IAG to open InsurTech hub in Singapore

Firemark Labs will act as incubator for international start-ups

Australian insurance giant IAG is opening a InsurTech innovation hub in Singapore, tasked with creating new products and services for the local and Asian market.

Firemark Labs will act as an incubator for international start-ups and research bodies working in the insurance technology space. The hub is being launched in partnership with Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

IAG opened a regional office in the country in 2006, and has a growing presence there and across Asia with operations in China, Malaysia and Thailand. Singapore has an established InsurTech ecosystem, which IAG hopes to tap into.

“Singapore is recognised as having one of the most developed FinTech landscapes with a growing InsurTech scene. We are the first Australian insurer to launch a space dedicated to InsurTech in Singapore and will join a network of global innovators with hubs set up in the technology hotspot,” said Julie Batch, chief customer officer for IAG.

“Launching Firemark Labs in Singapore will allow us to lead the development of talent, tools and networks that will help us quickly respond to changing trends and create new customer solutions. Our partnership with MAS will help position us as part of Singapore’s thriving technology community. We are excited to be able to play a part in shaping the future of InsurTech innovation in Singapore and beyond,” she added.

MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty said the presence of an Australian-backed hub added to the diversity and vibrancy of Singapore’s fintech ecosystem.

“IAG’s initiative presents an exciting platform for both the insurance and innovation community to come together and co-create innovative InsurTech solutions across retail and reinsurance applications for the region, and will further bolster Singapore’s development as the global insurance hub,” he added.

Reshuffle, refocus

In recent years IAG has focused its business strategy on creating “great customer experiences through data, innovation and digital technologies”. Extensive restructuring of the company’s executive sought to better align it to these priorities, while another reshuffle took place late last year. IAG’s group executive digital and technology, Claire Rawlins, departed in October.

In December, the company set-up a $75 million venture fund to invest in, and partner with start-ups and emerging growth businesses.

“We understand that we can’t innovate alone, so we are looking forward to working with entrepreneurs, technologists, researchers and problem solvers based in Singapore who will bring a global perspective and new ways of working to our business,” James Orchard, executive general manager innovation for IAG said.

"The real opportunity here is in combining our experience and knowledge as Australia's largest general insurer, with the fresh thinking of new partners in Singapore who can help us to build a safer future for our customers,”

Test bed

Australia was increasingly being viewed as a test-bed for customer-focused InsurTech innovations, says KPMG head of insurance, Martin Blake.

“This presents an opportunity to increase Australian involvement in Insurtech and encourage companies to pilot in Australia,” Blake wrote in a recent blog post. “Being a testing ground for prototypes or activities to be rolled out means our local insurance industry will also innovate much faster than if these technologies were piloted elsewhere and brought over.”

Blake predicts the use of wearables, robo-advisors and automated system processes in InsurTech in coming months, he said.