Australia: Banks and their Insurance Businesses

 

Updated post: 

Although I have a convention of tagging news from Australia in the headline, this post has a great deal of relevance to our market, as it accounts for the fact that insurers representing nearly half of the market are for sale. The AFR has a detailed piece which I will make a few quotes from below, but you can find at this link, on why they think that banks owning insurance companies has become a headache - hence the rush to sell them. First, the AFR says that the news CommInsure was for sale was greeted with indifference by the market because of the 'state of the industry, which has been hammered by rising lapse rates and more lately, soaring claims'.

Obviously, the situation in Australia has been quite different for a number of insurers, to the experience of the same brands in New Zealand. Sovereign is not CommInsure, Asteron Life in New Zealand contributes well to Suncorp's group profit. Overall lapse rates and claims performance differ between the countries, in part, for structural reasons. We don't have a lot of TPD in superannuation, which appears to have caused some particular problems in Australia. 

The AFR went on to list the companies sold: NAB sold to Nippon Life, Macquarie to Zurich. Then to list those for sale - they name ANZ, the life businesses of Suncorp, and quote AMP as saying it is "open-minded" - although I always felt that's the proper attitude of any business, pretty much all the time. But because these businesses are often quite closely linked behind the scenes (systems, staff, brands, reinsurance, and more). Therefore, if the Australian business is sold, it is common that the New Zealand one goes with it. Not all businesses will be sold, of course. In addition, when a business is under review sometimes a bias towards a sale can uncover an opportunity to buy. But some transactions seem likely in the coming year. If the number was two, or three, it would represent an incredible period of change. 

AFR then contemplates the question - how did it come to this? You can check out their full article for details, but two issues they list are worth contrasting with the situation in New Zealand.

The first is the ASIC report that "found 37 per cent of advice on life insurance was in breach of the law and almost half failed when high upfront commissions were charged". I read that report and it has some problems, small sample sizes, and arguable definitions of what constitutes 'failing' advice. But here in New Zealand we have an advice law which barely even makes the comparison possible. Since a written record of advice is not explicitly required under our current law it may not be possible to conduct the same kind of investigation here. But the FMA has gamely tried, and by analysing five years of data they have found a strong statistical link between incentive travel offered by insurers and higher new business and lapse rates. The insurer's might say, 'well that's what we were hoping for when we offered the incentive' but that brings us back to the quality of advice.

The second is the issue of poor systems - some so poor, AFR says, that they cannot provide good information, or hamper the ability of the insurer to report, or provide effective claims service. That sounds familiar too - and some of the systems will be common across the two markets. Replacing those systems requires new capital. So even after a transaction, that will not be the end to the change in the market. It will be the beginning. 

 


QPR Database Update

There have been a number of updates done in the QPR database recently (QPRV104) and subscribers now have access to these changes which include:

  • ANZ new policy wording added for Life.
  • BNZ new policy wording added for Life, TPD, IP, and Trauma. Main change to heart attack definition for Trauma.
  • AIA new policy wording added for Life, Trauma and TPD.
  • AIA Business Life and Business Trauma Standalone reviewed (Accelerated is still under review)

Research on Quotemonster also reflects the changes with are applicable.


BNZ Home Loans - A Case Study in the Value of the Adviser Channel

It is interesting to see how BNZ has re-entered the financial adviser market for the distribution of home loans and how quickly it now accounts for 40% of the home loans they issue. That has reversed the gradual slide in BNZ market share. It is also contributing evidence to conjectures on the strength of the advised channel:

  • Advisers are able to handle complexity quite well, which helps consumers worried by increasingly complex rules in the home loan area. Those rules keep changing too, as the Reserve Bank struggles with ways to rein in a hot residential property market while keeping interest rates low. 

  • Third-party advisers represent a quick way to reach a lot of customers. While they can be expensive in a variable cost basis they are cheap in a capital cost basis. The added distribution must add up to the equivalent of a lot of branches that would have had to be equipped and staffed before a single loan could be sold. 

Of course, regular readers will know that we don't see this as advisers versus direct. Increasing complexity and the attractions of variable cost channels are forces unlikely to change, so the adviser channel is likely to remain important. We see this as a necessarily multi-channel world. Keep the branches, keep your online sites, develop more, and keep distributing through advisers too, because quite a lot of consumers like advice. 


