Wednesday 26th July 2017
GBA recently welcomed our first insurance company, AXA, as a member. AXA is the worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, and the 1st global insurance brand – serving 107 million clients in 64 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and North America. In 2016, the company generated EUR 100.2 billion (US$ 115 billion) in revenues and EUR 5.7 billion (US$ 6.56 billion) in underlying earnings, managing total assets of EUR 1.429 billion (US$ 1.64 billion).
In recent years, AXA has identified women as a strategic growth segment. In this interview, Amélie Oudéa-Castera, their Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, spoke with the Global Banking Alliance for Women about the Women’s Market for insurance, AXA’s decision to target the Women’s Market, and its hopes for its Women’s Market program and for its membership in the GBA.
GBA: When and why did AXA decide to target the Women’s Market?
Amélie: We began in 2015 when we published the “She for Shield” report with Accenture and IFC. This was a very extensive study on the insurance needs of women, with a particular focus on emerging markets. We then tried to identify whether there was similar potential in more mature markets. The second phase of our market analysis ended in 2016, and we got the green light from our management committee to start our global initiative on women’s insurance in September 2016.
We first wanted to address the “protection” needs of this segment, second to make sure women are given a value proposition that delivers them specific services, and third to capture the longer-term growth opportunity that they present.
GBA: What did you discover were the differences between developed economies and emerging markets?
Amélie: In mature markets, the main aspiration for women is financial independence, whereas in emerging markets there are still some very basic needs like overall health, maternal health, children’s education, protection for small businesses, etc., that are still unaddressed. Because of these different needs, we decided to develop a dual flagship program to best target the different markets: One is about empowering women to become financially independent (for mature markets), and the other is about empowering women to live better lives through increased protection (for emerging markets).
GBA: Globally women are both under-banked and un-banked. The same is true of insurance—they are both under-insured and un-insured. For the under-insured, what types of insurance are women mainly in deficit? What are the underlying drivers of this?
Amélie: This split between “under” and “un” is extremely applicable to our industry. What we see is that in a number of emerging markets the protection needs are very high, while in mature markets it is more of a protection gap, where women tend to already have a good understanding of what insurance solutions can bring them but fail to equip themselves properly.
When we look at countries like France and the UK, we see that women remain underequipped in protection like life insurance and disability insurance, but also in terms of retirement and savings insurance compared with men. In France, for instance, there is an average gap of 15 percent between men and women in these product categories. In the UK, we see these gaps as well as in other products such as motor and travel insurance.
If we look at emerging markets, there is a very big issue of low or no health insurance coverage. In several countries, such as Nigeria and India, we need to build products that match women’s specific needs, but also complement them with additional services such as teleconsultation to make benefits more tangible to first-time buyers. Hence, the level of maturity and sophistication in the markets is very important for us to take into account.
GBA: What do you find are the underlying drivers of women in mature markets being under-insured?
Amélie: Our view is that it’s a matter of making women more aware of the available solutions and then taking the time to equip them with the products. Women have extremely busy lives. They take care of the elderly, they take care of the kids, and they have to make a living. We found out that they do not dedicate time to finding protection solutions, and thus we are really trying to convince women – especially in France, where we have had a very customized approach – that they should take the time to think through these issues.
It is about educating them on these products, having them allocate more time to it, and building their understanding that they can play a more pivotal role within their households if they are closer to these insurance topics. It’s really calling to their responsibility as head of the household, as decision makers.
GBA: In emerging markets, do you see the same issues, only exacerbated by women’s general lower levels of education and lack of understanding of the benefits of insurance?
Amélie: Absolutely. We see that women’s education levels in emerging markets are lower, but the overall picture is actually quite encouraging. When we look at what we found in “She for Shield,” women’s tertiary education enrollment increased in 9 out of the 10 focus high-growth markets between 2008 and 2014. Also, women’s global income is expected to reach roughly US$6 trillion by the end of 2017. By 2028, women are expected to control close to 75 percent of discretionary spending worldwide. These are very encouraging numbers that lead us to think that the years ahead will be very good for women. On insurance in particular, the innovation which has taken place in financial literacy campaigns under the aegis of governments or organizations such as Accion is critical, but we also believe in the impact of building very simple, exclusion-less products to drive customer understanding and trust.
GBA: You’ve identified women SME owners as a strategic segment for you. GBA banks’ value proposition to women includes access to finance, information, education, networking and recognition. What is your customer value proposition to women business owners?
Amélie: Exactly all of the components you have just mentioned, plus mentoring – and in particular mentoring to access funding for growing businesses. We do that in partnership with Global Invest Her, a platform based in the UK that we have partnered with for the past eight months. They deliver specific advice for women looking to raise capital on how to talk to investors in the proper way.
We typically have a need-based value proposition. For women and especially for women entrepreneurs we go much further than this, into advice and recognition. For instance, we just finished up a mentoring competition with Global Invest Her to support the 5 most promising women entrepreneurs by providing them with a 6-month mentoring program from AXA experts.
GBA: Women-owned SMEs, in particular, are an under-insured segment. What products do you have for SMEs specifically?
