Member Spotlight: Mastercard

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InsTech London’s Henry Gale speaks to Ruth Polyblank, Vice President Insurance at Mastercard, to discuss payments in insurance, parametric insurance and how to form strong partnerships.

Henry: We all know Mastercard as a payment network processor, tell us about the other things it does.

Ruth: Mastercard has built a global payments network over the last 50 years. That technology allows people and businesses to make payments easily and securely. Building that network has also created considerable expertise in other areas. These include global collaborations and partnerships across different sectors, innovation at scale that powers digital economies, and the analysis of secure and anonymised data to deliver actionable insights.

Henry: What is your role and what does it involve?

Ruth: As Vice President Insurance, I am part of Mastercard’s Enterprise Partnerships team, tasked with driving growth and unlocking value for industry partners through a collaborative approach. While the Enterprise Partnerships team works across various areas such as global trade, business-to-business travel and consumer packaged goods, my focus is joining forces with insurance partners and scaling combined expertise and innovations to remove friction and realize digital transformation across the insurance ecosystem.

My responsibilities include bringing Mastercard’s capabilities into the insurance sector, identifying use cases for insurance in other verticals and innovating in partnership with the insurance industry. I worked in several more traditional insurance roles for 20 years before joining Mastercard, and still spend all my time working in insurance.

Henry: What payments services does Mastercard offer to the insurance industry specifically?

Ruth: Mastercard is focused on enabling insurance companies to pay and get paid with greater speed, choice and flexibility. No one payment solution will work for everything, which is why we want to enable insurers to better respond to the needs of their customers. Working with a partner like Mastercard allows insurers to configure solutions to move money and data in a way that delivers the best outcome for a particular set of customers. We work with reinsurers, insurers, third-party administrators (TPAs) and start-ups. Mastercard also works with partners such as Imburse, which is adding various Mastercard payment solutions to its payment integration platform. With Imburse, insurers can deploy payment technology from different providers. This allows companies to access Mastercard’s solutions through a single API integration.

Henry: What payments problems are you trying to solve in the insurance industry?

Ruth: Payments are not fit for purpose in insurance because there is a tendency to treat payments tactically and focus on implementation. A company like Mastercard can help examine an insurer’s payments needs strategically to identify and deliver the best solutions. One example is making near real-time payment to a supplier at the scene of an incident using multiple lines of reconciliation data to identify which task the payment relates to.

Henry: How can Mastercard’s access to data be useful to the insurance industry?

Ruth: There are over 70 billion transactions per year on the Mastercard network, transmitted in the blink of an eye, so we are committed to ethical data practices. We have developed high standards that enable digital and data innovation while honouring individuals, data rights and the trust placed in Mastercard. Through real-time, anonymised and aggregated transaction data Mastercard creates insights that lead to data-led decision-making. The use cases for insurance are compelling and Mastercard has already provided insights for claim settlement, pricing, modelling and parametric insurance. One of the most interesting use cases is non-physical damage business interruption (NDBI) cover for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Transactional data insights could provide more specific metrics for the actual loss that occurred.

Henry: What challenges are there in providing NDBI insurance to SMEs?

Ruth: Business insurance products were originally designed for larger businesses with physical assets and tangible products. The world has changed, but insurance policies have not changed enough. During the pandemic, there was litigation around the non-payment of NDBI insurance claims and the exclusion of pandemics. There is misunderstanding and mistrust around SME insurance. Unless the industry changes how SME insurance is structured, delivered and communicated, SMEs will look to manage their risk in other ways. One way to make insurance for SMEs more transparent is to provide more clarity in advance on what is covered, when a loss is incurred and what the payment will be. That could be achieved through a parametric approach.

Henry: Why is parametric insurance an area of interest for Mastercard?

Ruth: Parametric insurance is an innovative use of data and technology and the potential to scale parametric solutions has not yet been fully realised. Parametric insurance presents an opportunity for partnerships between companies like Mastercard and the insurance industry. Parametric insurance changes the outcome of an insurance policy from compensation to intervention, and potentially even prevention of loss. It can also offer protection for otherwise uninsurable risks, including for the financially excluded, climate risk and risks in emerging markets, where payments need to be made quickly. Parametric insurance can build the resilience of businesses, cities and people. The essence of parametric insurance is a data point and a payment, which are both areas of specialism for Mastercard.

Henry: What areas of parametric insurance is Mastercard active in?

Ruth: Mastercard has a number of parametric insurance initiatives across business interruption, financial inclusion and building resilience in Cities. We will be able to provide more detail in the future; watch this space.

Henry: What can insurance learn from other industries?

Ruth: There is tremendous innovation happening at scale in sectors like travel, transit in cities and mobility. Those successes were achieved through partnerships. Insurers which are leading the way in innovation do so through partnership with other organisations with the expertise and capabilities required to provide better products and services.

Henry: What makes a good partnership?

Ruth: It is important for companies to be transparent about what they are looking to gain from a partnership and what they bring to the partnership. Building something which is greater than the sum of its parts requires openness and hard work.

Henry: Your insurance partnerships team at Mastercard has grown, why have you been adding to the team and who has joined?

Ruth: We have been hiring because of the opportunities to progress Mastercard’s insurance partnerships in different areas. The focus areas for the upcoming year are global insurance payments and parametric insurance. To grow in those areas and explore others requires more people with the right skills. We have broadened the team’s ability by adding Jason Reddington and Alice Glenister, who both have considerable insurance experience and expertise.

Henry: Why is Mastercard a corporate member of InsTech London and what kind of companies would you like to connect with?

Ruth: We have had a great experience working with InsTech London. We joined because we want to collaborate with insurance partners on payments and in other areas such as business interruption, parametric, cyber, identity, premium collection and reconciliation. We are open to any conversations, especially with organisations that want to collaborate to create innovative solutions. They can connect with us at enterprisepartnerships@mastercard.com.

Henry: Mastercard is co-sponsoring InsTech’s upcoming in-person event in London on the strategic importance of payments in insurance. Why should people register and attend the event?

Ruth: Paying and getting paid is fundamental to insurers’ success. Customers want claims settled quickly and transparently. The operational cost of payment inefficiency is high. We are excited to share more about our partnership with Imburse during the event and explain the reasons why payments need to be elevated from a tactical to a strategic consideration. 

Save the date for the upcoming InsTech London event with Mastercard: 24 May 5:30pm. You will be able to sign up on InsTech’s Events page when it is published.

For more information on Mastercard, go to mastercard.com