Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

25 Sept 2020 – Good Returns reports that the Australian government is set to axe responsible lending laws. https://www.goodreturns.co.nz/article/976517550/australia-to-scrap-responsible-lending-laws.html

23 Sept 2020 – IRD advised that the Public Guidance Work Programme 2020-21 has now been finalised. https://www.taxtechnical.ird.govt.nz/-/media/project/ir/tt/pdfs/consultations/work-programmes/public-rulings-work-programme-2020-2021.pdf

24 Sept 2020 – FMA released a report on its supervision activities over the past 18 months. https://www.fma.govt.nz/news-and-resources/media-releases/fma-issues-supervision-report-2020/

Commentary: 

The development in Australia where responsible lending rules are being axed is of considerable interest. In specific terms I do not know enough about the details of the Australian lending legal and regulatory framework to comment. In general terms there are some good questions to be asked about what rules are fit for purpose in an environment with very low interest rates for borrowing and with other consumer protections and processes available. I shall take a look at that development with some interest. Given the involvement of our current Minister of Commerce and his work on predatory lending practices I doubt this is going to appear on his agenda. 


Ditching the life insurance business appears to be just the start of a long process for AMP

David Chaplin of investmentnews.co.nz reports that the Just-appointed AMP Capital chief, Boe Pahari has resigned along with AMP chair, David Murray, following intense pressure over a sexual harassment incident. The scandal has also claimed AMP director, John Fraser, who resigned at the same time. More details at this link https://investmentnews.co.nz/investment-news/pahari-murray-gone-as-amp-capital-scandal-bites-back/


Australia: dramatic reduction in accessibility of advice on life insurance

Research in Australia shows underinsurance increasing and predicts that in the near future only the very wealthy will be able to access personalised advice from an adviser, due to recent regulatory changes. This is the consumer version of those stories we have been sharing about the number of Australian advisers leaving the sector. 

“On the current trajectory, within three years, only the wealthiest 15 per cent of Australians will be able to access life insurance with personal advice,” the group said.

Read more here, by Sarah Kendell, at Independent Financial Adviser. 

 


Australia: insurers responding to the post-Hayne world

Reporting in the AFR highlights the impact of Hayne on different insurance sales models. iSelect has cut staff and outsourced most administrative functions to TAL's Lifebroker. Most banks have exited, or are in the process of exiting, the insurance sector. The fact that these changes are concentrated in the no / low advice portion of the market should be of most interest to us. Similar themes have played out here, whether it was large banks selling life insurance operations (such as CBA and ANZ) or TradeMe selling Lifedirect back to Mark Solomon. Insurance assets are returning to specialist hands - those more likely to see long-term value emerging from them. 


CoFI submissions available online

Submissions on the Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill have been released on the Parliamentary website. Available via weblink at https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_93443/tab/submissionsandadvice?Criteria.PageNumber=1

The release of the submissions was highlighted for us in the Investment News e-mail received recently, with the specific COFI story available at https://investmentnews.co.nz/investment-news/amp-finds-cofi-hard-to-swallow-industry-calls-for-sweeteners/

Noting that there are 53 submissions, I am, of course, glad to see the quote from one of our preferred compliance consultants (Rob Dowler) who had their submission selected and included in the Investment News article.

I encourage readers to consider the article. In particular the central question of having different principles for each participant, and the limited range of initial participants. Contrast that with the suggestions for a single set of requirements for fair treatment, and extending these to a wider range of companies. 

As submissions are supported by the exploration at Select Committee hearing next week it will be interesting to hear if the definitions of incentives may come in for some discussion. Regular readers will know that we consider the definition to be too vague for distributors to have long-term confidence in the approach to remuneration - discouraging investment and delaying a shift to more spread commission models preferred in Australia.

