policypal_valjihsuanyap_interview

Val Jihsuan Yap, CEO and Founder of PolicyPal

In a conversation with e27, PolicyPal CEO and Founder Val Jihsuan Yap revealed the startup’s plan to expand to other Asian countries.

“We are in talks with different companies in different region,” she said.

While she could not share further details about their expansion plan, Yap promised that the Singapore-based insurtech startup will reveal more in the near future.

“Singapore is a great market for us, that is where the product works well. So we are thankful to be in the MAS FinTech Regulatory Sandbox to test out our product; whether people are actually ready to buy insurance online, as well as the whole customer journey,” Yap said.

PolicyPal joined the MAS FinTech Regulatory Sandbox earlier this year and Yap is a firm believer that fintech startups need to work closely with regulators in order to better understand the regulations, particularly before entering a new market.

“[Joining the sandbox] allows us to complete reach-out before getting a full license and operating like a big institution; it is the thinking to encourage startups to explore opportunities and dream bigger. I think that’s a really important message,” Yap said.

“It also gives us the opportunity to work with insurance companies outside of Singapore,” she added.

As a founder of a fintech startup, she could not stress enough the importance for startups to work with the different stakeholders in the industry.

“You need to work with many stakeholders closely to help you make things happen, because you have insurance companies, insurance agents, brokers, regulators, [basically] anyone to be agreeable for a new business idea to scale,” Yap explained.

Also Read: Singapore Life raises US$50M in one of the largest Series A rounds by an insurtech startup

It takes a village to build the insurtech sector

Talking about the future of insurtech in Southeast Asia, Yap believes that it is going to be “exciting.”

“How insurtech is going to develop in this area is going to be different from mature markets like in the US or Europe,” she began.

“Emerging markets might actually … leapfrog from not knowing about insurance at all, to getting it from new innovative solutions, as compared to in the US and Europe [where] normally people get their insurance from insurance agents,” she elaborated.

Recently, the Asian market has also begun to see conventional banks embracing innovation by “behaving like a startup”.

A good example of this trend is the decision by HSBC to set up its digital team in a coworking space, in order to place their 300 staffs in the “right environment” for collaboration and innovation.

But Yap sees that startups will continue to be on the forefront of innovation in the fintech sector, thanks to the lean startup methodology.

“[Insurance companies] take a longer time to get approval, while for startups, what we are really strong with is doing the lean startup method where we got the product itinerated, launched … So we were able to quickly get a response and come up with a solution that would actually fit the market,” she elaborated.

Despite differences in how they work, Yap believes that collaboration between insurtech startups and insurance companies should continue to happen.

Also Read: Axiata invests US$16.8M in insurtech startup BIMA to provide micro insurance to low-income families in emerging markets

“In Singapore, MAS has been actively promoting collaboration between financial institutions, insurance companies, as well as consulting companies … They often encourage us to work together so that both of us can leverage on our own expertise,” she said.

Apart from knowledge and expertise, insurtech startups can benefit from big insurance companies’ size and popularity of their brand names.

But the process has not always been easy. One of the challenges that startups are facing when collaborating with some insurance companies or banks is the factor of sustainability.

“When an insurance company or a bank collaborate with startup, sometimes it’s only for short period. ‘Look, I’m collaborating with startups, I’m innovating.’ After three months, six months, then it’s just gone,” Yap said.

“There has to be longer time collaboration, and making it sustainable,” she stressed.

Image Credit: PolicyPal

Want to hear more from Val Jihsuan Yap?

Val Jihsuan Yap is speaking at Echelon Asia 2017. Register for your access pass now! Enjoy additional 10% discount on Echelon Asia Summit Startup, Investor and Corporate passes just for being our favourite e27 reader: e27.co/echelon/asia/register/?code=EMPOWER10

Do you have questions for Val Jihsuan Yap? She will address some of them during Echelon Asia Summit 2017. Leave some of your burning questions in the comment section below.