Cigna’s Gail Costa reflects on 2020 events and responses, and more daily news

Cigna NZ CEO Gail Costa shared her views on the importance of being prepared for change and adapting to unexpected change. In her opinion piece, Costa mentions how proud she is of the resilience shown by advisers throughout the lockdown periods last year. Costa highlighted the common shift out of comfort zones for many advisers as well as the increased used of digital tools such as online applications and digital calls. Costa noted the continued use of Cigna’s digital application platform. Costa also noted that the pandemic pushed people to realise the importance of being protected, with advisers working to help people understand what covers they had in place and what protection they could get. 

“Last year has tested the resilience of us all. Despite its challenges we’ve worked together and continued to support our customers from our make-shift offices. On top of that we’ve home schooled, looked out for our loved ones and managed stresses, whether that be in our work or personal lives.

 

I’m proud of the resilience shown by the adviser community who quickly adopted to new ways of working to ensure our collective customers would be taken care of as they too grappled with the uncertainty of the pandemic. For many advisers, last year saw them step out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways of doing business.

 

From May to June we saw digital applications more than double and usage levels have remained consistent ever since. What also became apparent was that some advisers are now either completely using video calls in lieu of face-to-face appointments or they have at least become a major part of their sales process. This is great to see as keeping on top of changing technology will enable us to continue to meet the changing needs of New Zealanders.

 

The uncertainty of the pandemic saw increased awareness among New Zealanders about the importance of being protected. As people became increasingly concerned about potential impacts of the pandemic on their work and family lives, the critical role of advisers to help people understand what they were covered for and the options available to them was made clear. Countless service hours were put in by advisers during this time to ensure that their customers continued to be well protected and their new customers were getting the right cover to meet their needs.”

Costa concluded by saying that the engagement Cigna had with advisers has provided insights that will help further improve products. The change in core product pricing and the simplification of policy wordings are examples of the changes being made. 

“Our engagement with advisers throughout the year provided invaluable insight into where we can make enhancements to our products. As a result we’ve rolled out a number of changes including more sustainable pricing on our core products, enhancing our definitions to and we’ve started introducing plain English policy wording. It has been great to hear how this has been received and gives us confidence that we’re moving in the right direction.

As we look ahead to 2021, one premise underpins all of our plans, we’ll continue looking for new opportunities to ensure our product and service offering remains sustainable to protect the long-term needs of New Zealanders.” Click here to read more

In other news

Asteron Life: in the coming weeks Asteron Life is set to inform advisers about:

  • Consultation on the proposed new distribution agreements
  • Asteron Life product accreditation requirements
  • Confirmation of FAP licensing arrangements
  • Information to support in adviser complaints management processes

Partners Life: Partners Life Preparing for Stock Exchange Listing

FSCL: FSCL warns investors to beware of cryptocurrency scams


RBNZ addresses data breach, and more daily news

The Reserve Bank has announced that it will continue to respond to the external breach of an information sharing service. Adrian Orr has said that the RBNZ has contained the breach and is now working to understand the impact of the breach, this includes working with both domestic and international cyber security experts. It has been noted that the breach wasn’t an attack on RBNZ or other users of the information sharing service. RBNZ has said that it cannot offer more details at this time.

“The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua continues to respond with urgency to a breach of a third party file sharing service used to share information with external stakeholders.

Governor Adrian Orr says the breach is contained, but it will take time to determine the impact. The analysis of the potentially affected information is being done with pace and care.

“We are actively working with domestic and international cyber security experts and other relevant authorities as part of our investigation. This includes the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre which has been notified and is providing guidance and advice.”

“We have been advised by the third party provider that this wasn’t a specific attack on the Reserve Bank, and other users of the file sharing application were also compromised.”

“We recognise the public interest in this incident however we are not in a position to provide further details at this time.”

