Arjan brings over 18 years of experience in financial services across Asia, Europe and the US to his new role. With proven expertise in the development, marketing and distribution of a broad variety of insurance solutions, he is well positioned to lead Cigna’s Global IPMI business as they build out their position as a leader in the individual PMI industry.
Please introduce yourself and background in the international medical insurance industry:
Let me first say how pleased I am to be joining Cigna’s Global Individual Private Medical Insurance business. We launched this business back in 2011, and since then the business has grown exponentially to become one of the leading providers of health and wellbeing solutions for individual expatriates around the globe.
This is a great time to be joining the business. The team here has done great work over the last four years in building a very strong proposition, and we have built deep relationships with a large number of distribution partners who are now strong advocates for the Cigna brand and share our commitment to customer centricity. We have established a very successful business, and I’m honoured to take on the challenge of taking this business to the next level.
As for my background, I’m joining Cigna Global IPMI after spending four years in Hong Kong as Chief Marketing Officer for Cigna’s International Markets. In this role, I had responsibility for the development and execution of Cigna’s global marketing strategy, with a strong focus on individual customers. While working with our teams in Asia, Europe and the US, I was able to spend a lot of time with our customers and distribution partners in these markets. This cross-cultural exposure will undoubtedly be a great asset to me in my new role, and I fully intend to continue listening to our customers and distribution partners as often as I can.
You are now responsible for the continued profitable growth and expansion of Cigna’s Global IPMI business. What's the plan?
We’ll only be successful if we continue to listen to customer and brokers. We need to understand their needs and expectations deeply so that we can shape our future propositions accordingly. Every Friday I spend time analysing feedback from our customers, and I frequently listen to the conversations we have with our customers on the phone. I’ve been very pleased with how open our customers are with us – they will tell us when things are going great, but they’ll also tell us how we can improve – something I really value.
Based on the insights that we are gathering from customers and distribution partners, Cigna will continue to innovate our products, services and distribution channels. We have never been a follower; we always find our success in breaking new ground. That’s why we’ll continue to work closely with local regulators to expand our global licensing capabilities, continue to enhance our proposition for our distribution partners, and develop new products and services for new and emerging customer segments.
What challenges are you currently facing when it comes to worldwide iPMI plan distribution?
Undoubtedly the biggest challenge is keeping ahead of the latest trends in the market. In the last couple of years we have seen new technology become increasingly important in supporting the sale of IPMI plans, and we have been at the forefront of that, particularly in the broker market, with the launch of our AppLink and Broker Quote Tool platforms.
The other big challenge that I see is around licensing and regulation. If you take the US for example, the Affordable Care Act continues to present challenges for all providers of expatriate health insurance plans. In other markets we see similar challenges, with expats finding themselves having to purchase mandatory local health insurance plans, even though these plans do not always provide the comprehensive global cover that globally mobile individuals require. As a global leader in this market, we will continue to leverage Cigna’s extensive global footprint and capabilities to find compliant solutions that meet the needs of these customers.
For those global brokers, agents, intermediaries and IFAs who aren't currently offering iPMI, what is the Cigna message to them?
First of all, I would tell these partners that the IPMI market will continue to grow, as more and more people see the need to purchase comprehensive medical insurance.
We also see a big increase in the number of globally mobile individuals which further reinforces this trend. This presents a big opportunity for brokers and other distributors, and Cigna is very willing to partner with you to get you set up to offer these plans in addition to your current product range. We have invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology solutions, and we can now offer brokers a very easy-to-use Broker Quote Tool for generating quotes on behalf of clients, or a complete online affiliate solution whereby customers can hit the broker's site, get quotes themselves and proceed to buy online. The broker can get involved by calling out on these leads, or alternatively a lot of brokers are seeing success with this by allowing Cigna to follow-up and convert the leads on their behalf. You should really view us as an addition to your own sales team!
Can you tell us more about AppLink?
AppLink is a tool we launched last year to help support a growing band of brokers who prefer to trade online. We essentially provide a unique tracking URL which the broker can place on their site, drive traffic towards it, and allow their customers to get an instant price online for expatriate cover. We then send an automatic email to the broker every 24 hours to advise when there are new leads, and the broker has the option of whether to follow-up on these themselves, or ask Cigna to do it on their behalf. It’s a really simple way of driving more international health insurance leads and finding different ways to support customers based on the ways people like to interact with their broker these days.