Amélie: There is a lot around how we can help kick start their businesses – access to capital, coaching to help them get funding, coaching on business plan development, capacity building. There is also a lot on the business continuity aspect. This is especially the case for women entrepreneurs who have children, portraying an image that can raise questions from investors and thus prevent them from investing in this company. So we want to make sure we can help them kick start their businesses, grow and scale-up, promote access to capital, help them develop a very strong business case, and also shepherd them across life stages and make sure business continuity is assured.
GBA: In banks we see increased products per customer as a benefit of targeting the Women’s Market with a specific value proposition. How do you look at the ROI from the insurance perspective?
Amélie: There are three levels. First, if women build healthier businesses, we will have more ability to gain premiums and over a longer period of time. So clearly there is a benefit if the insurable market is more prosperous and more sustainable. Then we also look at women entrepreneurs as women who will have specific needs in their personal lives as well, and the third element we are looking at is the impact on their households. We know that women are willing to reinvest 90 percent of their income on the holistic protection of their household – education, health, savings- , compared to only 40 percent for men. In other words, there are insurance opportunities for the business, for women themselves and for their households.
GBA: You have also identified women in the workforce as a strategic segment. How are you defining them? What examples of customer value propositions are you piloting/offering?
Amélie: What we are looking for there is all the small services that can really improve day-to-day lives in managing the constraints of having a public and private life at the same time. For example, in AXA France, we have developed a specific package called “Famille Protégée” (Protected Family). It includes home insurance, accident insurance, and an innovative service known as Allo Nounou providing access to 300 nurseries and a network of 22.000 baby-sitters to cover parents in case of unexpected events This serves as a concrete example of how we are seeking to improve women’s lives.
Often women today are considered as the sandwich generation, serving as caretakers of multiple generations and squeezing in everything else they have to take care of during the day, so we try to address all their needs by providing services where we can. In the health sector, we are in the process of rolling out access to free teleconsultation services with doctors or specialists globally. This will enable women to not have to spend time physically going to a doctor for themselves and for their families.
GBA: What are you doing for un-insured women?
Amélie: We have very promising initiatives for the un-insured in a number of countries, where we have specific partnerships with the IFC. This is the case in India and Nigeria, where we are developing specific value propositions for women. We want to build meaningful, relevant solutions – meaning complementing insurance with add-on services notably in the health field – in delivery channels that will specifically cater to women clients. We are looking at MFIs to go beyond the mandatory credit life insurance tied to loans which exists today, as well as sub-sectors where women tend to gravitate like garments and toy manufacturing, and we are thus working in those sub-sectors to develop signature products that are focused on improving access to health care for women and their families.
Beyond this, we also have several initiatives in other countries: in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Morocco, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico. Our objective is to make sure we have very relevant solutions for the uninsured in each of these markets, investing in basic needs like health, basic savings and the assistance component, which is an important one for us.
GBA: The majority of GBA banks offer insurance, 80 percent through working bank assurance. How can AXA work with our banks to enhance their value proposition to women?
Amélie: I think bank assurance partnerships can become a relevant differentiator that provides additional benefits to existing customers while also widening the ability of AXA to attract new customers. In countries like China, for instance, we have quite powerful bank assurance partnerships that we can leverage to really penetrate the Women’s Market. We also see that we can help women entrepreneurs who have low or no collateral or credit history to obtain a loan by raising awareness about existing credit being offered by banks. We strongly feel that we can grow awareness and knowledge by partnering with banks to boost the health of women’s businesses.
GBA: All banks have challenges establishing their baseline of women customers – in part due to definitions. For women consumers (non-business owners), GBA banks count accounts with women as primary signatories on accounts. For businesses, some banks count only businesses with >20 percent female ownership plus a major decision making role, while other banks count only businesses with >51 percent female ownership. Can you tell us what definitions AXA is/will be using to measure Women’s Market program success?
Amélie: What we follow as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is the total number of women that are SME policyholders in comparison to total number of SME customers. We aim to increase the percentage of women SME customers versus the overall total number of SME customers.
We define a woman-owned SME as one that is controlled at least 51 percent by a woman, with between one and 49 salaried employees.
GBA: After the decision at HQ is made to implement a strategy for the Women’s Market, the work must be done in the distribution channel to convince, train and incent so that execution is seamless. What challenges do you see and solutions?
Amélie: The focus we have now is to progress on gender equality in the sales force. In numerous countries, especially in France, we have seen a significant correlation between the percentage of women agents and their capacity to sell to women. Consequently, we are following that angle and have set ambitious targets for AXA to raise the proportion of women in our sales force – both on new hires and promotions.
GBA: Why did you decide to join the GBA?
Amélie: We are extremely happy to have this opportunity. We look forward to being able to interact with well-established players that are globally recognized for their commitment to the Women’s Market and to discussing potential scenarios for bank distribution partnerships as they can be a fantastic way to better women’s access. More broadly, this is a great opportunity to learn from best practices in the banking sector. As we can see from the GBA network, there is already a good level of maturity among banks on capturing the opportunity represented by women in SMEs.