Cigna enjoys an excellent reputation in the group international private medical insurance sector and now it is turning its attentions to the individual market. Health Insurance editor David Sawers meets the man taking on the challenge
Returning to Cigna to drive forward the insurer’s push into the individual international private medical insurance (iPMI) market was an opportunity, Phil Austin tells me, that was too good to miss.
After all, the provider enjoys a solid reputation among brokers in terms of both domestic and international corporate healthcare. Cigna is one of the world’s largest medical insurers. And the iPMI market is said – although meaningful independent data remains hard to come by – to be booming.
But, I point out, while Cigna has pack a punch in terms of group iPMI for some time now, individual health cover is a relatively new – and already crowded – market for it. That, though, is not a major issue, Austin says.
“We are new into the individual international healthcare business, yes, but you have to look at Cigna’s heritage over many, many years that has supported large corporate customers in terms of satisfaction,” says Austin, who rejoined the insurer after a spell with Chartis. “We are taking the same service principle and putting it into the individual market. Brokers should know that our individual product is probably one of the best products in the market in terms of coverage and service. And we’re supporting it with our many, many years as a service provider.”
It is certainly clear that Cigna sees the individual iPMI market as a key one and has realigned its international business accordingly. When Cigna launched Cigna Global Health Options – its new individual iPMI business line – towards the end of 2010, the latter was operating as part of Cigna International Expatriate Benefits (CIEB). Then, in order to give the international individual business line more strategic focus, it was formally moved to its own business line in the summer of 2011, before Austin was appointed in October to head it up.
MANAGEMENT TEAM AND STRUCTURE
The new structure means that there are now four business lines which constitute “Cigna International”. Operating in parallel to Cigna Global Health Options, Cigna Global Expatriate Benefits provides international group PMI and incorporates Cigna Global Health Benefits (formerly CIEB) and also Vanbreda International, the provider Cigna acquired in 2010. Cigna HealthCare Benefits provides domestic group cover in the UK and Spain, while Cigna Health, Life & Accident provides short-term risk-based products such as critical illness, personal accident and term assurance cover.
The management team heading up the new structure includes Andrew Kielty, who is president, Cigna Global Health Benefits, while Sheldon Kenton, another figure well know to the UK broker market, is global head of sales and client management. While both Kielty and Kenton are based in Delaware in the US, another senior figure, Wouter Reggers, who joined Cigna with Vanbreda, is managing director, Cigna Global Health Benefits, Europe, and is based in Antwerp, Belgium. Austin, meanwhile reports into Mike Ross, senior vice president, individual private medical insurance & business development.
It is a structure and a management team which Austin believes will enable Cigna to translate its experience and success in the group iPMI market into the individual sector. It is one that is appealing to him professionally too.
“We’re known for quality, customer care and service and we’re taking it to the individual market which is not something Cigna’s really done before,” he says. “So the challenge was just too good to not come back. It had the international focus, it was very strategically important to Cigna […] in terms of our global strategy. Most of my career has been starting something new and really trying to grow and develop.”
Austin’s career to date has seen him take on a number of roles which means he is familiar with many of the key players in both the insurer and intermediary communities in the UK.
“We have a strong presence in the UK broker market and Cigna has a high recognition factor,” he explains, “especially in the corporate arena for both domestic and international healthcare – which means they’re prepared to listen to what we have to offer.”
Cigna, Austin explains, is offering a “very high end, high net worth product” to begin with.
“It is what people would expect from Cigna, in terms of high level benefits,” he says. “The one thing we found with high net worths is they don’t mind paying the money but they want the best product possible. They don’t want to be going to a hospital in Brazil, for example, and suddenly finding out its limitations.”
EXPANDING THE MARKET
Plans are afoot, however, to expand the offering to a broader group of customers too.
“We are generating a huge amount of leads across a mass continuum of people,” Austin says. “There are the high net worths, the mass affluents, the affluents, teachers, travellers and so on. So we are looking to bring a mid-range product later this year. It will be low level benefits which would meet the needs of some of those affluent people who are looking for a lower range product.”
Cigna Global Health Options has plans, Austin continues, to expand the individual iPMI market as opposed to just simply grabbing a share of the existing continuation and group leaver market. New products and propositions will be developed to that end.
“In most markets there is a limited amount of international individual healthcare business written at the moment,” Austin explains. “From what we’ve seen most brokers have group leavers and continuations. There are a few brokers who concentrate on individuals but at the moment it’s quite limited.”
He continues: “If we want to truly work with brokers and expand we have to offer more products and services so we have to be able to offer them new methods of underwriting business, switch business with these continuations. So there will be a new wave coming through from Global Health Options around products and services.”
