R1bn in cash back to Discovery Insure customers, as reward programme sees rapid growth – CEO insights

SA’s short-term insurers have been in the news for trying to duck out of paying their dues. But there are some exceptions. In this interview, Anton Ossip, CEO of Discovery Insure – which covers about 270,000 cars in SA – explains how it has managed to give back generous rewards to Vitality Drive members and still please shareholders. He explains how an innovative, super-smart app helps drivers save money, how the rewards programme is being rolled out to fleets, and why the insurer has the BHAG of ‘creating a nation of great drivers’ and making SA roads safer.  Jackie Cameron 

Anton Ossip on the Discovery Vitality Drive programme:

The basis of our models is equal shared value insurance. We effectively share with our clients the value that they create by driving well. So the entire basis of the programme is encouraging people to drive well, to be responsible when they are behind the steering wheel of a vehicle. Through driving well, we effectively generate extra actual profits – which we then are able to share with our customers through the basis of fuel refunds.

So effectively, the better you drive, the more amount of money you get back, in the petrol that you effectively purchase, as a cash back at the end of the month.

On the implementation of the technology behind the programme:

We [have] spent a lot of money on implementing this technology, but we’ve also been able to optimise. So we use mobile technology – which is obviously a cheaper form of measuring how people drive – so we use a mobile app, plus a hardware device that we’ve developed. Through that, we are able to bring down the cost of technology. The amount that we pay back is net of the additional cost of this technology.

So we are able to pay for the technology and give clients a significant amount of money back. R1 billion to date, we’ve paid back through people driving well. Most insurance companies effectively profit from clients that drive really well, and that goes to subsidise clients that drive badly. Because of our basis, we’re able to encourage everyone to drive well through that additional benefit that we create. We are able to reward people in this way.

On how to get these benefits through good driving:

It’s driving in a controlled way. It’s not tailgating. You’re not following someone very closely that you have to slam on the brakes [when they] brake. Obviously driving within the speed limits. You can make mistakes, you don’t have to be perfect. Someone asked me if they can slam on the brakes if someone runs across the road. Of course you can.

The programme is not designed to insist on perfect driving. If you get R800 back, that’s fantastic. But if you get R40o or R500 it’s significant as well. So there will be times [that] we’re not perfect. We do make mistakes in our driving, and sometimes we’re in a rush and we have to drive a little bit faster. Whatever the case is, we’re not aiming for you to drive like a really slow driver to get the benefits. You can drive like a normal driver – just responsibly – and get significant benefit from that.

On how the Vitality Drive sensor works:

 You download the app from App Store or Google Store. It’s a free app to download. You then register on the app, you put your ID number and you register on the back end. It says whether you are a Discovery client or not. It only allows you access to the app if you are a Discovery Insure client. Then you go down to Tiger Wheel & Tyre and you receive a sensor that fits onto your windscreen.

The people at Tiger Wheel & Tyre will help you connect the sensor to your phone. It’s like a FitBit. You link it once. Once it’s linked, it’s linked. It works in the background. Every time you start your car, it picks up that there’s driving and it tells the app to start recording the driving. It records from the start of the drive to the end of the drive. As soon as the drive ends – within a few minutes of the drive ending – it will tell you how you drove.

Did you drive well or did you drive badly. It’s not measuring things like indicating because it doesn’t have access to the electronics of the car. It’s totally independent of the electronics of the car. We’re not wiring anything into the car. There’s no kind of intervention like that. But it’s telling you how fast the car is being driven, where the car is being given and what time the car is been driven. It tells you whether the car is accelerating aggressively or braking aggressively. Whether it’s taking a corner too harshly or not.

 It’s smart because it is a phone. So the phone may be moving in your car. It may have dropped on the floor. The app knows  what is car movement and what is phone movement. It’s able to distinguish between the two. That’s some of the smarts that sits behind the app. Importantly tells you if your car has potentially been in an accident, and that’s one of the most important features.

It will tell us this person’s stopped suddenly. It looks like a potential accident, and it will allow us to reach out to the customer and potentially send an ambulance to the customer if we can’t get hold of them – where it could be a serious accident. That impact alert feature is highly valuable.

On data usage and privacy:

How the data is being used is important. We have conversations with clients often, who want to know exactly how we are going to use the data? We use the data to effectively give them a score at the end of each month. That score translates into the reward, the petrol benefit that I spoke about earlier. That’s the primary use of the data. If you’re driving fast or taking a corner aggressively, it’s got no bearing on a claim. That’s written into our policy document.

What we’re bound to do or not to do with the data is all in our policy document, very clearly. Our clients are welcome to reach out to us if they have any concerns around that. We fully understand that our clients are very concerned about which apps are taking what data. There are so many apps running on your phone at any point in time. You need to understand that. You need to know how it’s been used, and you need to have that assurance from any provider that’s using your data.

So we are fully aware of this issue. This app is being used in about 30 countries around the world, from the US to Europe – and we’ve had to develop this in a very strict way, in terms of how the data is used [and how it’s] kept, to make sure that no one can get access to the data for the wrong means.

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