Leapfrog and BIMA: Reaching the Unreachable

The impact investing industry is full of success stories: stories about impact investors thinking differently about the power of their capital, stories about entrepreneurs with exciting new ideas, and stories about the end consumers who benefit from fresh solutions. But here, the GIIN is weaving together all three of those perspectives. In the story below, we invite you to get to know Mov, a life insurance customer in Cambodia; Gustaf, the founder behind BIMA; and Stewart, a Partner at LeapFrog who provided capital and deep experience.

Life Insurance Consumer

Mov Sophen

In February of 2018, Mov Sophen experienced a severe shock: her husband, the family’s primary breadwinner, died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage.

The Cambodian mother was suddenly left to care for their two sons, alone.

“My younger son is studying in the 12th grade of high school,” said Mov at the time. “When his father passed away, he didn’t know where to get the money to support his studies.”

As the family absorbed the shock of their loss, the younger son quit school and found a job at a local store, earning about $100 a month. It was not the bright future he had envisioned.

But Mov recalled that her husband had purchased life insurance through his cell phone from a company called BIMA, the global leader in mobile-delivered insurance and health services in emerging markets.

At first, Mov had been skeptical of the offering, but her husband convinced her. And in the months after his death, BIMA coverage ended up changing the course of the family’s future.

“When my husband passed away, my son called BIMA. After a short process, BIMA paid the $3,000 claim amount to me without deducting a single cent. I told my son, you can now continue with your school because now I have a bit of money to support your studies.”

Mov and her family are not alone. After a decade of growth, BIMA has attracted over 37 million customers in 9 countries. All of those customers are protected from key risks that they face – such as death or illness of a breadwinner – and provided with a financial safety net which helps get them back on their feet.

The next generation insurance and health services provider has been able to grow, in part, thanks to “impact investments.” Impact investments help generate big social or environmental benefits – like increasing community health, fighting climate change, and reducing inequality – alongside a financial return for the investors.

The recipient of that impact investment? An entrepreneur with a disruptive plan for using mobile technology to bring simple, affordable services to millions of customers, who had traditionally been underserved by insurance and healthcare companies.

A Disruptive Entrepreneur

Gustaf Agartson, CEO of BIMA

In the years before he founded BIMA, Gustaf Agartson worked in leadership roles at the European telecommunications company Tele2. Those positions gave him deep insight into the growing power and ubiquity of mobile phone technology – and Agartson saw tremendous potential.

In 2010, he started BIMA as a small pilot venture in Ghana with the goal of leveraging that potent mobile technology to help solve a major problem in emerging markets: lack of easy, affordable access to insurance and health services.

“We offer insurance products and health services through mobile technology,” Agartson said. "It’s important in our markets to make it as simple as possible for customers to access our services. So, our customers pay for their life insurance, health insurance products and access to telemedicine through their mobile phone.”

The need for such products is substantial. According to BIMA, half of the world population lacks access to essential health services, and 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty levels each year because of uninsured health expenses. When families try to cover those expenses out-of-pocket, the economic consequences are often severe. Also, the number of physicians in relation to population in emerging markets is often only 10-20% of what we have in Europe and the US. Telemedicine is a way to make the physicians more effective and make sure more people have access to medical advice.

In the past, the traditional insurance industry struggled to reach this vast market.

As BIMA expanded to countries around Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, the company’s innovative approach made it possible to reach previously unreachable customers, like Mov.

“I think there are three main things that make BIMA’s business model unique. First of all is technology – the mobile technology that we use. And that allows customers to register for the product and also pay for the product through the phone. And it also gives an opportunity to communicate with the customer through the phone. Number two is that we actually invest in agents that are out there in field, in our call center, and actually educate the customer in the products they are buying. The third one is our product portfolio which includes a bundle of insurance and health services like telemedicine which makes our offering more engaging for consumers.”

Agartson’s disruptive vision is generating meaningful real-world impacts. BIMA’s customer research shows that 75% of their customers – many of whom live in rural areas – did not have access to insurance before.

“We’re proud of our success so far, but really we believe we’re just at the start of this journey,” Agartson said. “Mobile technology has the power to transform people’s lives.”

And like other successful impact investments, BIMA has delivered positive social impact for our world while also doing well financially. For the impact investor who saw BIMA’s potential, that track record confirms the power of impact investing.

An Impact Investor Offering Financial Capital and Deep Experience

Stewart Langdon, Partner at LeapFrog Investments

In 2013, LeapFrog Investments – a private equity impact investor focused on high-growth, purpose-driven financial services and healthcare businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing markets – invested in BIMA as part of its first fund.

But LeapFrog partner Stewart Langdon wanted the firm to invest more than just the firm’s capital.

LeapFrog specialized in the insurance market across Asia and Africa. That depth of experience – paired with LeapFrog’s substantial financial investment – proved valuable as BIMA expanded.

Over the course of the investment partnership, Langdon and the LeapFrog team helped hone BIMA’s strategy in a variety of areas: from product development and distribution to re-insurance and branding. The partnership mentality is a prime example of the way impact investors provide investees with non-financial support, alongside their financial investment, as a path for deepening their ultimate impact.

The results speak for themselves. Working together, BIMA and LeapFrog shook up traditional insurance and health services in emerging markets while improving the lives of millions of customers.

“Technology is transforming the way that financial services are delivered in all markets around the world. And BIMA is a stellar example of how mobile technology can be used to change people’s lives. In the same way that an Uber or a Facebook disrupted their markets, BIMA is really changing the way that people in the emerging markets are able to manage risk.”

For LeapFrog, the BIMA investment has also proven successful, financially. In 2017, LeapFrog sold its stake as part of $96m investment in BIMA from Allianz, the global insurer and asset manager. 

For Langdon and his team, their work with BIMA perfectly illustrates the LeapFrog credo of “profit with purpose” – an investment that generates strong results and changes many lives.

Explore other impact investing success stories here and here

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