Richard Leftley: A microinsurance visionary

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Richard Leftley, president and CEO of MicroEnsure. Photo by: Opportunity Network

Richard Leftley is regarded as a visionary in the field of microinsurance. The MicroEnsure president and CEO has developed and implemented a range of insurance products catering to the poor in the developing world. Today, Opportunity International’s subsidiary is providing life, health and weather index insurance to more than 3.5 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Leftley is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. He and his peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Leftley about his leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what he said:

What do you see as your main achievement in the microinsurance realm?

Ten years ago I was one of the first to see that a market for insurance to the poor existed and I am proud of the role that we have played in providing millions of people with insurance for the first time. I am also proud of the innovation that has become synonymous with MicroEnsure’s work; a first mover on weather index products to help the poor with changing climates, a first mover in providing health insurance in Africa and a first mover in selling insurance not just through microfinance companies but also through mobile networks and churches.

What new uses of microinsurance do you find the most innovative and promising in boosting global development?

Microinsurance is about providing a safety net to the world’s low income and middle income market; stopping them falling back into poverty following a disaster. But in order to be sustainable, it has also to be about massive scale. For this reason I am most excited about the role that mobile phone networks can play in providing access to millions of people who have yet to have insurance. During 2010 we will double the number of people that have insurance in Ghana as a result of being able to reach a new market through mobile networks.

What has been your main challenge scaling up MicroEnsure’s global operations, and how have you overcome it?

MicroEnsure serves over 3 million people with a range of micro insurance products and is currently growing in excess of 200,000 new clients per month. During our first two years of operation we really struggled to gain traction in terms of growth; we had to learn which distribution partnerships would result in the greatest scale and why different partners were more productive than others. The greatest challenge for microinsurance is finding willing and able points of distribution for the products.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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