Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

21 Oct 2021 – Submission closing date on the Digital Identity Services Trust Framework Bill set as 2 Dec 2021.

22 Oct 2021 – Government announced an Enhanced Covid-19 business support package.

Southern Cross on working from home, and more daily news

Southern Cross has published the findings from the 2021 Southern Cross Health Insurance – BusinessNZ Workplace Wellness Survey. The survey respondents were from all over the country, with 14% of respondents based in Auckland, 13% based in Wellington, and 13% based in Canterbury. The survey has revealed since the COVID-19 pandemic began 34% of organisations surveyed reported that they are more open to the idea of employees working from home, even outside of strict lockdowns. The survey highlighted that 73% of organisations reported that employees felt isolated while working from home, and 66% of respondents reported that more employees experienced higher levels of general stress in 2020. Click here to read more

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In other news

Loud Shirt Day - Deaf Children Awareness Day will be on 29 October

Fidelity Life: in collaboration with business leadership coach Jennifer Myers, building a resilient business is now available in Learning HQ

FMA: Rob Evernett's new role revealed

Fidelity Life:

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Fidelity Life reveal financial results, and more daily news

Fidelity Life has revealed that the underlying profit for the year ended 30 June 2021 was $22.5 million. Fidelity Life has identified an increase in net premium revenue, strong new business, less policy lapses, and expense management as key drivers. CEO Melissa Cantell has said that she is pleased with Fidelity Life’s achievements and is looking forward to the future. 

“Fidelity Life’s core business continued to perform well in the 2021 financial year as it boosted transformation spend and remained resilient against the economic impacts of COVID-19. 

Underlying profit for the country’s largest locally owned life insurer for the year ended 30 June 2021 rose to $22.5m from $20.3m in 2020. Key drivers were a $6.1 million uplift in net premium revenue off the back of strong new business, fewer than expected policy lapses and robust expense management. 


The company paid $130.8 million in claims to its customers compared to $139.7 million in 2020. 

Total comprehensive income fell to $4.3 million from $17.9 million in 2020, reflecting a total of $9.3 million invested in key transformation projects (net of tax), including the firm’s new technology platform and the proposed acquisition of Westpac Life. In addition, a sharp rise in government bond rates had a $7.3 million impact (net of tax). 


Chair Brian Blake said the $400 million Westpac Life deal was one of the most significant events in the company’s history and, once completed, would see Fidelity Life welcome Ngāi Tahu Capital as a major shareholder alongside the NZ Super Fund. 

“As well as strengthening our New Zealand-owned credentials and providing greater access to capital, having two iconic New Zealand investors on our share register sends a strong signal to the market about the quality and potential of Fidelity Life.” 

CEO Melissa Cantell, who started at Fidelity Life in January 2021, said she was pleased with the firm’s achievements and was looking to the future with confidence. 


“We’ve worked hard this year and put strong foundations in place. We continued to invest in our transformation, while at the same time delivering an underlying result which shows our core business of providing life insurance to New Zealanders is performing well. 

“Looking to the future, there’s a lot to be excited about as we work towards our aspiration to reimagine life insurance. Completing our technology build and the game-changing acquisition of Westpac Life will be key, as will ensuring we maintain our relentless focus on our customers.” 


In other news

TAP: TAP offers OATs to independent advisers

Partners Life: Partners brings in actuarial expert

From Insurance Business Mag: Full licensing a “unique opportunity” to think about business future

My Covid Record: site details and reminder to get vaccinated!

The Ministry of Health has the new My Covid Record site is up in beta. The purpose is to provide a portal to obtain vaccine evidence currently for travel, but later for mass events such as concerts. I managed to set up my account in about ten minutes - it helps if you already have a RealMe login.

It is also an opportunity to provide a reminder that getting vaccinated works to reduce the transmission, serious illness, and death from COVID-19. I'm vaccinated and everyone I know has had at least the first jab, if not both. If you haven't or you know anyone - often young people who have only recently been allowed to go an get the jab - who hasn't got around to it yet, do help to spread the word. The more of us that can get it, that do get it, the easier life will be (including for those few who cannot have the jab due to medical reasons). Link to the site here:

Insurers interested in how digital health records development is going should definitely take note of this. It is likely to be the same or similar registration process.

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Legal and regulatory review for the life and health insurance sector

13 Sept 2021 – FMA announced the appointment of experienced international regulator Samantha Barrass as its new Chief Executive, expected take up the role in January 2022 with Liam Mason as Acting CEO in the interim following Rob Everett’s departure at the end of October 2021.

9 Sept 2021 – MBIE issued advice that, of significance to lenders and borrowers, the Government has agreed to a short delay to the full commencement of the Credit Contracts Legislation Amendment Act 2019 by two months, to 1 December 2021, considered necessary due to the impact of recent COVID-19 alert levels.

9 Sept 2021 – FMA advised that it will generally provide “no action relief” where a market participant breaches, or expects to breach, a regulatory obligation as a result of the COVID-19 circumstances and seeks relief from the FMA.

9 Sept 2021 – RBNZ advised that it will be holding a webinar on its insurance policyholder security consultation at 10am next Wednesday, 15 September via Microsoft Teams.

