RealTime IT News

M-Web's Insurance Salesman

South African Portal and ISP M-Web has adopted a fierce 'closed garden' strategy, trying to offer all the content surfers will ever need and keep them close to home. This includes financial services, such as its insurance play, Netcover.com.

Netcover is an online broker -- the site is used to interact with the big insurance companies (currently Santam, SA Eagle, Netcover Motor Plan, Auto and General and Mutual and Federal). The site is a short-term insurance specialist, although it does offer medical aid and life insurance functionality.

Once users register as members, they can define assets and ask for quotes from the insurance companies ("delivered in under 90 seconds"). Users can then compare quotes versus benefits directly. Should they choose to accept one of the quotes, the issuing insurance company contacts them to verify the transaction.

Jonathan Aspeling, general manager of Netcover, punts the fact that the site offers transparency and freedom from coercive sales techniques. Using the site, users can compare costs and benefits directly, and don't have to rely on what a broker thinks is "best." And they don't end up having to fend off aggressive salesmen. Those that feel they need advice can phone the call center.

The site also allows users to register and (with certain of the companies) track claims.

As an M-Web site, Netcover offers M-Web subscribers special deals. Currently, for example, M-Web subscribers qualify for a rebate, getting half the commission charged by Netcover (15 percent) should they refrain from claiming in six months. While this special will become available to all at the end of October, Aspeling said that Netcover will continue to provide benefits to subscribers, such as launching specials to the subscribers first and providing them with additional cover, free of charge. "Improving the M-Web value proposition," as he puts it.

The main competition for the site comes from Absa, the local bank and free ISP. It also offers a comparative insurance tool through its own online portal.

Netcover complements icanonline (the online debit card introduced by M-Web shortly after Absa's free ISP announcement), boosting the company's content and ecommerce offerings.

The word "Portal" is becoming a misnomer; "Realm" seems far more appropriate as the information superhighway turns into the Ecommerce MegaMall and business battles to keep consumers clicking where they can track them.

Netcover has been in development for 18 months and live for about seven. It has 2,000 users at the moment and hopes to grow that base to between 4,500 and 6,000 by March 2002.