Providing any further details at this early stage could adversely affect the investigation and the steps being taken to mitigate the breach. The Reserve Bank will continue to work with affected stakeholders directly.” Click here to read more

In other news:

Partners Life: Braden McMahon announced as new participant in the Legacy Leavers video series

Fidelity Life: 9-month fixed term Senior Project Manager role advertised in December

Gen Re: Medical Underwriting Programme set to become digital from 1 March 2021

Montoux: Customer Delivery Lead (Life Insurtech) role advertised

Accuro: appointed Director role advertised


Lead generation website for sale

An adviser business has put up for sale a lead generation website. A lead generation website is offered for sale as the adviser running the site wishes to focus on their own region, not on serving clients nationally or running a referral business. This is a great opportunity for a national business with the skills to serve the self-employed market. Twenty leads a week are typical from the site. Handover support is offered so you can continue to get the best out of the opportunity. Contact me or my team for further information. 


nib views on financial advice, and more daily news

nib has said that members that receive financial advice are better off. In addition, nib CEO Rob Hennin noted that half of nib’s members join via financial advisers. Hennin credited nib’s view by highlighting the findings from an internal study which found that members with advisers have more financial certainty and more health benefits. Hennin used the findings of nib’s internal study and studies commissioned by the FSC to conclude that people who receive financial advice are better off, saying that people with financial advice experience an improvement to their overall health.

“Health insurer nib says it is “absolutely clear” that customers with insurance advisers end up better off, and says advisers have done an “extraordinary” job adapting to the challenges that have come with COVID-19, and multiple lockdowns.

According to nib New Zealand CEO Rob Hennin, approximately half of the insurer’s business currently comes through its adviser channel. He says its internal studies have been clear – customers with advisers have more financial certainty, and also see increased health benefits as a result.

“It’s absolutely clear from our research and the work the Financial Services Council has done that Kiwis who receive financial advice are better off,” Hennin told Insurance Business.

Hennin acknowledged the work advisers have done saying that their response to COVID-19 was extraordinary. Hennin mentioned the increased use of digital tools and other methods to reach and assist clients.

“Advisers have just pivoted and done an extraordinary job throughout COVID-19,” Hennin added.

“They’ve really embraced digital tools and they’ve gone out, consulted with their clients and done whatever they can to ensure they all have access to the care and protection that they need.”” Click here to read more

In other news

Southern Cross: Insurer promises to “build momentum” and enhance products at AGM

AIA: Belief in oneself key to empowering women


Planning for 2021: how optimistic are you? Why?

In planning for 2021 I found myself researching optimism as an approach to checking assumptions about the future. Why? The Insurance industry has had some pretty awful quarters in terms of production - yet we know some fundamentals about the sector are strong. Is this a bad patch, and if so, when will the recovery begin? Or is this something more persistent, and if so, can anything be done?

Before I tell you my views, let me share a good question. Not my own, but based on some research about examining possible futures, which I will adapt as: "It is helpful to make a distinction between our outlook on the underlying course of events and our ability to influence them."

Some pretty big divergences between views can be traced back to either a perception of the underlying conditions and likely outcomes based on those and also whether we believe anything can be done about them. When separated out it can help to explain a lot of conflicts: the big differences in views between new and old insurers, also some big differences in views between dealer groups, between older advisers and newer advisers, and finally between many advisers and insurers. It all depends on where you stand.

More work on this will come in the next quarterly life and health report - due at the end of March. Inspired by the work of Peter Hayward and Stuart Candy, published in 2020 as The Polak Game. 


Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

10 Jan 2020 – RBNZ announced that it is responding with urgency to a breach of one of its data systems. A third-party file sharing service used by the Bank to share and store some sensitive information, has been illegally accessed. https://www.rbnz.govt.nz/news/2021/01/reserve-bank-responding-to-illegal-breach-of-data-system

6 Jan 2021 – Police Financial Intelligence Unit released the November 2020 Suspicious Activity Report. https://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/fiu-monthly-report-nov-2020.pdf


Covid-19 Management and Vaccination Rates

How is the world doing managing COVID-19 and its effects? This time, a story in just two parts: infection rates per million of people, and progress on vaccination: 

First, infection rates per million. I think it is pretty clear that there are three groups in this chart. Those with awful records of infection control (UK, US, Netherlands, and historically, Spain and Italy) those with middling records (Canada, Germany), and lastly those with a great record: Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, and arguably best among them: New Zealand.

Then to vaccination. There are some leaders. One of the UK's weaknesses in infection control (an obsession with Brexit) is suggested as a strength in early approval and distribution of the vaccine. The National Health Service also provides a strong infrastructure for a vaccination effort - everyone has a record, there is a clear national programme for vaccination, and so on. But it is very early in the whole process - note the scale and that even leaders in vaccination are only at about 2% of the population - and even if you add the vaccinatin rate to the proportion of the population that have had Covid-19, they are a long way from herd immunity. That leaves 'room' for death rates to soar unless infection is controlled. Hence the return to lockdown in the UK. The real effect of vaccination won't be felt until over about 70% of the population has received a vaccine - including a booster shot. If you want to see who is closest to that, check out the interactive controls in the chart below. While vaccination offers hope for a way out of this mess, infection control is likely to be the more important public health measure until much later in 2021.


Clear fee disclosure prevents this problem:

Susan Edmunds, reporting at Stuff.co.nz, tells us of a client that was surprised by the extent of the fee a mortgage broker charged when they refinanced their loan early. They complained about it to FSCL, here is the essence of their decision: 

FSCL said the adviser was entitled to a fee but the terms of engagement were too vague to be enforceable. “The clause did not set out how much the clawback fee could be, or how the fee would be calculated. It simply said that, if the client fully repaid their loan within 24 months, the adviser would be entitled to charge an early repayment fee. For all [the client] knew, it could be a $25 fee, as opposed to $2500.” 

Faced with that, the adviser agreed to waive the fee. That's the problem with a vague disclosure - a few examples could have made this really clear. Glen McLeod makes a robust defence of the right to charge such a fee - which I broadly agree with - I just think it should be really clear to a client what the fee will amount to. In the absence of good disclosure, the dispute resolution bodies will rule in the client's favour. I quite like the approach outlined by Bruce Patten, of LoanMarket, in the article. I believe that would stand up to a test such as this complaint. 

 


Your insurer would not be happy about this...

Finder.com.au, an Australian money site, has done some research on Kiwi attitudes towards insurance. This was about general insurance, but I did think it amazing: 

A nationally representative survey of 2,001 New Zealanders aged 18 and above found that 88% of Kiwis lock their door, leaving 12% who do not.  That’s equivalent to 218,880 households not taking necessary safety precautions and leaving themselves vulnerable to break-ins. 

The second most commonly used home protection is house and contents insurance with 64% of Kiwi households having an insurance policy. Rounding out the top three is having locks on windows (52%). 

Do you see what I see? I think it amazing that insurance is referred to a home protection method in the midst of a list about locking your house and having locks on windows. We, the industry, may be partly to blame for referring to insurance often as wealth protection, equally frequently abbreviated to 'protection'. But the problem I have is that it may be seen as an alternative to physically securing your home. That is an exemplar of 'moral hazard' - that people may take less care when the financial consequences of their actions are reduced. Do we see this in the way people treat their health? Put another way, is there any evidence that we would not?

Of course I don't think that there are lots of people rationally, consciously, deciding to eat too much, not put on sunscreen, and undertake hazardous activities because they have insurance. It is a more subtle kind of pressure that is relieved. It is more like the way everyone drives a little faster when the road is wide and even than when it is narrow and has many corners. 


Is your insurer aligned to your values?