 


Daily news update: ASB and AIA to offer joint home loan benefit, and more stores

It has been announced that ASB and AIA are working together to offer current and new ASB home loan customers Compassionate Care. This benefit is free and is intended to offer customers some relief in the instance their co-borrower dies. Customers will be relieved of paying the interest portion of their mortgage for up to 12 months.

“ASB and AIA have launched Compassionate Care, a free home loan benefit for new and existing ASB home loan customers that covers the interest costs for about 12 months if one of the borrowers on the home loan dies.

It comes at no cost to the customer, and ASB and AIA say they have worked hard to ensure the process is simple and easy, with no requirement to sign up or activate the benefit.

AIA chief product and vitality officer Len Elikhis said ASB and AIA had conducted research to understand the needs of home loan customers and determined that the death of a borrower was a significant point of stress.

Not having to pay interest costs would give customers time to work out how they wanted to proceed with the loan, he said.

AIA will be tasked with adjudicating the claims.

It gave the insurer the chance to cover a large group of people, he said, and strengthened AIA’s partnership with New Zealand.” Click here to read more

This is a smart offer. It covers loads of people. As Len Elikhis points out - it is a significant concern to borrowers. It is also relatively low cost and could naturally lead to a conversation about wider cover requirements. This is also not something you have to leave to the big insurers. I know of one insurance broker who advertised free windscreen insurance for any client that bought car insurance with them. Whether the preferred car insurance paid it or not didn't matter - if it wasn't covered by the insurer they just paid it themselves. Good consumer offers like these create opportunities. 

In other news:

The depth of anger at the approach to regulation in Australia is being revealed with news like this: 

Call to boycott Australian financial adviser exam

nib: Lifeline Aotearoa Increases Support As Demand Surges Due To Covid-19

ICNZ: ICNZ And Banqer Partner To Empower Young Kiwis

 


DAILY NEWS: Australia - huge drop in adviser numbers, expect it to continue

The Australian financial advice industry has declined by almost 18% when compared to the number of advisers in the market this time last year. The introduction on mandatory qualifications, the change in commission structure and monitoring of activity has pushed advisers out of the market.

“Five thousand and twenty-five advisers have left the industry in the last 12 months, while a meager 78 new authorised representatives joined the industry during this period, analysis of ASIC’s financial adviser register conducted by CoreData will show. The researcher pointed out that the number of new entrants to the industry is inflated considering at least half have joined timeshare schemes, an area that continues to be a focus for the regulator.

 

But it’s the bloodletting of advisers from the institutionally-owned licensees that will be a feature of this year’s list and subsequent analysis.” Click here to read more

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In other news:

Financial advisers have a ‘key role’ during pandemic

International vaccine news excites market

$1.5 billion in claims paid, FSC says

Insurers hoping for loyalty out of Covid-19 offers

How insurers moved thousands out of the office and into their homes


Australia: Lowest Adviser Numbers Since 2015

Research done in Australia shows that “2019 saw the industry shed a huge 4,378 advisers (15.6 percent) throughout the year.” Other key points the report highlighted are:

  • Three out of five advisers are now privately (meaning individually) licensed
  • ‘Micro-licensees’ (10 advisers or less) have grown to more than 21 percent of the market
  • 30 percent of the entire industry has been on the move (ceased or switched) in some form or another in 2019

It looks like Australia has come around to the idea of flexibility in licensing. Click here to read more. 


Australia: Financial Services Council suggests further amendments

In their submission to a Treasury consultation, the Australian FSC is urging the reconsideration of certain professionals from being experts in claims matters as they are independent of insurers and do not hold delegated authority to make claims decisions. In its submission, the FSC also argued against additional disclosure obligations being imposed. Fascinating for claims sector watchers here in New Zealand: imagine if a physiotherapist that provides a report on a claims case (as opposed to providing services directly to a claimant) had to hold a licence to do so - in much the same manner as a financial services provider has to? How many physios do you think would seek such a licence? What do you think it would do to the cost of getting a claim file reviewed? Click here to read more. I hope the Australian FSC is able to win this point.