InsurTech of the month: Bihubao
Bihubao is a Chinese life insurance startup focusing on agent productivity in a market that still relies on tied agents for growth. The problem Bihubao is addressing is a significant one. The design of the agency distribution channel in China, with a strong focus on mass market customers, is unable to access new urban segments such as young professionals, small business owners, and chronic disease suffers.
Recognising this, and the fact the agency channel is struggling with high attrition and low productivity, Bihubao has brought together the ubiquity of WeChat with offline tools to optimise agent recruitment, training and retention.
This focus on agency management has allowed Bihubao to become one of China’s leading reciprocal insurers, and its ability to integrate online services with offline distribution relies on a number of functions.
Bihubao’s agency management tool serves both as its primary distribution channel and core user engagement feature and unlike most Chinese insurers who are still trying to grow the absolute size of their agency force, Bihubao is focusing on productivity and motivation on a per agent basis as opposed to growing top-line numbers.
Bihubao’s WeChat based agency tool aims to educate and motivate agents through four core features:
- Use of WeChat ID tracking codes and time stamps to allow agents to track which content or products are most engaging
- Agent benchmarking for promotion
- Remote fulfilment by the agent
- Digital signature from the policyholder
The problems facing China’s agency force today are structural, although still deliver a higher retention and renewal rate than purely online reciprocal communities.
Bihubao’s WeChat community serves as its customer-facing portal, providing everything from policy management to an AI based product recommendation engine.
Although dozens of similar portals (known as online reciprocal communities) are active on WeChat, Bihubao has become a template for other life insurers by focusing on bridging the offline/online divide.
- An AI assistant bridges demand for user guidance and agent productivity
- Lower cost and scalable model to improve access to care
- Multi-application claims channel with decision tree based guidance
Although the user experience is based on the principle of donations, Bihu then matches community members and creates member pools with others that have the same attributes, sharing articles describing a patients’ situation and medical expenses, which in turn attracts more registrations by encouraging users to share Bihubao to their WeChat network.
The final piece of Bihubao is its pursuit of several tech-based use cases. These include:
An Online Underwriting Platform that works with healthcare data platforms and insurance companies to enable underwriting. Customers can select insurance products online, fill out basic personal information and inform about their health conditions, completing the underwriting process.
Bihubao AI based recommendation engine has been enabled together with several internet portals including Sina Weibo and Sunning.com.
Finally, Bihu Tech provides third-party administration services to hospitals and insurer. The business includes claims administration, premium collection, enrolment and other administrative activities.
Ultimately, although the use of WeChat has now become a standard for consumer internet startups, a range of life insurance startups, including Shuidibao and Trust Life are grappling with low user retention and of users who require more advice and assistance with financial planning.
Bihubao’s status as China’s first reciprocal insurer allows for broader monetisation whilst retaining the user-centricity of mutual insurers.
Bihubao is currently looking for international insurers and reinsurers to develop tailored products for its user base in addition to co-developing use cases inside WeChat.