Digital technology keeps property and insurance players on their feet

  • Insurance will soon evolve to be more “bite-sized”, “usage-based”
  • Partnerships with tech providers essential for the property industry

 

(From left) Allianz General Insurance Company head of Digital Partnership and Innovation Michael Fong; Rehda president Soam Heng Choon; Allianz Malaysia CEO Zakri Khir; Speedhome CEO Wong Whei Meng and Allianz General Insurance Company board member Gnanachandran S Ayadurai

DIGITAL technology is changing the way we think about home rentals and insurance. And, if a forum on Dec 4 between Speedhome and Allianz General Insurance Company is anything to go by, it’s going to continue evolving.

Both parties would know. They are, after all, at the forefront of this – both have been in partnership since 2017, with Allianz providing insurance coverage to homeowners who engage with Speedhome’s end-to-end residential property rental platform.

This merger has already allowed for a bit of unorthodoxy in the home rental space. Tenants who utilise Speedhome can rent out a space without needing to pay a deposit, something made possible because of Allianz’s insurance to home owners.

At the same time, landlords get protection against runaway tenants, tardy paymasters and home damage. As Allianz General’s Digital Partnership & Innovation head Michael Fong puts it, the 2+1 (two months’ rent, one month’s utility bills) deposit that is standard among the home rental industry may not be sufficient to cover the losses incurred by a runaway tenant or severe damages to a home.

“We know that the biggest problem for homeowners to rent a house is the tenant not paying rent on time in addition to bad tenants damaging their house. With the support of Allianz Malaysia, Speedhome has solved two major pain points for homeowners,” says Speedhome chief executive officer Wong Whei Meng.

“Tenants can search for their dream house on our platform, anywhere, at any time and the landlord can rent the house with the insurance. With the support of Allianz Malaysia, Speedhome has provided up to RM30 million worth of insurance protection to landlords already.”

The platform recently launched a “homerunners” service, which allows landlords to upload their property to Speedhome’s listings with just a smartphone. Starting this year, Speedhome’s advanced insurance package offers homeowners rental protection of up to RM42,000.

Moving with the times

At any rate, both the home rental and insurance industry have to move with the times. That includes having the right partners, and making things more seamless.

“It’s a digital-first world now. To stay competitive, which we hope to achieve through each of these partnerships, we will need to simplify insurance and how it is consumed by Malaysians, by making products more definitive, accessible and simpler to understand and making claims processes quick and seamless,” elaborates Allianz Malaysia chief executive officer Zakri Khir.

Adding to that, Fong says: “The online insurance market is ever-evolving and for us it simply means having tremendous opportunities to explore innovation-led collaborations. We currently work with more than 40 digital partners to leverage on their digital capabilities to innovate solutions and improve customer experience.”

During his presentation, the Real Estate & Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) president Soam Heng Choon highlighted the way digitalisation efforts are going to change the property industry, if it has not already changed it.

For one, the advent of augmented intelligence is already altering the way in which the sales and marketing of property is done. Soam points at platforms like Speedhome and iProperty, which have changed the way homes are being sought in Malaysia. In time, AI will help identify buyers and improve sales focus, on top of collecting and analysing buyer information to show better matches.

At the same time, the arrival of “smart homes” – those with appliances and systems capable of communicating with each other – will fundamentally change the way home insurance will work.

 

Digital technology keeps property and insurance players on their feet

 

What to expect

What are the changes to home insurance that we can expect? For one, we may see policies aimed at protecting tenants. Wong says that there are already discussions between Speedhome and Allianz (“a secret sauce,” he quips) wherein they’re looking into how they can insure tenants for loss or damage to their personal belongings.

At the same time, insurance will change from being more centred around an “annual basis” (where premiums are purchased and renewed annually) to something more “usage-based”, notes Allianz’s Fong.

For instance, a tenant may be leaving for a holiday over the weekends and purchase coverage for only that specific amount of time. “You will see more of these emerging,” Fong notes.

Zakri concurs, adding that insurance selling will be approached in more of an “on-demand” basis, with insurance being more “bite-sized” and sold over smartphone apps.

Going forward, Soam says that the fourth industrial revolution is “blurring the lines between traditional sectors”, and real estate firms will need to collaborate with technology and infrastructure providers as well as suppliers.

There is also a need to rethink the way buildings are constructed. “Many of today’s new buildings will not be fit for purpose in twenty, or even ten years’ time. To avoid costly retrofitting and building obsolescence, developers should consider how their buildings can be adapted, as occupier demand and needs change over time,” he says.

On top of that, investors and developers should evaluate decisions through the lens of over the next two decades – in short, have foresight. “They need to consider how emerging technologies such as AI and automated vehicles will impact today’s buildings and what the opportunities of the future will be.”

 

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