In the past several years, established financial services firms have increasingly sought to partner with or even acquire fintech upstarts, many of which have been encroaching on territory they used to control.
But while the shift from competition to cooperation often focuses on relationships between financial services players and fintechs, the former don’t necessarily need to partner with the latter to innovate.
Instead, there are a growing number of examples of financial services firms partnering with other kinds of tech companies to build innovative new offerings.
Case in point: NTUC Income, an insurance cooperative in Singapore that was founded in 1970, has launched a new insurance service called Pinfare. Through an insurance policy, Pinfare allows travelers to “pin” as many as three flight itineraries at their current prices, up to three weeks before those itineraries’ flight departure dates, for a period of seven days.
If the price of a flight increases by more than 10% during the insurance period according to a price index it maintains, an insured traveler can submit an insurance claim to receive compensation.
Skyscanner says that Singaporean travelers often book flights at the last minute and as a result can miss out on savings of anywhere from 15% to 31%.
Pinfare was developed by Digital Income, NTUC Income’s in-house digital transformation outfit, which partnered with Skyscanner. The airfare aggregator’s data makes Pinfare possible, as it feeds the indexes that are the basis of Pinfare policies.
Additionally, once a traveler has purchased Pinfare insurance, Pinfare uses Skyscanner data to send a daily email containing an update on the fares for their insured itineraries along with links they can use to purchase those itineraries directly.
“Singaporeans are one of the most travelled citizens in the world. This prompts us to assess the customer journey, starting from when travellers begin to plan their journey, to determine opportunities where we can improve their experience with insurance offerings and services,” Peter Tay, NTUC Income’s COO and head of Digital Income, explained.
“As one of the leading travel insurers in Singapore, we are excited to have reimagined traditional travel insurance with Pinfare to offer our customers peace of mind even before they embark on their travels.”
Currently, Pinfare can be used on round-trip flights from Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Hong Kong. NTUC Income plans to support flights to other countries in the future.
As one reviewer pointed out, Pinfare doesn’t guarantee that insured itineraries will still be available for purchase. So theoretically an insured traveler could find herself compensated financially but still unable to travel to a desired location on a desired date.
Another potential shortcoming of Pinfare is that the cost of Pinfare insurance can in some cases be equivalent to a significant percentage of an airfare and higher than hold this booking options offered directly by airlines.
But unlike airlines’ pseudo-insurance offerings, Pinfare can be used to mitigate the effects of price increases across multiple airlines. The seven-day insurance period Pinfare provides for is also longer than that most airlines will hold reservations; airline hold this booking offerings typically only provide a 48-hour to 72-hour window.
Time will tell whether Singaporean travelers find Pinfare to be a compelling solution to one of the most frustrating challenges travelers face.
But NTUC Income’s efforts demonstrate how established firms can use partnerships with tech partners that aren’t directly involved in the financial services industry to create new digital offerings that allow them to grow their relationships with existing customers and start relationships with new customers.