Austin stresses that while product is key, there are other things that iPMI providers need to do to stand out from the pack. Additional services and website capabilities are just two areas that brokers need to consider when choosing a provider to work with, while paying claims should of course be a given.
“It’s not just about claiming, it’s about the value that you can offer somebody when they’re overseas as well,” he says.
Integral to that, Austin says, is the development of online capabilities and in August of last year the provider launched its online broker portal, “Cigna Global Intermediary Zone”, allowing brokers to offer the Cigna Global Health Options plan direct to their individual clients.
According to Austin, a “key differentiator” is Cigna Global Health Options’ ability to provide full online medical underwriting. The portal also offers a quick quote tool, e-customer fulfilment with all clients’ documents accessible to brokers and their customers within one working day, as well as real time underwriting decisions, providing no further information is required.
“We’re continually enhancing our online services and proposition for customers and brokers alike,” Austin says. “And as well as facilitating e-commerce functionality, we bolster this with our dedicated intermediary support team who have the capability to set-up quotes and policies on an intermediary’s behalf.”
The majority of Cigna Global Health Options’ employees are based in an office in Glasgow, Scotland with the operational and customer service team housed in the provider’s office just down the road in Greenock. Furthermore, Cigna Global Health Options is currently hiring a European business development manager (BDM) – who will look to support intermediaries in the UK – and also has dedicated BDMs based in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore, Austin explains.
“Our view is very much that you get a local person who has the relationships,” Austin says. “Every market’s different in terms of legal complexities and its healthcare system, so it’s about having a local guy who truly understands the market and the brokers.”
Austin views his own role as being “the glue” that holds the Cigna Global Health Options proposition together.
“I want to make sure that my guys in the [relevant] country can get on and do the job which they need to do, which is working through the brokers,” he says. “My job is to make sure that the right products, the right services are in the market and then when we’re looking at doing deals just to make sure I’m touching the right points within the Cigna businesses. It does all start on a local basis, guys working together and it is supported on an international basis.”
Austin himself spends a good deal of time liasing with brokers – and other business partners – around the globe.
Cigna Global Health Options works with a number of third parties around the world, including Grand United Corporate Health in Australia, Saudi Arabian Insurance Company in the Middle East, Medical Administrators International in France, CZ in the Netherlands, China Merchants Group in China and TKK in India.
“I do still spend a lot of time fronting pitches, in front of brokers, in front of banks and insurance companies because again it’s a huge opportunity through these third party affiliates to sell international healthcare,” he says.
“My background has always been sales and marketing,” he continues. “That’s my life, I love sales and marketing. And my job now as general manager is to take a business line and grow it across multiple lines across international businesses. The forefront of any business is about growing sales.”
Austin says he enjoys “the buzz” of making “markets work” and developing them through multi-channels. The international aspect of his role is one he finds particularly stimulating.
“In Asia at the moment we are developing relationships with banks, we’re working direct to the consumer and we’re working through brokers as well,” he explains. “There are some similarities across brokers, across the world. But there are some nuances when you get to these markets around how you transact business, how you deal with people. It’s a slightly different buzz and there are different ways that people work.”
Austin enjoys the “different cultures, different people and the different way that deals are done” in different parts of the world. It certainly seems that the travelling is not even taking its toll as he embraces the challenge of driving forward Cigna’s push into the individual iPMI market.
“Once you’re used to working across multiple time zones with different people, different deals, it just becomes something you either love or you hate,” he says. “I enjoy nothing more than getting on a plane and heading off to Asia or America or wherever to do deals with brokers or partners.”
As head of Cigna’s Global Individual International division, Phil Austin is developing and implementing the company’s individual consumer strategy on an international scale. He is responsible for building the business segment and driving profitable growth, targeting high net worth and globally mobile individuals through various channels such as the internet, bancassurance and intermediaries in key global markets. Austin brings over 20 years of experience in global sales, marketing, product strategy and general management to the Cigna Global Health Options team. He returns to Cigna after serving as vice president of the European Group A&H (Accident and Health) Business for Chartis. He first joined Cigna International in 2002 as partnership director for the UK business. He went on to hold several positions within the organisation, including Health, Life & Accident (HL&A) Europe sales & marketing director and interim CEO for HL&A Europe.
LIFE OUTSIDE INSURANCE
Based in Cigna’s Glasgow office three days a week with frequent, extended trips to North America and Asia Pacific, Phil Austin is happiest spending time at home in Winchester, England with his wife and four young children. When not performing “Evel Knievel cycling stunts” for the kids (it’s a long story!), Austin is a keen rugby enthusiast and avid golfer.