DearTime Sdn Bhd is reshaping the insurance landscape through an entirely digital strategy.
According to founder and CEO Jon Ng, the life insurance provider, which started operations last year through Bank Negara Malaysia’s Fintech Regulatory Sandbox, aims to bridge the penetration gap by offering affordable, accessible and user-friendly insurance products fully through a digital approach.
“Only four out of 10 Malaysians have life insurance. Life insurance penetration is low because insurance is seen as expensive, complicated and inaccessible. DearTime aims to solve people’s problems in insurance through being fully digital,” he told SunBiz.
What sets DearTime apart is its commitment to maximising benefits for policyholders. Unlike traditional models where a significant portion of fees goes to intermediaries, DearTime redirects a substantial percentage of charges back to policyholders.
“For other companies, a huge percentage of the fee goes to the agents, whereas with DearTime, it can be redirected to helping the policyholders,” Ng said.
He noted that cheaper medical cards may seem to be a budget-friendly choice, but they often sacrifice crucial coverage, leaving policyholders vulnerable when it matters most, such as kidney disease and cancer treatments.
Ng said DearTime’s primary focus does not lie in seeking disruption, but rather in addressing people’s needs.
“Our aim is simple, to provide solutions to problems. But in the process of this, a lot of things that we need to do to solve people’s problems is something that is very different. This difference may unintentionally appear as disruptive to others.”
He said time will be the ultimate judge, as whether or not it is labelled disruptive hinges on others’ responses to its initiatives.
“If they opt to compete with us, it signals that our impact has indeed created a stir, drawing interest from customers seeking similar solutions. Our objective remains the same, which is ensuring people find solutions to their problems. Any disruption that follows is a result of bringing about meaningful change.”
DearTime has pledged to provide comprehensive coverage for even the most severe pre-existing conditions, reaffirming its commitment to safeguarding the health of every individual.
“Currently we only cover those without pre-existing conditions but we are working on also covering those with pre-existing conditions. We will also launch our monthly model because the yearly model can be quite difficult for the B40 and the M40,” he added.
Ng disclosed that DearTime is aiming to obtain Bank Negara Malaysia’s Digital Insurers And Takaful Operators (DITO) status.
“(An example) potentially digital banks will be good to collaborate with because they provide micro loans and micro credit, we can provide insurance to cover them. There is synergy I can see there,” he said.
To qualify for DITO status, stringent capital requirements must be met to ensure financial stability. During the foundational phase, a licensed DITO is required to at all times to maintain a minimum paid-up capital of RM40 million.
When asked about growth prospects, Ng outlined a sustainable trajectory for DearTime.
“We target to gain enough to cover what we need (for the short term). For us to be qualified for the DITO licence, we need to prove sustainability as well. Eventually we need to capture a significant percentage in comparison to the market, so that we can prove sustainability.”
However, he acknowledged, “I will say it is not easy (to grow) even for incumbent insurance companies because insurance is usually tends to be sold and not bought”.
Currently its lead investor is Areca Capital – a home-grown investment company – which he implied is quite stable with funding from Norway, which has one of the biggest retirement funds in the world.
“We are now opening up for the next series of funding. We are hoping to get strategic investors …. because we want to have business partnership and synergy that we can work together to grow our business,” Ng said.
Regarding shariah compliance, he said, “When we established DearTime, our initial goal was to launch a takaful company. However, due to timing considerations, we began with offering conventional life insurance first.
“Moving forward with the DITO initiative, we intend to apply for licences to operate both takaful (shariah-compliant insurance) and conventional life insurance.”
The inception of DearTime finds its roots when Bank Negara Malaysia introduced Direct Distribution Channels for Pure Protection Products in 2015.
“That’s when I realised that to truly solve these problems, I couldn’t rely on anyone else – I had to tackle it myself, alongside my team. That’s why we embarked on the journey with DearTime,” said Ng.