Virus suppression without a lockdown? Can it be done? It can, and has been:

In fact, it is being done, in South Korea. You can check out the now weird normality of a country which has successfully suppressed COVID-19 without shutting down at this link. It is well worth a read. 

Interesting to compare their figures to ours: at 9,876 cases in a population of 51 million SK has 0.019% infection rate. At today's date we have 708 cases in a population of 4.5 million for a 0.016% infection rate. Let's hope that our initial lockdown gives time for us to catch up to their levels of testing, tracking, and tracing - and then we can get back to something more like normality. 

This is the shape of the SK curve.

SK curve at 1 April Johns Hopkins

You can check out at this excellent dashboard by Johns Hopkin University and Medicine. Also see the post below on modelling the impacts of the virus. 

COVID-19 modelling reference

Overview of modelling done for government decision-making on the level four restrictions due to the pandemic can be found at the link below.

Another report often quoted in the news can be found at this link.

We think this is an important foundation for the discussion about modelling. Other data sources used in the development of our model, include:

Based on the above, we have been working on a model for COVID-19 impacts on life insurance claims. We compared the outputs for our model with the approaches taken here and found sufficient accord that we are comfortable that our model is generating reasonable outputs. Subscribers to our quarterly life and health report will receive a copy of the model. 

AIA; Business continues and adviser support

Here is the latest news from AIA in regards to keeping business operating and continued support to advisers:

Our workforce
To help protect our people and best support you, in line with Government direction, we will:

  • reduce the number of people in our offices for essential services only, and
  • transition the rest of our people to working from home.

Our service to you
As we transition our people to remote working, there may be impacts on our service levels and the way we provide services to you. We will work hard to minimise these impacts and we ask that you please support us by: 

  • Limiting calls to our Contact Centre to urgent enquiries only by instead using one of the following alternative channels
  • Reducing contact to our Claims team by limiting calls only for essential and urgent claims
    • Delays may be experienced as we move our teams to work from home; we thank you for your patience while we transition our teams to work remotely as much as possible
  • Using our eApp instead of paper or emailing through customer applications
    • When you email a paper proposal to us, it requires multiple handovers between different teams. We expect that paper proposals, even those emailed, will take longer than usual to process.
    • The eApp bypasses this issue and significantly speeds up the submission processes.
  • Internal replacements from AIA Real and Sovereign TotalCare Max to AIA Living can take longer to complete than processing new applications submitted via eApp
    • Wherever possible, please consider deferring like-for-like replacements to AIA Living

Our external providers
We are working closely with our service providers to ensure that we can continue to provide key services, including medical information.

For the safety of our Health Screen nurses and Claim Case Managers, all visits have moved to phone based. We are also working with our reinsurers to assess our ability to obtain medical information to support our underwriting and claims processes.

We are open for business
We remain open business and will do our best to support you to assist your existing customers and protect new customers seeking insurance.

We are continuing to monitor developments and at this stage there are no planned changes to our AIA Living product range.

As noted above, delays may be experienced as we move our teams to working from home and we thank you for your patience and support during this time.


Fidelity Life: Working on helping those customers in hardship

Here is what Fidelity Life have to say about helping customers facing financial hardship during this time:

We’re working hard on a package of practical retention initiatives designed to meet customers' needs. We’ll confirm the details with you as soon as we can.

But in the meantime here's some clarity on what we can do right now to support customers dealing with hardship:

  • Premium holiday option - up to 12 months on select Life, Survivor’s Income and TPD covers
  • Leave without pay option - up to 12 months on select Income Protection and Monthly Mortgage Repayment covers

Retention tools - on a case by case basis our Retention team can help customers with making up missed payments, reinstating cover or a premium freeze or temporary hold

Click here to read more. 

Insurers encouraging advisers operating remotely

Most of the people I know have had a very busy few days - apart from those that were already in self-isolation. The small business buyer wasn't at Pak N Save - they were at PB Tech. Not everyone is at the same place in their journey of digital transformation, and this week is a rough one for those that have more manual processes. For them, as for all of us, digital provides a welcome slice of good news.

Start with your basic hardware set-up (a reasonable laptop or desktop computer, a decent internet connection, microphone, camera, good chair, a good room in which to set it all up). Perhaps you already had an extensive home rig - and you just had to plonk the work laptop down on the desk. But maybe you've been busy with family and the pieces are in boxes taken from work over the last few days. You might want to check out some of the shots of home set-ups that people are sharing online to get some ideas. Here are two great links:

I particularly like the ones that show innovation, with things like computers squeezed into odd spaces, some DIY to get desks and screens that work well, and so on. The hardware, the physical office set-up in space is just the tip of the iceberg, however. It's the software, the tools, the process and the attitude you bring that makes the difference. 

Here digital has some great news for you - even if your software set-up is minimal, it doesn't matter. Digital can be adopted and improved well during your isolation - services can be set-up, signed up, and learned purely online. If you haven't done this before, you can get help online. Your tech support people will be delighted to help you - remotely, of course. Insurers have already got a wide range of online tools covering quoting, needs analysis, application, and underwriting. Quotemonster is operating - usage is up about 20% - so you can do needs analysis and write SOAs. 