In December Paul Brownsey, of Pathfinder Asset Management, writing at Stuff, asked "Is your KiwiSaver making an impact?" The question is elaborated upon by drawing a link between spending decisions we make all the time and whether or not your KiwiSaver manager is supporting those goals: 

"In our daily lives, many of us are conscious consumers. We make active choices about where we spend our money, and increasingly we are making choices based on ethical considerations."

Brownsey believes that your KiwiSaver should be supporting the values you may exercise when you make other spending decisions. Should your insurance do likewise? While most insurers are very conservative managers they may retain impact, through corporate bonds for example,  and through information and incentives. Insurers may have little leverage through investments, but what about other incentives? How much should insurers take a stand to try and improve the lives of the people that they insure? Here in New Zealand we have some great contributions to make to wellbeing - and some areas where we fall far short. Some of those problems are quite diffuse - the costs seem distant and too difficult for people to appreciate. But insurers understand how choices that seem without consequence can affect risk substantially. 

Whatever the method, the question of whether the substantial monthly expenditure on insurance is supporting consumer values or not is bound to come up again and again as consumer's wealth and level of education continues to rise. 


Themes for 2021 in life and health insurance

What will be the big themes for 2021 for life and health insurance? 

  • Helping people keep their cover through disruption will continue to be a theme - although economic performance has been better than expected there remain quite a few people out there struggling with adjustment to the COVID economy. Several advisers tell me of long conversations that are essentially about conservation. They take time and they generate little revenue - this largely unsung work is of a piece with claims help and is part of the value of the commission model: the adviser isn't expecting to charge a fee for these discussions, they just want to help the client stay covered. 
  • The shift towards digital - within advice businesses, at insurers, and for consumers. Digital is an enabler of faster transactions, more efficient administration, better accuracy, and more meaningful engagement. More adviser businesses will develop better digital capability and be looking for ways to automate certain processes. That includes digital advice offerings. It also means better underwriting processes built around access to 
  • Direct - it has shown solid growth - and not merely as a proportion of the market which has shrunk, but in absolute terms. It has benefitted from a big drop in bancassurance and a big push through online social media platforms. I really want to see the quality of the offers improved in 2021, but that will probably require more work in the area above to achieve. 
  • Regtech - this is the year we begin to see regtech applied to insurer and adviser conduct programmes - analysis of all clients by a range of factors will be a vital complement to human-managed compliance processes.
  • Transition - to the new advice regime means that a lot of advisers will be spending a bit more time than usual working on systems, new processes, and disclosure requirements. That will hit productivity for a few weeks. Combined with holidays, will the nadir be the first quarter production figures with a recovery from there, or will the second quarter be the low point? I am expecting recovery and more confidence to recruit and focus on marketing to be able to get traction in at least the third quarter. 
  • Consolidation - adviser business size is definitely rising. The greater integration and co-ordination required to successfully meet new compliance requirements is reflected in the high number of authorised body structures being disclosed by FMA licensing statistics. 
  • Consumer knowledge and understanding will continue to rise as more advisers share relevant content in easily digestible digital media. Gradually the focus on what is most relevant and readily explainable will begin to percolate through consumer finance forums changing the general perception of 'good' this will further current consumer trends towards more living products and more packages of benefits. 

 

 


Implications of mental health on insurance, and more daily news

In his piece Dr. Chris Ball credits information being released by some insurers for the spike in media coverage of mental health issues. Insurer publications imply that mental health issues have reached epidemic levels. The article questions the credibility of the claims highlighting the increase in antidepressant prescription rates while citing a study that found the growth of adult mental illness to be minimal. With the increased rates of mental health issues being credited to demographic changes. The article highlights that the American Psychiatric Association view on mental health causes an issue with insurance companies. Insurers depending on medical models to frame products means applicants will need their mental health issue labelled in the early stage of their application process so that underwriters have a simplified way of assessing circumstances. Dr. Ball notes that the medical studies insurers refer to are usually not representative meaning that the assessment is unfair for applicants. Dr. Ball indicates that mental health issues requires a deep contextual understanding.

