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Can innovation breathe new life into insurance brands?

Insurer MetLife is looking for disruptive business models for Asia through its innovation lab.

Following in the trend of major firms opening innovation labs, insurer MetLife is looking for disruptive business models for Asia through its newly opened LumenLab. The innovation centre was first launched last year, known as FutureLabs, and was newly relaunched last Thursday.

This was started with the help of several government agencies, the Economic Development Board, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the National University of Singapore.

The aim of LumenLab is to solve key societal issues in Asia – for example, dementia amongst the elderly in Japan or the financial crunch of running a farm in India. Pilots of such solutions were already running, said LumenLab CEO and chief innovation officer of MetLife Asia Zia Zaman.

“LumenLab’s remit extends beyond the traditional life and health insurance industry. Our innovation strategy focuses on consumers as the source of insights and inspiration; it goes beyond just technology innovation, said Zaman.

While the company is still in a “test and learn” stage, Tony Estrella, managing partner of LumenLab said that the company would explore how to monetise these at a later date.

Christopher Townsend, president, Asia of MetLife said: “Lately, innovation  in  the  insurance  industry  in  Asia  has  been  incremental  and,  too  often Western- centric,” Townsend said. “LumenLab is something entirely different. It is a business creation engine, focused  on  illuminating  new  business  models  for  the market.”

The insurer is looking to focus on three areas for solutions: health, wealth and retirement. The company declined to share its investment in the unit.

The new 7,800 square feet facility at The Metropolis, Buona Vista houses a working space and business incubator staffed with talent from various backgrounds in startups or outside of the insurance industry.

Meanwhile, the company has also hired Veronique Cornu Meffert, group head of digital for Great Eastern as its head of digital for Asia. It also appointed local PR firm Epic PR for its publicity efforts.

Many Singapore-based firms have been starting up innovation labs, with their models varying. For example, Ogilvy, Citi, SAP, P&G, Unilever, Visa, Coca-Cola, MasterCard and more.

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