, to interact with like-minded people and organisations to further the shared cause of bringing insurance to the people who need it most. The Network is unique because its membership represents donors, think tanks, NGOs, insurers, distributors and industry organisations - but we should find a more effective way to convince more organisations to offer inclusive insurance.       

Since I joined the Board in 2017 the MiN has overcome many challenges, which bodes well for the future. However, a lot remains to be done to help people of all income levels become more resilient and less vulnerable to everyday and catastrophic risks - not to mention the additional ongoing experience of a pandemic. We clearly need a bigger effort to pursue regional programmes, webinars and direct engagement, both physical and virtual. We must do more to learn from each other, share best practices and pursue joint ventures.