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Digital Inclusion

SA's Everything.Insure is digitizing, demystifying insurance

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South African insurtech platform Everything.Insure aims to shake up the insurance market and help "demystify" insurance for consumers.

"We found that insurance is an area that consumers really don't understand. A lot of us have insurance, but we don't really understand what we're buying and it's a grudge purchase. You buy it because you need it, but you feel like you're taken advantage of, and part of that reason is because you don't understand it. We felt like there had to be a better way to do insurance," Mishaya Chettiar, the executive head of Everything.Insure told Connecting Africa in an interview.

Insurance is shifting online in the same way the banking sector did years ago.

"[In the past] everybody had their private bankers and thought they would never do banking online, and now it's normal. The vision for Everything.Insure is for the same to be said about insurance. It should be normal that you can self-serve, you can understand what you're buying, you can get comparative quotes and buy insurance online. We set out to do that," she explained.

In a nutshell, Everything.Insure is a digital insurance marketplace making insurance easier to buy and also educating consumers.

"We are not the insurer; we are a marketplace of the insurers in the South African market. We try to curate the insurance market. We evaluate insurers and insurance products on multiple things: balance sheets, financial strength, claims handling, and customer service. We only put what we consider to be the top tier-one insurers on the platform," Chettiar said.

"We offer multiple categories of insurance from professional indemnity to business, pets, funeral, personal insurance etc., and we are adding products and providers all the time," she added.

Everything.Insure's product offering.   (Source: Everything.Insure)
Everything.Insure's product offering.
(Source: Everything.Insure)

The site is different to other insurance comparison sites because it offers the ability to compare quotes and then buy the insurance product you want from the insurer you want, directly on the platform and see all of your policies in one place.

"If you've got your business policy with one insurer, your personal with another, your funeral cover with another, it'll be in one portal where you can edit, claim, pause or cancel and you can switch insurance as well," she explained.

Digitizing insurance

The idea for Everything.Insure came about in 2009 when Chettiar was doing her honors thesis at university.

"My thesis was on whether the insurance industry thought there was a need to digitize the way that banking had. I interviewed the CEOs of Santam, Hollard etc. and they all said they don't see insurance ever being digitized. But the consumers on the other end said that they thought there was a need," she explained.

"I've always been passionate about technology and digitizing traditional processes and traditional industries," she added.

Chettiar started working on the idea of an online marketplace for insurance in 2017 after a conversation with insurance veteran Vis Govender, who is the co-founder of Everything.Insure.

The platform officially launched at the end of 2022 and has now onboarded a few thousand customers.

"We're excited for what this means for the South African and global insurance marketplace. I don't understand the reason why it hasn't been done yet, even in places like the US or the UK. It's exciting to break some barriers, and I hope that it will inspire others to do the same. We are looking for some healthy competition," Chettiar said.

The insurance industry has evolved over years, with more insurtech companies launching and traditional insurers warming up to the idea of using tech to service clients.

"It goes like this in all industries – everybody thinks they're invincible and technology is not going to affect their industry, until it does. Then you get on-board because you don't have a choice," she said.

Now insurance companies are investing in insurtechs or launching their own digital offerings.

"Five years ago, you would never have found traditional insurers in an open market like Everything.Insure. They worked through their broker network, and that was it. Now they're finding that you must consider tech as a channel and be open to it, otherwise, you're going to be left behind. We've definitely seen those changes and its more than just grudgingly adhering, I think they are seeing the benefit of technology," she said of the industry evolution.

Demystifying insurance

Educating consumers is also key for the insurtech.

"Personally, I find that insurance can be quite overwhelming. I'm not an insurance person, I haven't worked in the insurance industry until Everything.Insure. I've been a consultant previously in financial services, but I'm not a broker. I'm the tech person," she explained.

"I've had the same experiences that most consumers have - where you are insured and then have a claim but find you're not covered for certain things because of the fine print. I've had all the same frustrations. It's about trying to remove that, to change insurance from being a grudge purchase that I don't understand," she continued.

Mishaya Chettiar, executive head of Everything.Insure.   (Source: Everything.Insure)
Mishaya Chettiar, executive head of Everything.Insure.
(Source: Everything.Insure)

The team spends a lot of time on the advice side of the business and creating social media videos to explain in plain language how products work, demystifying the industry for customers.

"We find that in South Africa, and throughout Africa, there's very low penetration of insurance. Around 70% of the vehicles on the South African roads are uninsured. That's a factor of many things, one of which is accessibility, price is another one, understanding it is another one, so we're trying to get over all those hurdles," she added.

Chettiar believes accessibility has been a major stumbling block.

"Insurance is something that is sold not bought, typically. Prior to tech somebody had to come out and offer you insurance. Tech is enabling insurance to go out into all the corners of South Africa and Africa and make it more accessible. Anybody with a smartphone can now buy insurance a bit easier, it's bringing insurance within reach," she said.