Bank Insurers Argue Against "Sales" vs "Advice" Distinction

David Chaplin reports: 

"Banks have mounted an all-out attack on Financial Advisers Act (FAA) reform proposals to clearly distinguish ‘sales’ from ‘advice’ setting themselves at odds with industry bodies and consumers."

and also adds for clarity that

"...the big four Australian-owned banks and Kiwibank all strongly argue against introducing a formal distinction between ‘salesperson’ and ‘financial adviser’ into the regulatory mix."

Those a pretty strong words from David. I was interested in how we know that consumers would like a clearer distinction, and you might be too: 

"An accompanying MBIE survey also found almost 90 per cent of consumers said “clarifying the difference between ‘sales’ and ‘financial advice’ would help them better understand what they are receiving”

Read the balance of the article at this link


Why Can't I see the Banks on Quotemonster

There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to see the banks on Quotemonster or in the pdf reports.

  1. We don't offer the premiums for the banks on Quotemonster and therefore you will only be able to view banks if you subscribe to QPR.

If you are using QPR and can still not view the banks it may be due to either of these:

  1. The banks may not offer the product or options that you are quoting on. For example, a number of the banks do not offer Standalone products, they only offer Accelerated so please ensure the banks offer the products you are quoting.
  2. You have to ensure that you select the banks in "Step 3: Compare Insurers" in the "Research" tab. There is a drop down box labeled "Select More Companies" which lets you select which companies you want to appear on your report. Make sure you select the banks here and click 'Save'.

If you are still having issues please feel free to contact us on (09) 480 6071.


Difficulty Comparing Policies Highlighted by Interest.co.nz

Jenée Tibshraeny, at interest.co.nz, has a good piece about "navigating the road blocks preventing you from comparing 'apples with apples' when shopping for life insurance." As we spend a lot of time comparing policy documents we agree. The article is well worth a look. 

Tibshraeny highlights: 

"Of the 20 life insurance providers I’ve looked at, only half have published their policy documents on their websites.

These include AA Life, ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Cigna, Co-op Bank, Countdown, Kiwibank, Pinnacle and Westpac.

Those that haven’t include AIA, AMP, Asteron, Fidelity, MAS, OnePath, Partners Life, SBS, Sovereign and Volo."

Although I have to point out that AIA, AMP, Asteron, Fidelity, OnePath, Partners, and Sovereign do make their documents available publicly online: through sites like LifeDirect, KiwiCover, and others. If you google them, you can get several links to their policy documents. 

Tibshraeny then moves on to highlight the differences in wordings. This is trickier territory. There's a difference between "bad" differences which are merely confusing and make it hard to compare policies and "good" differences which make a policy demonstrably better than the others. There is a difference between documents that have a lot of superfluous words and details for cover that you did not buy, and those that have lots of long words because they cover more medical conditions. 

There have been some interesting developments in the UK to help raise consumer confidence in wordings.

But it all starts with a policy document.

Of course, most consumers do not read the document before they buy, but it is hard to argue that they should not have the opportunity to do so. 

 


Quality Product Research Database Upgrade to Version 8.2

The Quality Product Research Database has been upgraded to version 8.2. Corporate subscribers will find the databases in their shared folders, file transfer locations, or will receive a data stick as per their preference, today. The database in in QA right now, but will probably be made live on Quotemonster overnight. The main changes are: 

1. Changed Accuro Medical Diagnostic benefit.

2. Updated Asteron Life versions

3. Rated Asteron Life new disability product (Workability)

4. Revised BNZ Redundancy Wordings

5. Revised all companies disability Retraining and Rehabilitation item (increased weighting for this item)

6. Updated Fidelity Life wordings (no product change).

7. Rated Cigna disability.

8. Updated AA Life wording.

9. Rated OnePath Mortgage Cover Deluxe

10. Reviewed AIA trauma Special Events Increase option (increase score).

11. Rated Co-op Bank Life.

 


BNZ Insurances Advertise New Role

BNZ Insurances are looking for a National Manager Business Insurance and Advice Channels. Reporting to the Head of Sales and Distribution they will be responsible for creating and managing a customer value proposition and lead a team of Insurance Specialists. This position requires a deep understanding of the market, a technical background in business insurance, and strong relationship building experience to ensure we are delivering insurance products that appropriately align with our customer's needs and strengthens our existing business banking relationships.

Click here to read the full job description including key accountabilities.