Using microinsurance as an adaptation tool for the underprivileged

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Chairman of the Board of Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN), Mr. Nadeem Hussain inaugurated the two-day workshop on Increasing Access to Inclusive Insurance, hosted by the Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) and the Microinsurance Network (MiN), with leaders of the sector in attendance last week in Lahore, Pakistan. Mr. Nadeem iterated the importance of innovation given the overall low penetration of life and health insurance in Pakistan and the bulk of life and health clubbed with credit products. He also emphasised the importance of creating independent products that go beyond life and health.

Ms. Katharine Pulvermacher, Executive Director of the MiN, gave an overview of the role of the microinsurance industry globally and within the Pakistani context, emphasising how inclusive insurance provides crucial underpinning for sustainable development. It is designed to meet the needs of emerging consumers and plays a critical role in preventing households from falling back into poverty after a financial shock. It is therefore an important enabler in the economic and social development of a country and in the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a risk mitigation strategy microinsurance is a tool that can considerably reduce losses for low-income people and provide solutions that are accessible, affordable and sustainable. She further highlighted how the growth of the inclusive insurance sector needs to be supported through the development industry infrastructure including data collection and research.

The panelists highlighted the importance of client awareness and designing simple products that generate value. Ms. Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, explained the rationale for introducing micro-health insurance products. Kashf Foundation, Pakistan’s largest microinsurance program, with over 1.5 million low-income individual policy holders, contributes to 29% of the total microinsurance market in Pakistan. Ms. Roshaneh accentuated the need for client awareness and education and shared the tripartite view of the benefits drawn from the provision of microinsurance to the clients, microfinance providers and insurers. She highlighted how the three need to work together in order to develop successful products that create value. Group Business Director of MicroEnsure, Mr. Rehan Butt, briefed the guests on the global success of MicroEnsure achieved by designing of simple, value driven but robust products and distribution channels to deliver insurance products along with value added benefits that also generate client awareness.

An interview session, moderated by Katharine, with Managing Director of the Microinsurance Centre at Milliman, Mr. Michael McCord, highlighted the role played by microinsurance in achieving six primary insurance-linked SDGs. He emphasised the need to use insurance to help with adaptation for the underprivileged. There is need to find ways that will help to create an environment that brings people out of poverty and most importantly stay out of poverty and to create products that help protect the interests of the underprivileged. The interview concluded with identifying that it is the microfinance providers that need to take the initiative to develop products that are most suitable. Products are often not properly developed because of a lack of understanding og what the client wants or needs. Since microfinance providers work closely with their clients they are in an ideal position to come up with products that are both suitable and feasible for their clients and for the insurance companies.

Lastly, a panel discussion constituted of representatives of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC) and leading names of the microfinance and insurance industries was moderated by the Chairman of the Policy Committee of Pakistan Microfinance Network, Dr. Rashid Bajwa. Discussion focused on increasing the uptake of microinsurance and fostering product diversification. This also gave regulators an opportunity to hear from stakeholders and hold a conducive dialogue around pressing issues facing the sector.

The first day of the workshop concluded with closing remarks by Mr. Amir Khan, of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SECP), who acknowledged and thanked the hosts for conducting the event, and a note of gratitude by the CEO of the Pakistan Microfinance Network. The conference presented an opportunity for policy makers, microfinance professionals, insurance providers, practitioners, regulators and other members to engage in a dialogue and showcase a wide variety of success stories, explore recent innovations, and connect with the institutions that are involved in the provision of value added services that are mutually beneficial and lead to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The second day of the workshop involved a scene setting presentation by Mr. Michael McCord which focused on tapping the business case at the bottom of the pyramid. This was followed by one-on-one meetings of several microfinance and insurance practitioners with Mr. Michael and Ms. Katharine regarding their respective practices, products and strategies.