Muang Thai Life Assurance has been providing life insurance services to the people of Thailand, under the principle of integrity and fairness, for the past 70 years. It is now building on this strong foundation by creating digitally-driven, innovative products for ‘forward-thinking people’.
MTL is a major Thai life and health insurer and has exchanged ‘smiles’ with its customers, employees and agents since it was founded in 1951 by Chulin Lamsam. Current Chief Executive Officer Sara Lamsam took the time to celebrate the company’s success with InsurTech Magazine.
“Innovation and forward-thinking has always been the DNA of Muang Thai Life Assurance,” he said. Lamsam has led the company for the past 17 years, as it has evolved from a life insurance provider founded with the intention of providing a social safety net, to investing in its own AI-as-a-Service firm to help it realise the full potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the insurance space.
“The most important thing in life insurance is trust and honesty. Trust in the company, trust in the product, trust in the team as this provides sustainability for both our customers and MTL,” said Lamsam, speaking from the company’s head office in Bangkok.
“We aim to be a partner that customers trust through innovation. We have a dynamic pricing product, which not many life assurance companies offer,” said Lamsam, who also highlights the fact they are a very strong brand in Thailand because of a belief in working with the customer at the centre.
“We are the regional life insurance leader, which is strong in terms of finance, service and image and under a good governance and risk management system. We deeply understand the needs and behaviour of our customers to deliver suitable products and services to create financial stability and complete the lives of customers throughout their lifetimes.”
Lamsam points out MTL a familiar and friendly name visible throughout Thai society focuses on the lifetime of the policyholder with dynamic pricing products, saying “it’s not just about sales and margins.” One example of this is The Muang Thai Smile Club, which offers customer focus, the ability to respond to the needs of customers and is considered to be more than a standard loyalty programme.
“MTL started off as a family business, and although we still have shares, we now have partnerships with banks and multinational companies. We have a transparent governance structure, but we still have the sentiments of working as a team. During a time when everything is very dynamic we are horizontal in the way we work as opposed to having a silo mentality,” said Lamsam.
“We have a very strong brand in Thailand, people always recognise us, and internally we have a very strong team. We are starting to connect to an ecosystem of partners, especially hospitals or nursing homes that are beyond life insurance.”
Dr Sutee Mokkhavesa, President of MTL, spearheaded the company's own AI -as-a-Service company and has driven the digital transformation.
“We've come a long way in the past five years, but we view our digital transformation as a never-ending journey that requires perseverance. It’s not a project, it's more like a continuous transformation that the company is undergoing as we experience this fast pace of change in technology.”
Mokkhavesa, who has been with the company for 18 years, pointed out the digital journey started with MTL creating a robust customer service platform that was unproven in the industry and faced questions over whether people would use the apps.
“When COVID-19 hit, people couldn't go to our branches, they couldn't go to hospitals, so the adoption rates skyrocketed and this has fostered the belief that consumers can change and they can change radically once you get it right.
“We were fortunate that we built the digital asset prior to the pandemic and it has a telemedicine app embedded within it. Typically, 70% of all hospital visits are for simple diseases which can be served by telemedicine. During the pandemic, more customers found it convenient and it was cheaper for us, so it was a win-win all around. I believe COVID-19 accelerated our digital adoption by at least a decade.”
How Aigen will revolutionise MTL
Two years ago, MTL established Aigen, a subsidiary company of MTGH, which specialises in AI as they felt this was going to have a big impact on the insurance industry.
“We built a strong capability with 30 best-in-class experts for Aigen and the mandate would be to work together with MTL and solve any technical problems and once they have this brain established they can sell this service to other industries.
“The first use-case was on a death claim which used to take a claims manager 55 minutes. With AI it took six seconds - which is a massive productivity gain. I can then redeploy people to work on harder cases that need human intervention.
“Aigen is maturing nicely and what we are proving is the right people with the right culture and right incentives can innovate on the edge and create a high-value enterprise,” he said.
How AI can detect fraud
Mokkhavesa said they are seeing great potential in AI helping MTL with Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This technology can help decipher an itemised bill from a hospital and identify any fraudulent claims, which can be in excess of 20% of total claims for the whole industry.
“We can see any fraudulent claims, such as any other medicines being prescribed, and analyse all sorts of things that we were not able to do before. Not because we didn't have the data, we had the data, but not in the right format.