There are also lots of online resources and a blizzard of emails from insurers about how cover works (normally for existing clients), how underwriting will work during this period (some restrictions on available product and some additional underwriting rules and processes), and how claims and administration work with most teams operating from home (its a bit slower, and call volumes are higher).

If you can offer a reassuring message to clients, I expect it will be gratefully received. If you can reach out to prospects and the wider community, some will doubtless respond. 


Partners Life and Cigna offer claims reassurance

As most people cancel their life and trauma insurance before retiring, the majority of life and trauma policyholders are younger and more likely to survive COVID-19. For this reason, life insurers are not expecting an increase in claims as a result of COVID-19. In this article both Partners Life and Cigna confirm that they have pandemic insurance in place, but also remind customers that they have relatively low levels of insurance on those that are most likely to be affected. Click here to read more :

"From a claims point of view, we don't believe it will come across in our claims experience on the types of products we sell," said Naomi Ballantyne, founder and managing director of Partners Life.

Most people cancelled their life and trauma insurance long before they retired, meaning most policyholders were younger, and had a very high likelihood of surviving a Covid-19 should they be infected.

I expect all New Zealand life and health insurers are in good shape to meet all claims.

FMA confirms list of essential financial services - and helps insurers out with a claims

The FMA has confirmed a list of essential financial services, worked out in conjunction with the council of financial regulators in a recent statement:

The Government has confirmed that financial services are essential services that will continue operating when New Zealand moves to level 4 in its COVID-19 response.

The Council of Financial Regulators (CoFR) has consulted with the Government to provide detail on those financial services that should be considered essential services. This includes all financial institutions and suppliers or providers to those entities that are essential to ensure continued operation of our financial system and access to this system for all New Zealanders.

The detailed list includes specific inclusion for suppliers where they support essential operations, including the importance of those involved in claims: 

Access to medical records through doctors’ surgeries
Psychologists, counsellors etc. (mental health claims)
Access to medical laboratories for medical tests
Private hospitals and associated staff/professionals
Access to external medical specialists.

This will be a great relief to insurers and their clients. While we all expect that health resources will go first to saving lives, while there is capacity to provide help with claims, it is important.  Some clients depend on claims payments these for their livelihood. Even for clients that are not on claim, confidence in insurers is an important component of confidence in the financial system.


COVID-19 and the implications for health and longevity

It has long been reported that New Zealanders have high life expectancy. We know the leading causes of health loss, but we do not know how severely COVID-19 will affect the the health of New Zealanders.

A good view of mortality data (note: written about 36 hours ago, as things are changing fast) is available in this Brookings Institute data. 

Age and underlying health conditions are major factors in the case fatality rate, which also makes the underlying health of New Zealanders a subject of great interest right now.

Below are images from the Health and Independence 2017 report that illustrates causes of health loss and the number of years New Zealanders are living in poor health. 

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Chatswood Operations - Running Remotely

I am glad to confirm that we have now completed the shift to remote working for the Chatswood team. Of course, for several of our team (Rob, Shaun, Wanyi) this is the usual mode of operation. For Fran, Kelly, Jerusalem, and me, we are now well set up to help you. Feel free to call, email, or schedule online meetings with the same freedom that you would have done before. 

At this difficult time I would like to wish you all well, personally, as you seek to reassure co-workers, staff, clients, and perhaps your friends, or children, that we will emerge from this current crisis at some stage. Now is the time to get on with what needs to be done. A great antidote to worry is work. 

Asteron Life: Response to coronavirus

Asteron Life have announced the following options for customers in their recent adviser newsletter:

Options for customers

Some of your clients will be feeling the economic impact so we’d like to remind you that we have options available for customers who have changing financial circumstances.  

Options under Lump Sum Covers include:

  • Premium Holiday – a built-in benefit which allows customers to stop paying premiums for up to six months if they’re unemployed or experiencing financial hardship. Claims are still able to be made during this time.

  • Premium freeze – allows customers to freeze their stepped premium on lump sum covers for 12 months. This option reduces the lump sum benefit and applies from the policy anniversary.

  • A mixture of stepped and level premiums - options are available to suit long-term cover needs while matching short-term pricing needs.

  • Restructuring Trauma cover – an option to decrease premiums while still providing cover. For example, some Trauma Recovery Cover can be converted to Major Trauma benefit, which is a more affordable option as the trigger point for claims on 29 of the 45 listed conditions is higher. Another option is converting Trauma Recovery Cover to Cancer Cover, which has the same policy definitions but does not provide cover for other conditions.

Options under Disability Income Covers:

  • Premium and cover suspension - allows customers to suspend their premiums and cover for up to 12 months if they are experiencing financial hardship or are unemployed or on long-term leave from work. Cover can be reinstated at any point within the 12 months without further medical underwriting. Any conditions which first occur while the customer is on a premium and cover suspension will not be claimable, either during the suspension period or once cover is reinstated. 

Our policy wordings include other options such as Family Assist, Dependant Relative and Overseas Assist and others, which customers may find useful at this time. If your client’s circumstances fall outside the above options, please talk to your BDM about how we can help.