“Mental health has become a big topic of discussion in the media. Headlines describing mental health problems at epidemic levels are common - and many come from “research” cited by insurers. We know antidepressant prescription rates have doubled in high income countries over the millennium, to the extent that over 10% of the population in the U. S. and Australia take these drugs. So, is there really an epidemic of mental illness?

Toshi Furukawa, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Kyoto, upbraided popular writers for “touting such sensational words like ‘epidemic’, ‘plague’ or ‘pandemic’”.1 A systematic review by Richter et al. concluded that the prevalence increase in adult mental illness is actually small and that it was mainly related to demographic changes.2 This is a view supported by Harvey Whiteford, Professor of Population Mental Health at the University of Queensland, who was quoted as saying, “There is no epidemic of mental illness sweeping the world…survey data which has tracked over time shows that the prevalence hasn’t changed - it’s flatlined.”3

DSM-5, the diagnostic manual from the American Psychiatric Association, states, “People are negatively affected by the continued and continuous medicalisation of natural and normal responses to their experiences; responses which have distressing consequences but do not reflect illnesses so much as normal individual variation”. This creates difficulties for the insurance industry, because it largely relies on a medical model to support its products, particularly in Disability Income (DI).

When an episode of psychological distress is disclosed by an insurance applicant, finding the right label for it is always an early step in the assessment process. At one level, a simple solution for the underwriter could be to continue with the medical model and rate for a diagnosis or any small indication of a diagnosis, lumping all psychological distress together.

When an episode of psychological distress is disclosed by an insurance applicant, finding the right label for it is always an early step in the assessment process. At one level, a simple solution for the underwriter could be to continue with the medical model and rate for a diagnosis or any small indication of a diagnosis, lumping all psychological distress together.

However, the outcomes of these disorders are strongly influenced by studies that mostly follow small samples of patients who encountered secondary care services because of the severity of their illness. These groups are rarely representative of the overall population, not adjusted for physical disorders, followed up for relatively short times and subject to publication bias. Including only these patients substantially over-estimates both all-cause mortality and suicide risk.

Clearly, this approach to risk assessment appears unfair to people who have experienced episodes of psychological distress but whose risk is low or the same as the general population. The situation is rather different in DI where mental health claims are common and perceived as prolonged and difficult to manage. Where psychological distress is disclosed by the DI applicant, a purely diagnostic approach proves a weak discriminator of risk. Exclusions are not well understood by consumers nor easy to enforce at claim stage.

The management of any episode of psychological distress in clinical practice is not just a matter of diagnosis but requires understanding in a much broader context. The individual’s experiences are important, but the history, personality, resources, social setting and the nature of the circumstances themselves must be grasped. Using this bio-psycho-social model helps to understand why one person experiences significant distress (possibly illness) in a set of circumstances, whilst another manages perfectly well.” Click here to read more

In other news

Partners Life: Partners Life Academy guide  

From Insurance Business Mag: 5G rollout will lead to new cyber risks - report

From GenRe: PFAS and Microplastics - The Next “Toxic Torts” on the Horizon?


Understanding the finer details of FSLAA, and more daily news

MBIE released more information on FSLAA in mid-December. Penny Sheerin, partner at Chapman Tripp, has said that these changes are finer details but did highlight that there would be changes to the FSP register to ensure the reduction of registry misuse.

“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment last week released the regulatory requirements that underpin FSLAA.

Penny Sheerin, partner at Chapman Tripp says that any advisers reeling at the updates needn’t worry too much if they are already on board with the changes.

“Really these updates are just the finer details. Tidy-ups to some of the wording of the regulation. Updating terminology to reflect the new regime and a number of other quite administrative points. A lot of it is not ground-breaking new content.”

But Sheerin notes that there is one area which advisers need to pay heed too.

