Let me introduce myself. I have been working in the financial service sector for over 20 years, with a specific focus on insurance. For the last 10 years, I have been consulting on projects in emerging markets and advising on private sector development, business promotion and enterprise support. Many of these projects focus on how to position financial services products as a comprehensive solution for low-income individuals. Financial solutions designed for the poor all too often consist only of lending products and do not take a wholistic approach. I have advised to develop product bundles that increase the poor’s ability not only to borrow but also to save and manage risks. Microinsurance should be part of this solution.
Building on this background, I developed a microinsurance elective, which I have been teaching at the Frankfurt School’s Summer Academy since 2013. The elective, which presents an overview of microinsurance to professionals from a range of financial institutions as well as NGOs and donors, has been very well attended, and the positive uptake gave rise to the idea of developing an e-learning version, which is now known as the Certified Expert in Microinsurance (CEMI). We wanted to find a way to transmit know-how about the insurance sector and in particular microinsurance to a wider audience.
In designing CEMI, a collaborator and I first took into account all of the experience that I had gained throughout my years of working in the insurance industry. I understood that there were many prejudices about the insurance sector amongst financial institutions and their customers. Insurance products have been often experienced not transparent, rarely paying out benefits and costly to the consumer. I wanted to design a course that would help to dismiss these views and reduce the mystery around insurance products amongst financial professionals.
My objective was to show how microinsurance is successfully adapting conventional insurance, which targets the middle-class and wealthy, to the needs of the poor. Further, I hoped to take students’ understanding of microinsurance beyond credit insurance by introducing other important products, namely health, property and disability Microinsurance. These latter products are making their mark in developing economies and changing the way the poor manage risk. For example, on one project that I worked on in Mozambique, the bank decided to expand beyond credit life and include a comprehensive microinsurance product for its “mercado” or literally market clients, who work in small booths in the central market. In case of a medical emergency, the microinsurance product provided the client short-term cash and partial coverage of medical expenses, both of which are important to non-salaried workers when they cannot work. The product was designed to help families bridge such difficult times, until the primary earner could be back at his or her booth. Taking such experiences into account, we designed CEMI to not only provide a history and background of microinsurance but also to incorporate an explanation of the different microinsurance types and deliver a hands-on review of the sector through the use of case studies and examples. We demonstrate the sector’s applicability to the daily business environment of financial institutions and their low-income clients.
In tutoring this course since 2014, my expectations have been exceeded. I am surprised by the variety of students that have taken the course in terms of their geographic representation as well as professional backgrounds. In addition to feeling that the course has furthered the understanding of microinsurance and its value proposition to a diverse group, I continue to learn about the sector through the students’ participation in the written assignment and how they see its applicability in their home countries. And being somewhat old-fashioned and having favored classroom training, I have since fully bought into the 21st century virtual, e-learning experience. Daily I am experiencing how exciting and effective this course is in transmitting knowledge.
I am looking forward to new classes of the CEMI and to a continuous learning cycle. Microinsurance is only beginning to make its footprint and there is no doubt in my mind this course has contributed a small but important step in its journey to full-scale deployment!