9 Sept 2021 – MBIE advised that various papers related to the Regulation of the Retail Payments System have been released, including:

Regulation of the Retail Payments System Additional Approvals Cabinet Paper

Regulation of the Retail Payments System: Additional Policy Approvals Cabinet Minutes

Regulatory Impact Statement: additional tools for regulating the retail payments system

AIA offer one-month free premium, and more daily news

AIA NZ has announced that customers with qualifying new policies will have the first month’s premium waived. The one-month free premium is designed to offer advisers and customers support during the lockdown. AIA has noted that they understand that COVID-19 lockdowns can be a challenging time for advisers as their ability to meet new customers is limited. Additionally, AIA is offering to cover the cost of specialist appointments e-consultations for customers with health policies. The Health Screen service is now offered as a tele-consultation. To support new business demands AIA will develop the tele-underwriting service to include more conditions.

“AIA NZ has announced it will waiver the first month’s premium on qualifying new policies, as a way to support both advisers and customers during the current NZ COVID-19 outbreak.

“We know from past experience COVID-19 lockdowns can be challenging for our advisers, as it limits opportunities for them to meet with new clients. We wanted to quickly get an offer in market that will support all our advisers to continue to do business during this tough time,” says Nick Stanhope, CEO AIA NZ.

The offer applies to any new eligible AIA policy placed between 1 September 2021 and 31 October 2021, and eligible customers will automatically be credited with one month’s premium on new policies.

While the offer has been made to support advisers in the current COVID climate, Stanhope says it’s also about helping get more Kiwis covered.

“We all know the important part the insurance industry plays in addressing the sustainability challenges our communities face. Life and health insurance provides people with peace of mind, knowing that they are protecting themselves and their families against life's uncertainties. With rising consumer debt and increased cost of living, it's now more important than ever for Kiwis to review their insurance needs, to ensure they are adequately protected for the future.

“At AIA we want to help more Kiwis best protect themselves and their loved ones, and to support them in leading Healthier, Longer, Better Lives,” Stanhope says.

To find out more about the new business offer, please click here.

To further support advisers and their customers in the current COVID climate, AIA NZ is covering the cost for e-consultations needed for specialist appointments under health policies, as many customers cannot attend regular in-person appointments. AIA’s unique Health Screen service has also moved to a tele-consultation service to continue to provide an efficient medical service for customers.

AIA NZ already underwrite a number of conditions via tele-underwriting, and this service will continue to be delivered and expanded to support new business demands. The insurer has stated they are taking a pragmatic approach to evidence of medical requirements for ongoing income protection claims, and are looking for alternative ways to support customers unable to certify documents during COVID Alert Levels for lump sum products. Click here to read more

In other news

AIA: AIA offering AIA Vitality customers 1,000 points for getting both COVID-19 vaccinations. Customers will need submit proof of attendance and completed proof of vaccination via the AIA Vitality app

Asteron Life: Asteron offers Best Doctors package to advisers

Partners Life: COVID-19 premium relief update

Partners Life: adviser support programme

RBNZ: Reserve Bank deputy on the move

Russell's piece in Good returns: Taking care of your team in lock down

Suicide rates in England and Wales during COVID-19, and more daily news

We hear a lot about how hard covid-19 control measures - especially those that restrict people to just home, or 'lockdowns' - are on mental health. Clearly, for some people, they are catastrophic: someone in a deteriorating relationship with a violent partner would clearly be devastated by a  stay-at-home order. While we have had some interim announcements on the subject here, which were reassuring, we haven't had much data to go on, until now. A recent study on suicide rates in England and Wales during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic helps to fill that gap.

The study was based on official death registrations from April to July 2020. It was found that there were fewer suicides than the previous year with 1,603 suicides on record, compared to 1,955 suicides in 2019. The study found the 2020 suicide rates were lower than the 5-year average (2015 to 2019 April to July period)  of 1,835 suicides. The study also revealed that men made up 73.9% of the recorded 1,603 suicide deaths between April and July 2020. The study has credited the lower suicide rate between April and July 2020 to a reduction in suicide during April 2020. That is encouraging news, it means we cannot automatically assume that stay-at-home orders will result in more suicides. On the other hand the UK plainly has a much better track record in dealing with mental health challenges that we have (compare suicide rates per 100,000 of population for evidence). Click here to read more



In other news

Lifetime: Lifetime Group set to acquire One50 Group

Southern Cross: Talking about dad's health on Father's Day

FSC Connect: Customers, complaints, code and claims - What have we learnt from COVID-19?

Income protection concerns for the self-employed and other daily news

In the UK, where the gig economy is more developed than it is here, policy makers are worried that varieties of social protections designed for full-time employment are not going to work so well in the 2st century labour market. These include pensions (to us, superannuation), holidays, and insurance. Income protection in particular is under the spotlight because, at the same time as self-employment is growing rapidly, it seems that income protection is shrinking rapidly. Income cover has become more and more restrictive for the self-employed as insurers have grappled with long-term claims with hard-to-pin-down signs and symptoms. This sounds familiar. In fact, it sounds like our future if the APRA changes mandated to ensure the sustainability of income protection eventually end up being adopted here. The essence of the problems with income protection for the self employed is a lack of flexibility in the product. That is exactly what insurers are struggling with too. If both want more flexibility it looks like there is room for a new kind of IP product for the self-employed. 

Other daily news

Fidelity Life rolled out August Lockdown mix-tape on Spotify – some fun and simple initiatives for people working from home. Link here:

Fidelity Life has advertised a new role for Head of Risk and Operational Compliance. More info and the link here:

Asteron Life providing product innovation by listening to customers and advisers. Link here:

Stuff published a handy guide to the interaction between ACC, health insurance, and harm if you get an allergic reaction to the vaccine against COVID-19 (a very rare eventuality, but there are some instances of this). Essentially, you are covered by ACC and your personal health insurance is unaffected. Link