Insurance team looks beyond
Olga Speckhardt (photo) is our Head of Global Insurance Solutions. Much in demand as a conference panelist, she recently addressed the IAIS Annual Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The overall topic for the International Association of Insurance Supervisors was "Insurance Supervision: Looking Beyond".
In her panel session, Olga made some key points reflecting the Syngenta Foundation’s views on insurance for smallholders. As well as our current activities in Asia, these also reflect our extensive experience in East Africa.
Following the conference, we asked her to summarize what she had said there. Her first point was of particular importance to an audience of insurance supervisors: “Regulation should facilitate and not restrict. We want to show how regulation should adapt to a fast-changing business environment.“
Behind every regulator there is a government. “It is essential that governments create ‘enabling environments‘, Olga emphasizes. “And ‘enabling‘ here means, for example, business environments that make it easy for the private sector to get involved.“
Regulation is a crucial topic, but only part of the story. Olga continues: “Distribution channels are critical to increase smallholders‘ access to insurance. Each channel has to be affordable enough for scale.“ Many of the daily costs in insurance are related to transactions. Reducing these helps insurers to lower premiums to a suitable level for smallholders. “At the IAIS conference, I stressed the importance of mobile technology in reducing transactional costs“, reports Olga. “Examples include location-based mobile registration, as well as premium payment and claim settlement via e-wallets.“
The right products at the right price
All of this, however, is only relevant for farmers if the right insurance policies are available. A choice of cover is essential. “The Syngenta Foundation and its partners continuously design and improve products that are customer-centric“, Olga told the Kuala Lumpur audience. “That means involving smallholders in product design!“
Insurance is not an end in itself. “Our Foundation aims to enhance smallholders‘ resilience“, says Olga. “We also want to enable their graduation from poverty, by reducing the risk of investing in their crops and being able to farm more confidently.“
Importantly, insurance is just one part of a wider picture. Olga Speckhardt wants “climate insurance, microfinance and agricultural development to form a holistic support system for powerful agricultural impact.“ In relation to microfinance, she adds: “Our goal is to expand financial inclusion by encouraging institutions to increase agricultural lending to smallholders. Insurance strengthens farmers‘ credit-worthiness. Recovery lending programs improve their business continuity, even in the face of otherwise disastrous weather problems.“