Mathilda Strom: Deputy CEO, BIMA
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world’s problems. What problem are you solving?
Mathilda Strom: We live in a world where billions of people are not protected against life’s biggest financial and health risks. Only around 3% of people in emerging markets have insurance. Traditional insurers are not addressing this because they tend to target high-income customers and only accept traditional bank payments, which many people in emerging markets don’t have [access to]. We provide accessible and affordable insurance, as well as mobile health services to the underserved populations.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
MS: The proof for us came in Ghana in June 2011, when we reached 100,000 customers who were making regular insurance payments via their mobile phones. This is when we knew we could go global, and we’ve now reached 26 million customers.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
MS: We are facing all kinds of challenges as we innovate in new markets. In the beginning, we thought that offering a great insurance product through mobile technology would bring people to us. As insurance is new to most of our markets, there were education and trust barriers that technology just couldn’t solve on its own. We now employ over 3000 agents, who educate and help eager customers to digitally register for our products.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
MS: My inspiration comes from being able to create a lasting impact on the lives of families around the world. I’ve met mothers who have lost their husbands and, thanks to us, could still provide for their children. We are breaking new ground in this space and every day I hear of companies unable to meet the challenge. I love proving that we can make things happen.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
MS: I hope I’ve instilled, in women, the confidence that they can be leaders and drivers of change. In 2016, I introduced a global diversity program, focused on empowering women and changing gender bias in our markets. It showed me that creating confidence and a safe place to talk about women’s challenges can make a huge difference.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
MS: It’s important to have all voices represented. Innovation should come from every part of society, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. This can only benefit innovation because everyone brings a different way of thinking, and that’s what we need to create ground-breaking change.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.