Philip Wright, who was newly-appointed as the Managing Director of International Medical Group (IMG)’s European Division in May, shared the strategies he has laid down to develop the region with Global Health Insider in an exclusive interview.
Rather than going straight for the obvious to launch new offerings and venture new market areas, Mr. Wright stressed that it is important to take incremental steps. To ensure sustainable growth, some attention must be placed on improving and maintaining current relationships and service levels. Expansion in Europe, meanwhile, should start from building administrative capabilities and identifying gaps in offerings.
Moving on, Mr. Wright highlighted IMG’s efforts in tailoring to the shifting International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) trends and helping the brokers meet sales targets through training, advisory and industry dialogues.
I spent more than 20 years working at various companies in the health insurance industry, beginning with my time at Bupa as marketing manager and corporate consultancy sales support manager. I then spent 11 years at Standard Life Healthcare, where I held several leadership positions and was on the board of Standard Life Healthcare, overseeing the company’s sales and marketing efforts and subsequently its operational strategy.
After working at Standard Life, I moved to Munich Re, where I worked in reinsurance, overseeing a number of well-known insurance companies that the company reinsured or conducted financial deals for. After a few years, I was asked to join Globality Health, Munich Re’s subsidiary that specialises in international health insurance. There, I was responsible for global sales, marketing and product development, which began my transition from domestic, UK-based insurance to global insurance.
Following a brief break from the industry, I had several interesting discussions with executives at International Medical Group (IMG) about the opportunities in the markets outside of the U.S. We agreed that there is a lot of potential for IMG’s existing products — and potential to develop new products — in both European markets and other global markets outside of the U.S. This was an exciting opportunity, and I wanted to explore it with IMG.
As I mentioned, in my initial discussions with IMG, it was clear that we would be expanding our European offerings over the next few years to develop a more substantial market presence outside of the U.S. The first step in doing so was to increase our capabilities on the administrative side by utilizing IMG’s Cardiff, UK-based subsidiary, Global Response.
By moving many of our administrative and claims services to that much larger facility, we’re able to take advantage of the company’s expertise and well-established system processes. Although the transition is still in progress, once completed it will give us economies of scale and an increased scope, while still maintaining a European-based approach to the market, which we know many of our supporters appreciate.
Next, we recognise that with any change, there are concerns about relationships and service levels being maintained and improved, so we will continue to focus our efforts on that front. We have received very favourable feedback on our strategy to improve and expand our business in Europe. Later this year, we’ll be looking at how to further develop other markets and products to increase our footprint in various locations.
We’re currently taking stock of our business and operations in Europe, to understand why we’re successful where we are now, where the gaps are, and what the market is telling us. We’re taking a hard look at what we’re doing well and what we can improve on — looking beyond insurance to services and how we can further utilise IMG’s subsidiaries’ expertise.
We have a strong presence in many areas in Europe and we also receive a significant amount of business online. It’s simplistic to say that we have key geographic markets, because, as an international company, we produce business worldwide. We do, however, have particularly strong support in the UK, Greece and Cyprus, as well as certain parts of Asia.
Looking ahead, there’s still massive potential in the markets we already serve. I want to continue focusing on these markets and building our relationships through increasing the number of local intermediaries, providing additional product offerings, and educating the general public on what we do and why our products are important.
We don’t want to expand too quickly and neglect the people who are already supporting us. Our strategy is to take incremental steps, which would give us far more sustainable growth than attempting to chase after markets where we have no presence at all.
With the growth of compliance issues, more and more countries are becoming quite clear on what they require from an insurer. The “grey market” is shrinking, so to speak, and having the appropriate licenses in place as an insurer is ever more important. Intermediaries and sometimes the end customer are now much more concerned and informed about the issues of compliance and whether they’re selling (or buying) a compliant product.
Additionally, the definition of an “expat” is changing, as we’re seeing fewer five-year assignments, and much more back-to-back short-term assignments. With this change comes a need for a different product type that provides more flexibility and portability. IMG’s GlobeHopper plan is a great example of that; it provides cover for those who are travelling, working or moving to another country for short periods of time, and need the necessary insurance.
We provide ongoing support and training for our current and prospective intermediaries. For example, we hosted an IMG University conference in late June in Costa Mesa, California. During the conference, our sales experts discussed what makes international medical insurance an accelerated growth industry, and how the growing Chinese market fits into the mix. We also provided intermediaries with strategies on how to tap into the market and increase their sales and revenue. We would like to expand that support outside of the U.S. and use the IMG University model elsewhere.
In addition to IMG University, we provide intermediaries comprehensive training programs and materials (including webinars and white papers), multilingual sales support, personalised marketing collateral, and tips and reminders via email. We have also developed a robust social media strategy to alert intermediaries of company and industry news in real time. Through all of these channels, we’re able to regularly communicate with our intermediaries worldwide to provide the support they need.