January 2014 and Cigna announces the launch of local language sales and service capabilities for expatriate individual health insurance products. How has the roll-out progressed and what challenges have you had to overcome?
Since 2014, we’ve expanded our language capabilities from English to include full French, German, Spanish and Dutch sales and service. This includes every touch point through which we interact with our customers , and means we have native speakers on hand to pick-up any customer service or claims enquiry.
The transition has actually been very smooth. The key here is finding people who speak the local language as their first language. This ensures we have someone who can effectively interact with customers and understands the cultural nuances that the customer experiences. After all, it’s not just about the words we speak, it’s about understanding where our customers are coming from and putting ourselves in their shoes.
It’s also worth pointing out that we have native speakers on our broker teams as well, offering an additional service to brokers who would rather communicate with us in their mother tongue.
Based on where we see the opportunity for further geographical expansion, we will continue to expand our language capabilities.
Over the next 5 years, which geographic markets will represent your core strategic focus, and why?
We’ve built a strong business over the last few years by focusing on key expatriate markets around the world. We will continue to look at where the ‘up and coming’ countries are for expatriates, and expand our capabilities in those markets. That said, we are a global business, and I fully believe over the next 5 years that country boundaries will continue to blur and we will see a true ‘global marketplace’ emerge. Of course, there will always be local market regulations we need to adapt to, but my goal is to be able to support our customers and distribution partners anywhere in the world.
How will the cost of iPMI rise in the coming year and why?
This is a question I get asked a lot, and it’s not necessarily an easy one to answer. We all know that medical cost trends are highly dependent on where in the world medical treatment takes place. We will continue to be transparent with our customers and distribution partners about specific increases, but we will also continue to manage the overall cost of treatment for the benefit of our customers.
At Cigna, we can offer our customers access to over 1 million doctors, hospitals and clinics around the world. This extensive network allows us to negotiate substantial discounts on the cost of care in a lot of cases which means we can pass this saving back to our customers. This helps offset some of the rising premium costs, and in the case of our customers moving inbound into the US, this has actually let us reduce premiums by 25% for these customers in the last few weeks.
iPMI buyers have become more demanding. Insurance is a given and it's about the entire package and added value. How do you add value?
I completely agree. It’s no longer enough to just provide a good quality insurance product, customers are now seeking a lot more value from their expatriate health insurer and it’s up to us to continuously challenge ourselves to think about what more we can provide. Let me give you an example:
Living as an expatriate can clearly be very stressful at times, and we know our customers travel a lot – both for business as well as for pleasure. So we’re now providing all our Gold and Platinum customers with access to the new Safe Travel by Cigna app for Apple and Android devices.
This app has been developed in close collaboration with expats to support them when moving to a new country, but also while they are travelling.
For example, the app pushes dynamic travel safety alerts which keep expats informed of emerging risks which may impact them on their travels, and secure document storage meaning the customer always has a copy of their insurance documents and passport electronically stored in case of emergency.
Other than the app, we also regularly communicate with our customers to provide them with health and wellness tips, a quarterly customer magazine providing useful articles and hints for living well away from home, and a health and wellness portal providing access to online health risk assessments and wellness guides.
Again, it is about listening to our customers, understanding what their needs are, and then making sure we deliver added value while we continue to nail the basics.
What should customers consider when choosing an IPMI plan with real global access?
There are a few key factors customers should take into account when looking for a high quality health care plan which offers true ‘global’ peace of mind.
Firstly, service is really important. At Cigna, we aim to consistently deliver high quality service, and part of this service is the ability for customers to get access to an actual person – our customers won’t have to press a series of numbers in a telephone menu to access who they need to speak to.
Next, it’s about our customers knowing they have access to treatment nearby when they need it, regardless of where they are in the world. As I said before, Cigna customers have access to over 1 million doctors, hospitals and clinics around the world. Customers can search these on their online Customer Area to find the nearest specialist wherever they are, and brokers can also do this on their customers’ behalf in the Broker Portal.
Finally, I’d say providing different products and levels of cover to give customer more choice is essential. We offer plans with varying cover levels, different module options and flexible deductibles and cost shares to let customers build a totally customized plan. We’re continuing to build this range of products by listening closely to our customers and distribution partners, and using solid insights to determine which products and services will be most valued by each segment.
Last and not least, what do you think of iPMI Magazine?
iPMI Magazine? My one-stop resource to stay on top of what’s going on in this very exciting industry!
Interview originally published in iPOLICY issue 4. Click here to read.
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