Cigna International is partnering with Shanghai-based insurtech The CareVoice to utilize its platform of health-related applications.
For Cigna, the immediate goal is to reach women customers in Hong Kong. “There are a lot of unmet needs in women’s health,” said Julian Mengual, regional CEO for Southeast Asia and health solutions. “CareVoice and its platform build an opportunity for us to use new methodologies to engage with this segment.”
The Cigna deal is one of several that CareVoice has notched, including with Generali and Prudential Financial, across its traditional markets such as Hong Kong as well as new ones including Malaysia and Thailand.
“There is more demand for health insurance across the region in the wake of COVID-19, and digitalization of insurance is higher on the agenda,” said Sebastien Gaudin, co-founder and CEO of CareVoice (pictured center, with his co-founders Jan Velich and Neil Liang).
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The new mandates reflect CareVoice’s pivot from just providing third-party health experiences via its own app, to becoming an API-based integrator of many third-party apps to be embedded in the apps of insurance companies.
“If we wanted insurers to adopt us to service their policyholders, we had to be API-based and front-end capable,” Gaudin told DigFin. “They often want to own the customer experience.”
The insurtech signed up its first carriers for its API platform in late 2020.
The platform is designed to be modular: carriers can pick and choose whicih apps they want CareVoice to provide, be it telemedicine, networks of healthcare providers, wearable telematics, or mental health services.
Cigna is beginning with apps focused on women’s health in Hong Kong; if the platform is deemed a success, it will expand it to Southeast Asian markets. From there it could onboard additional services.
“This isn’t about selling product up front,” Mengual said. “It’s about understanding what people need and enriching what we can offer, by making it convenient, accessible, and unintrusive.”
There is of course a bottom-line revenue requirement. But it’s not necessarily about just generating leads. Mengual says he is looking for partners that can scale across markets, but which bring enough flexibility to enable Cigna to tweak offers to meet local cultural and regulatory needs. “I don’t want five partners in five locations for the same exercising app,” he said.
Driving down costs is just as important as generating income. “Our mission in healthcare is to fix the problem of medical inflation,” Mengual said, noting that costs are not just rising but also opaque and confusing to policyholders. With CareVoice’s platform, Cigna to deploy different components in various markets. “It helps us be agile.”
The platform is useful to a carrier such as Cigna which does not have an agency force in Asia. The firm sells directly to consumers through social media, advertizing, telemarketing, and face to face, as well as via bancassurance partners. COVID-19 has already prompted the insurer to find digital solutions in addition to face-to-face selling, a trend it hopes CareVoice will help facilitate. “Integrating offline with online will become more important,” Mengual said.
CareVoice has grown its business in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia since the onset of the pandemic – although it has also found business in mainland China is getting tougher.
Overall, Gaudin says, the industry trend is toward digitalization, and helping insurers orchestrate the growing array of ways to connect to different partners and providers. The insurtech has recently cemented the first close of a Series B round of funding, at over $10 million, although Gaudin declined to put a valuation on the business.