“We are now working on OCR to read a doctor’s handwriting and contextual information. You may ask why we need this when hospitals will be digital in the future. The answer is in Thailand, we have many sophisticated hospitals and those which are basic and still use pen and paper.
“It is estimated abuses and fraud in life insurance probably constitute for up to 20% of the total claims. MTL is a big company so even if we fractionally reduce this by 2%, that's a huge saving, so it makes a lot of sense.”
Thai Chatbot using NLP
MTL has also built their own Thai chatbot using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and have seen some “spectacular” results when used against the complex Jumbo Health Policy.
“The chatbot makes the interaction from the agent to the customer seamless. It basically has two loops. The agents ask the questions, we train the bot, and by looking at the questions, we can go back and retrain the agents on the questions they should work on, for example ‘is physiotherapy included in the policy?’.”
Mokkhavesa said AI has the power to take on mundane jobs and provide higher value tasks to the team at MTL.
Power of partnership with Loxley Orbit
MTL also partnered with Loxley Orbit, a provider of cutting-edge cloud technologies and services, offering scalable solutions for companies. Mokkhavesa said, “we use Loxley Orbit to develop our services, such as our inventory systems, temporary receipt systems for our vendors to carry and they also helped us with the regional migration of our Google workspace platform for our 6,000 users from Lotus Domino.
The life insurance and health insurance industry is probably one of the biggest industries in the world, yet it's the one most resistant to change. But I do believe that with the right incentives and the right demand by our consumers, it will change and it will change quickly, so everyone must be prepared for this.”
How collaboration with ZA Tech will innovate the InsurTech industry
Sara Lamsam, CEO of Muang Thai Life Assurance, revealed that MTL has teamed up with ZA Tech Global Limited (ZA Tech), which is Asia’s leading technology venture company founded by ZA International and is supported by Softbank’s Vision Fund 1.
This synergy is made possible by the commitment of both organisations to create new experiences and innovations for the life insurance industry, including making it easier and more flexible for Thai people to access insurance products in line with the new world and changing needs.
Lamsam commented: “Throughout the past 70 years, the company has never ceased to be a leading player in the development of products and services for customers. During the past four to five years, the company has continuously developed in the digital field. Whether it is the establishment of the Fuchsia Innovation Centre, the launch of the MTL Click application, MTL Mini Click, the MTL Fit application, and many other services, and most recently, MTL has decided to take the next step on the digital path together with ZA Tech, one of the most famous InsurTech companies in Asia.
“This collaboration is an important combination of strengths. With Muang Thai Life Assurance having strength in innovation and product development, together with the strong capabilities of ZA Tech in the field of insurance technology, innovation can be carried out seamlessly, and we can create experiences that meet specific needs (personalised) of customers and various partners in the ecosystem comprehensively.”
Timeline of MTL
As a financial institution that has been providing “Life Insurance” to the Thai society since its establishment on the 6th of April, 1951, MTL has been operating its business through quality life insurance product and service development, together with asset management. In addition, MTL is the first company to receive royal garuda.
MTL divided its insurance business into life (MTL) and non-life insurance (MTI). Also, MTL shaped the look o the logo and changed the slogan to “Company of forward-thinking people.”
Muang Thai Group Holding joined forces with an important business partnership, “Ageas”, formerly known as “FORTIS” and started a bancassurance business with Kasikornbank Public Company Limited (Kbank). Moreover, MTL launched “Muang Thai Smile Club” as the first CRM programme for the life insurance industry, and MTL was rebranded.
Kasikornbank increased the shareholding proportion in the company in order to enhance the potential for developing the bancassurance channel in full scale.
The company was converted into a public limited company to reflect upon its stability and compliance with good corporate governance. Its performance has been disclosed to the public while being audited to ensure that they are following the standards of the public limited companies.
MTL launched “Fuchsia Innovation Centre” and “Fuchsia VC”, a new dimension of innovation to pioneer and develop products and services, enhancing accessibility and tailor-fitting them to each customer segment, and investing in startups focused on insurtech and wellness tech within the life and health spaces.
Launch of subsidiary company Aigen specialising in artificial intelligence and building capability with best-in-class recruiting
MTL focus on the following services:
Ordinary life insurance
Life insurance with payroll
Small tickets life insurance
Group life insurance
Accident and health insurance
Credit and mortgage Insurance
Selling life insurance through various channels such as through agents, through branches nationwide, through banks, through online channel and via tele-seller
Customer service centre
Customer loyalty program (Muangthai Smile Club)