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Insurance profession: It's hip to be there

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You might not be aware of this, but apparently, if you work in insurance, you are the new “cool kid” in the world of international development.

That's because access to insurance was featured in the four major sustainable development agreements that the United Nations concluded last year, and development experts are waking up to the possibilities of insurance and are eager to learn more, said Quentin Coolen, a U.N. official who now hangs out with the cool insurance kids on the block.

Long seen as burdensome or simply irrelevant, insurance now is being viewed as a tool to help the world's poor deal with issues such as catastrophe risk and climate change, and the experts who fashion and use those tools are in demand.

Of course, there are plenty of insurance products available in the world, but the trick is making them affordable and accessible to the poor and adapting the products to meet their needs. And that's the major goal of the Insurance Development Forum, which was launched this year and featured at the International Insurance Society's Global Insurance Forum in Singapore last week, where Mr. Coolen and others made presentations.

Backed by a range of international insurers and the largest brokers, who are working with the U.N. and the World Bank on the project, the IDF created a lot of buzz at the event. It appeared to fire the imagination of many of the attendees, including risk managers who are participating in the project and see the need for a similar approach to creating access to commercial coverage in immature insurance markets.

Growing insurance in tough markets also is the goal of insurance startup Trov, a new app that is intended to sell insurance to the millennial generation — a group usually viewed as being uninterested in insurance and unimpressed or unaware of the financial protection it offers.

The app, also featured at the meeting, can scan a user's email for electronic receipts to detect valuable purchases and allow users to buy insurance as and when they think they need it. For example, somebody going away for a weekend may want to insure their computer while they are on the road but turn off the coverage when they return home. Through a series of swipes, the app allows you buy coverage, cancel it and make claims.

While it's aimed at consumers initially, it's easy to see it used in the commercial sector. For example, companies that own equipment that's used seasonally could use it to buy cover only when the equipment is in use.

Of course, if it takes off, insurance buyers may get fed up with continually turning on and off their insurance, but by then some bright spark will have invented a policy that covers you uninterrupted for a whole year.

Pretty cool.