"Another challenge has been pricing - the insurance industry has to almost generically price products for the worst-case scenario and the lowest common denominator. But now with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and with access to a lot more information on a consumer, pricing can be a lot more tailored to your unique risk," said Chettiar.

Technology also helps shorten the product development lifecycle.

A broker in your pocket

Everything.Insure was one of the first digital insurers to get a robo-advice license with SA's Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).

"In addition to being a marketplace, probably the bulk of our effort goes into advising the client the way a broker would. The platform is licensed for digital advice and therefore, it is like a broker in your pocket," Chettiar said.

The platform offers multiple tools to compare products.

"You're not just comparing on price, you're comparing on the quality of the product, what's covered, what's not covered, what extras are included and the quality of the insurer," she explained.

But she clarified that the advice is backed by real humans and not just a chatbot.

"We have a whole team of insurance experts here that evaluate each product, and we digitize the advice that we would normally give the client. We have tech people and we've got insurance people, and they work together. The insurance person has to keep explaining until the non-insurance person understands and that's the advice we put on the site," said Chettiar.

The company offers standard products from well-known brands but digitized to make comparison simpler. In addition, it works with the insurers to create bespoke products that you will only find on its platform.

"They will still underwrite it, so it's still a Hollard product, but it's created in conjunction with Everything.Insure and on those products we've got AI experts that are continuously working on the rating to give you tailored products, unique to the customer's risk, unique to your needs that will be different to your standards off-the-shelf products," she explained.

There is no subscription fee to use the Everything.Insure platform, and the company earns the standard broking fees on any products sold.

"Globally when you want to buy something you go to Amazon, in South Africa you probably go to Takealot. Every time I want to buy something, I don't think to go to the shop, I go and check the price on Takealot first. We want that for insurance, we want to be the trusted platform for insurance by consumers," Chettiar added.

"If you already have insurance, whether it's direct, or via a broker you can come re-quote and get a comparative price. If you are with one of the tier-one insurers, you can stay with them and move your product over and then you would have it on the portal in one place. If a broker wants to become one of our brokers then they can move their book over as well," she continued.

Chettiar said the company is not trying to eliminate brokers from the industry. Rather, it is trying to make it easier for brokers to service clients and for clients to self-service directly if they want.

Everything.Insure has a team of brokers to help clients and is actively onboarding brokers, or what it calls "Everything.Insure associates," onto the platform.

The associates are one of the company's distribution channels, but this doesn't only cover licensed brokers, because the company is licensed for digital advice other people can also use the platform to build a network.

"For example, a school could sign on to be an Everything.Insure associate, if they were raising money to build a swimming pool. We've got mechanisms where they can have a shopfront and send a link to all the parents and say if they move their insurance to this platform, you can stay with the top insurers and the school will earn the bulk of the broker commission to put towards funding the swimming pool," Chettiar explained.

Expansion plans

Everything.Insure aspires to grow outside of South Africa and already has a license to operate in India, with plans for a late-2023 or early-2024 launch.

Everything.Insure is a division of the FirstEquity Group which is licensed as a financial service provider in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Mozambique.

In Africa, its expansion would likely first be to the countries where FirstEquity already has a presence.

"Insurance is completely different in different countries. So, it's quite a task to launch in a new country, it's not a quick process, but we are definitely looking at launching throughout Africa and in India," Chettiar told Connecting Africa.

The company is also looking for more partnerships, including in the telecoms industry, and is already in discussions with one of SA's big operators.

Telecoms operators have been offering insurance products for many years, at first primarily device insurance and now moving into offerings like funeral insurance.

"The benefit of having your telcos sell insurance is accessibility. That's been one of the barriers for the insurance industry, and somebody like MTN or Vodacom has got millions of people that they have access to. If they can get valuable, needed cover to those people like funeral insurance I think it's a good thing. I don't think it's disrupting the industry in a negative way at all," Chettiar commented.

She said she would love to expand the platform to all kinds of financial services products in the future.

"It's a pipe dream in the back of my head. We've built Everything.Insure with this in mind, it was built in a soft-coded way so that it can be a marketplace for anything - for banking or telecoms. The platform can handle that today, but it would just be all the banking hurdles that we'd have to get over, so we'll tackle insurance first," she explained.

Empowering women in insurance

Although insurance can still be a male-dominated industry, Chettiar believes that this is changing.

"I think that there is importance in diversity, and not just gender diversity. A lack of diversity results in groupthink and for innovation to happen, you need to break groupthink," she said.

She encouraged more women to study in financial services fields and join the industry.

"Diverse people bring healthy conflict and tension which results in better innovation and better outcomes. I think looking at the world through one lens is never a good thing," she said.

"If I look at our business, we've got a lot of diversity - lots of females, lots of different races, different ages, we've got insurance people and tech people and all of that diversity has resulted in the innovation that is Everything.Insure. I see that daily, so I think the industry could benefit from that as well," she concluded.

Related posts:

*Top image source: Everything.Insure.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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