SINGAPORE--AIA Singapore has launched what it touts to be the insurance industry's first interactive point-of-sale (iPOS) system, and says it is aimed at helping agents cut down time in getting their policy applications submitted and enable customers to receive insurance advice and coverage as quickly as within a day.
During the launch here Wednesday, Tan Hak Leh, CEO of AIA Singapore, said the company is the first insurer globally to launch a standalone, mobile point-of-sale system via an app running on Apple's iPad tablet. The app will help facilitate the whole process from fact-finding and analysis of the customer's financial health to recommendation of suitable policies and submission, Tan said.
The Singapore office spearheaded the project as it was a critical market for AIA and is one of the most connected countries in the world, he explained. Furthermore, customers here would be familiar with the use of e-signatures to seal the policy application, and there was a ready pool of talent locally to help the company develop the system, he added.
This "multimillion dollar" project is not limited to Singapore though, but will span the whole Asia-Pacific, or specifically, the 14 markets in which AIA has an operational presence, the CEO said.
The next markets to receive the app will be Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, but the system will have to be localized to suit the market's regulatory requirements and needs. This means the rollout will be carried out within the next 12 to 18 months, he said.
Bill Lisle, executive vice president and group chief distribution officer at AIA Group, who was also present at the launch, pointed to the iPOS system as another example of how the company puts the customer first and uses the "right innovation" to bridge the insurance protection gap.
Citing findings from the Life Insurance Association Singapore, AIA said the under-insurance gap in Singapore has been halved from 7.6 times the annual income in 2006 to the current 3.7 times. But inflation and increasing medical costs are factors which highlight the need for more to be done to get Singaporeans adequately protected, something which the company hopes its mobile app will help achieve, Tan said.
Cutting down time, paper
One of the key advantages of the iPOS tool is cutting down the time agents need to submit financial health reviews and policy forms to their agency leaders for review and approval. Without this, the underwriting process cannot be initiated, the CEO explained.
With the paper-and-pen method, AIA's financial services consultants will have to lug around stacks of forms and advisories to present to potential clients, and need to frequently return to the office to get the required approvals and receipts for customers, he noted.
The iPOS method is expected to cut the whole submission process time down from 1 to 2 days to just a few hours, he said.
Asked if the company had to completely overhaul its backend system to offer this mobile app to its agents, Leong Weng Ling, CTO of AIA Singapore, said this was not necessary as there was an older iteration of iPOS developed earlier.
While the previous program did not take off as it used older technologies and could not scale in terms of licenses, the "backbone" of the system such as the networking gear was re-used by the IT department for the development of the iPOS, Leong shared with ZDNet Asia after the event.
Biometrics, 2FA used as safeguards
AIA also partnered German company SoftPro to ensure its biometric e-signature system will meet industry regulations.
The software used takes into account the speed, strength, and style of each stroke in one's signature and captures the data to differentiate different users' signatures, Leong stated.
As for compliance and security issues, the CTO said security was developed to ensure every action and transaction done using the app will be safeguarded. This meant implementing AES 256-bit encryption for the data transfers, HTTPs protocol for any Web-based activities, as well as using a biometric e-signature system, he revealed.
Users who log in to the app for the first time will have their credentials checked by AIA's backend systems to verify if the agent is still with the company, and what kind of insurance policies he is licensed to sell. Subsequent sign-ins will be done via a phone-based, two-factor authentication (2FA) process, he explained.
However, for agents who misplace their iPads and risk losing all their customers' contact details and other sensitive information, Leong said AIA is able to remotely wipe off data in the device.