“One thing to note are the changes to the FSP Register, specifically around limitations that have been put in place to limit the misuse of the register. These changes have been talked about for a while but now they are manifesting in the upcoming regulations.””

The Financial Markets Conduct Amendment Regulations 2020 has been updated to change:

  • “Replacing terminology from the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA).
  • Replacing references to financial advisers with references to financial advice providers and including transitional provisions to give affected providers time to update documents.
  • Prescribing eligibility criteria for an entity that wants to be an authorised body under a licence that covers a financial advice service.
  • Carrying over the effect of the Financial Advisers (Custodians of FMCA Financial Products) Regulations 2014 but with some updates and clarifications, and clarifying when assurance reports for assurance engagements must be obtained by custodians.
  • Prescribing limited circumstances in which a provider of a client money or property service is not required to hold client money and property separate from firm money or property including duties to protect the interests of clients.
  • Prescribing when firm money that is held together with client money is to be treated as client money.
  • Prescribing requirements for the record of nominated representatives that must be maintained by providers.
  • Prescribing the statement that lenders can give to make clear to consumers that the limited exclusion from the financial advice regime relating to lender responsibilities applies.
  • Continuing duties imposed under the FAA for former authorised financial advisers and qualifying financial entities to retain records.
  • Carrying over exemptions contained in regulations under the FAA.
  • Updating a cross-reference in the financial advice disclosure regulations so that financial advice providers are able to refer to their website for information about their legal duties.
  • Enabling financial advice providers to provide contingency discretionary investment management services (DIMS) without being subject to DIMS licensing requirements (and providing for transitional arrangements). This carries over and updates an existing licensing exemption for contingency DIMS provided by authorised financial advisers.
  • Dis-applying certain provisions of the Trusts Act 2019 to trusts relating to portfolio investment entity (PIE) call fund units and PIE term fund units.
  • Updating the information that must be disclosed to investors about the tax consequences of investing in managed investment schemes that are PIEs.
  • Amending the Financial Markets Conduct (Asia Region Funds Passport) Regulations 2019, including a new exemption from the licensing requirement for financial advice services.”

The Financial Markets Authority (Levies) Amendment Regulations (No 2) 2020 has been changed so that:

  • “The Regulations set levies for the new financial advice regime as well as for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 years reflecting decisions made earlier this year.”

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (Definitions) Amendment Regulations 2020 was enhanced to ensure:

  • “The Regulations replace the now redundant terminology from the Financial Advisers Act 2008. No substantive changes to the AML obligations have resulted.”

The Financial Service Providers (Registration) Regulations 2020 has been changed to include:

  • “A requirement for additional information to be displayed on the Register.
  • New measures to address misuse of the Financial Service Providers Register.”

The Financial Service Providers (Exemptions) Amendment Regulations 2020 has been updated so that:

  • “The Regulations exempt certain providers without a place of business in New Zealand from registration on the Financial Service Providers Register if they do not promote services to New Zealand clients.” Click here to read more

In other news

[The Wrap] What's the point of the FADC?


Holiday reading - why fair play works

A review of why fair play works, one particular story that caught my attention was this: 

The Empire State Building was constructed in just 13 months, and that included the dismantling of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel that sat on the site. Paul Starrett, the builder, treated his workers rather well by the standards of the time, paying much attention to safety and paying employees on days when it was too windy to work. Daily wages were more than double the usual rate and hot meals were provided on site.

The concept is known as “efficiency wages”. Companies that compensate workers well and treat them fairly can attract better, more motivated staff. Unlike most construction projects, the Empire State Building had low staff turnover, and workers suggested productivity improvements such as building a miniature railway line to bring bricks to the site. But Starrett was not naively generous; he hired accountants to patrol the works, checking that all materials were accounted for, and staff attendance was recorded four times a day.

The review is at this link, and you can buy the book at this link. I've linked to the Kindle version - which you can read on your phone - because you can get it instantly.