Val Yap is the founder of PolicyPal, an insurance app that allows users to buy, track, and manage their insurance policies on one platform. Human Asia talks to Val recently to discuss more about this venture.
In short, what is PolicyPal and how did the idea first come about?
Val : PolicyPal is a Singapore-registered insurance broker and exempted financial advisor. We are the first startup to graduate from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Financial Technology Sandbox.
At present, PolicyPal partners with 27 global insurance companies. The idea behind PolicyPal first came about when my family faced a series of adversaries. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and the insurance company rejected our application for a claim, as the policy has lapsed for a short while. In that same year, my father had a sudden heart attack and unfortunately passed away. We were unaware of how much insurance he had and had to personally visit all the insurers to find out. This experience made me realize the importance of having a well-organised folder of all my insurance policies.
Hence, I had the idea of building a digital platform to consolidate insurance policies, making it simple and accessible for everyone – in which came the birth of PolicyPal. With PolicyPal taking off, I also started our affiliated blockchain entity in 2018, PAL Network, with the vision to build an ecosystem where our partners can design and customize new financial products. PAL Network bridges the gap between financial products and customers by designing insurance and finance solutions onto smart contracts.
What is the current state of insurtech in Singapore and globally?
Val : Singapore is considered an insurtech hub with the saturation of promising insurtech companies operating in Asia. I consider the current state of insurtech in Singapore revolutionary as there is an upward trend in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies such as blockchain.
The evolution of the insurance sector is most prominently observed in 2018. Digital disruptions in the traditional financial services sector create opportunities for insurtech companies and insurers to revamp business models. In fact, there is a pressing need to integrate transformative technologies like blockchain technology into the existing operations. If not, businesses will stagnate and potentially lose market share to other innovators.
How exactly are you providing value to consumers? Why can’t consumers go to the traditional route of engaging insurance agents instead?
Val : We provide value to consumers by managing the long and tedious process of traditional insurance buying, through the mobile application and in-app push notifications. Consumers usually engage friends or family members as their insurance agent to manage their policies and filing claims.
However, if their insurance agents leave the industry, the claim filing process becomes harder and longer. PolicyPal tackles this issue as consumers can file their claims on the platform themselves. We also launched an automated flight delay insurance with ERGO last year, with the use of PAL Network blockchain technology, consumers are now able to get the payout automatically to their PayNow account in the event if their flights are delayed. The verification process is triggered automatically from trusted third party sources.
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Tell us more about the MAS Fintech Regulatory Sandbox generally, and in the context of PolicyPal.
Val : In my experience, it is for insurance companies and regulators to assess startups like ourselves. Our experience in the Sandbox allowed us to test and seek advice from MAS before we expanded. The Sandbox was useful for us as a growing startup to try out as a digital broker and test our business model. Our experience in the Sandbox was a fruitful learning journey that propelled us to where we are today.
You mentioned about expanding overseas. How is that going and how will you overcome the regulatory hurdle in each country?
Val : It is definitely within PolicyPal’s pipeline to expand overseas, starting with the Southeast Asian region. Our separate blockchain entity, PAL Network, has launched microinsurance products globally across many countries such as UK, US, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and more.
This also serves as a testbed for PolicyPal to analyse which markets are more receptive and open towards insurtech initiatives. More insurers are working with us to use blockchain technology to automate policy inception. Business logic is built into the smart contracts which allow the policies to be incepted in minutes.
This, in turn, helps to lower the onboarding costs and accelerate the underwriting process, hence minimising the consumer drop-out rate. With the automation of underwriting, we also create a global platform for digital distribution.
What’s possible for PolicyPal in the next few years and where do you see it heading?
Val : PolicyPal aims to be a one-stop solution for consumers as well as businesses. Besides focusing on consumers, we will also be helping SMEs to manage their employees’ insurance. Also, we plan to introduce more features to benefit our existing user base of 50,000 members.
One of the upcoming features the public can expect is a rewards marketplace, where users can utilize their cashback credits earned from PolicyPal purchases to enjoy goods and services from our exclusive partners.
Are you currently looking for funding?
Val : Yes, we welcome long term strategic partners who could add value to our global expansion.
Val, tell us more about yourself and your background.
Val : Before starting PolicyPal, I was the Assistant Vice President of OCBC Bank. During my service, we launched a range of digital initiatives and campaigns to revitalise the OCBC brand. I suppose my career highlight at OCBC Bank would be the OCBC OneTouch campaign, which was awarded three medals at the MOB-EX Awards 2016.
I spent a few years in London for my studies and work, where I worked at the London office of PwC as a Risk Assurance Associate, and developed implementation plans with the U.K. Financial Institutions caused by new regulations of the U.S.A. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA).
Before embarking on my postgraduate studies at Imperial College London, I was also part of the Allianz motor broking team where I handled risk assessments and motor quotations.
Did you always know you were going to be an entrepreneur, and what are your regrets in becoming one?
Val : I guess everyone dreams about being an entrepreneur at some point in their lives. I made a decision to establish my own startup and now I oversee two entities in a span of two years.
I have no regrets about becoming an entrepreneur. Over the years, I learned to be resilient and developed many valuable skill sets in problem solving. I learned to wear many hats in order to adapt and minimize the turnaround time when we are met with setbacks.
What are the drawbacks of starting a company at such a young age?
Val : The drawback is probably breaking stereotypes as a young female entrepreneur. I’m sure many young female entrepreneurs are able to relate to some of my personal struggles with societal stereotypes. Nonetheless, I have great mentors that I have the privilege to meet who are always giving me invaluable advice to scale my business and put trust in my capabilities as a female leader.
What do you usually do to unwind?
Val : I love a good workout, I participated in three Spartan races last year and earned Spartan Trifecta! Some of my other interests outside work would be cooking and painting. I actually hung up some of my own paintings in our office, you should drop by and see them!
Give us some parting words for budding entrepreneurs, especially those entering the fintech and insurtech space.
Val : It is natural to have your own fears entering the insurtech sector – I had mine too and I have overcome those. It is now or never to enter the market as disruptive technologies are at its peak in the fintech industry.
Get in the right head space, trust your gut, and take action before you are too late to penetrate the market.
You can visit PolicyPal at https://www.policypal.com/
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