Insurance is the bedrock of a person’s well being and bima247, which was launched last month, is here to ensure that the insurance procedures are as easy as it could be. Techmoran got hold of Micheal Otieno, one of the big brains behind this online portal and this is what he had to say.
Q1. What was the inspiration behind the idea of Bima247?
Dr. Chris Odindo – who I have known for quite a while – had this idea of developing the next generation of insurance services by leveraging technology to significantly change how insurance is purchased in Kenya: away from its laborious paper-based methods to a simpler, much more convenient and faster one for consumers, and in the process increase insurance penetration, which most commentators agree is quite low in Kenya.
He then approached Nero Web Solutions, which is my company, and Yvonne Gitobu, a highly experienced broker having worked at a divisional director level at Eagle Insurance Brokers for a long time. He was then putting together a strong team to complement his own underwriting capability. My company then developed the software for what is now bima247.com. In terms of ownership, the software and insurance portal is owned by Cubic Media Systems and Logistics Limited which Chris set up, although my company is still on board as developers.
Q2. Will the future of Bima247 render some of the insurance agents jobless?
No on the contrary, this system can only be good for agents and brokers. It is actually a way for them to increase their revenue and reach. For examples, the system allows them to expand their distribution network being online for certain types of personal lines insurance like motor, domestic package and so on.
This is because their products will be online 24 hrs a day 365 days a year It reduces their costs too as our expert software underwrites, rates and accepts payments on their behalf in an instant. Our long term ambition is for this to be a standard industry platform used by insurance professionals much in the same way as you have software systems like SAGE for accounting.
Basically, what we have done is completely remove the need for a broker or agent to be physically present for some types of personal insurance transaction in Kenya. This then frees them up to spend more time on Corporate clients and more complex insurance lines such as large buildings, engineering and marine. In itself, this is a significant innovative change in how insurance is purchased in Kenya, and we are pleased not only to be leading this innovation but also to be the ones doing it really well.
What we believe is that the future of most businesses is to move their operations to the internet therefore the system will expand the capabilities of existing agents who are able to see the opportunity and get in at the ground floor. And even in the future, the system would be able to accommodate any new agents who want to run their operations efficiently and augment their physical operations by having an online and or mobile presence.
Q3. Do you have a preferred client or is it an open portal?
The software is designed for use by two broad targets. To this extent we are deeply ambitious. So: Any insurance organisation whether an insurance company, broker or agent can use the system as it is a ‘white-label’ product that can be integrated seamlessly into most if not all their existing core systems. Here again our ambition is for it to be the standard system used by insurance organisations for all online insurance transactions in Kenya.
Ordinary consumers can also use the system by going to bima247.com our online insurance portal. Any product purchased through that site is underwritten by Jubilee Insurance Kenya, with whom we have a separate agency agreement. Here too our ambition is for bima247.com to be the go-to-place for online insurance in Kenya.
Q4. Are you working on an app for smartphones or getting the USSD code service or will it be purely online based?
Currently, the system is online and we are also working on a smartphone app which persons can be able to download and install into their phones so as to access the service more effectively. Beyond that we have a number of exciting enhancements in the pipeline, which will continue to leverage technology in ways that make Kenyan insurance consumers’ lives even easier.