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GoBear comparison site starts Asian expansion

Asia, October 28, 2015

Aegon joint venture GoBear, the first independent comparison website for insurance and financial products in Asia, has extended its reach to Thailand.

The meta search engine piloted in Singapore just seven months ago, was launched on October 21 in Thailand. The company plans to launch in Malaysia before year end, and China in 2016.

A new distribution model in Asia

The free comparison site is a joint venture between Walvis – a private equity fund of the Family Fentener van Vlissingen (BCD Travel Group)- and Aegon. It was formed when the two Dutch companies sought opportunities to work together in Asia.

Andre Hesselink

"The idea for GoBear came about because insurance and finance products in Asia are not very transparent and the distribution model is still very traditional, so we identified a gap in the online insurance market," says GoBear chief executive officer Andre Hesselink. 

According to Andre, the existing online insurance offer in various Asia region countries is unnecessarily complex and cumbersome. "Until GoBear entered the market, customers had to fill in an online form with at least 25 questions to generate just a simple quote, many of which were irrelevant. Not many people know the capacity of their car engine off the cuff, for example. Potential clients would give up half way through and return to the traditional distribution model – which hasn't changed much here in the past 30 years."

Global model

"From product offer and search volume perspective it makes sense to move up from a country of 5 million in Singapore to 70 million in Thailand," says Andre, adding that the current focus is on Asia but the model can easily be exported globally.

Go Bear is the first and only independent metasearch engine in the insurance sector in Asia

Asia was an obvious target due to population size but also because of the potential for online uptake. "Internet penetration is not on the same levels as western Europe and the US. In addition, the insurance industry has not typically been the first to adopt new technology, in fact it has been amongst the laggers. So bringing in new technology to excite the customer has proved to be successful," he says.

Unique in Asia

Go Bear is the first and only independent metasearch engine in the insurance sector in Asia. "There are aggregators, but they sell products, which we do not. We are completely unbiased, we provide a complete overview of the market, we use easy-to-understand language and filter-and-sort tools which enable customers to make well-informed decisions," says Andre.

In addition, the site provides a cover score indicator – which tells you how good an insurance is relative to other products in the market – as well as customer reviews.

As a relatively new enterprise GoBear continues to tackle identified hurdles: market recognition of the brand and lack of familiarity with comparison websites as a whole. Both of which it is tackling. GoBear currently represents 10% of direct traffic in Singapore for insurance products.

GoBear currently represents 10% of direct traffic in Singapore for insurance products

 

"We have built strong relationships with many suppliers but there are still a few companies that are reluctant. They do not like to be compared on their pricing, but in general we see more and more coming to us, rather than the other way around."

As for the joint venture relationship, Andre says Aegon has facilitated the fast pace of GoBear's entry into the Singapore and Thai markets. "We formed the team, with two key members coming from Aegon, in August 2014, had the site's soft launch in December, and launched it commercially in March 2015. That is only possible with a good team here on the ground and the support of the two main shareholders.

"Things are moving rapidly. As a company you need to move very fast in Asia. If it takes a year and a half to roll-out in a country, someone else will take that position. So we need to grow at a healthy pace.

Staggering conversion rates

"Conversion from browsing on GoBear to purchase on GoBear's partner's websites is currently 20-30% for travel insurance, compared to 2-3% on traffic coming from Google", says Andre. "Google is top of the search funnel and we are at the bottom. At this stage people already know that they want to buy, but are not quite sure what and where. Getting 20-30% conversions from the site, well, our partners are quite happy about that."