Insurance and home loans - the future of financial planning

In some respects investments advisers are streets ahead of insurance and home loans advisers. Older, wealthier, and with wealthier clients they also tend to have more fee-based businesses, and work from longer-established evidence-based models for advice. But insurance and home loans advice has plenty to celebrate, and that was reflected in the changing membership of Financial Advice New Zealand, highlighted by Chairperson Sue Brown in her recent speech. The younger adviser and more diverse membership Brown was happy to talk about comes mainly from the mortgage and insurance membership. In this advice sector barriers to entry are lower, and commissions enable the cash-strapped younger people, or return-to-work mothers looking for a career to fit around children, to become advisers. That diversity is important because if we want advice to be accessible to everyone. Some of that diversity will flow through into new ways of thinking and new offers and services to clients. That cohort of younger advisers will in turn develop the skills necessary to offer full financial planning and investment advice services. 

AIA's Sharron Botica takes out Insurance Professional of the Year award

AIA release:


AUCKLAND, 31 July 2019

AIA were among the big winners for the first ever Women in Insurance Awards at the Hilton in Auckland last night.

AIA’s Chief Customer Officer, Sharron Botica was awarded the Insurance Professional of the Year award while Maddie Sherlock, AIA’s Technical Underwriting Manager, was recognised as a finalist for the Rising Star – Insurer award.

Nick Stanhope, AIA New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer who was at the event said, “AIA has always been committed to a gender diverse and balanced workplace that supports and empowers women to succeed, and so it is great for Sharron and Maddie to be recognised.”

“We are very proud of what Sharron has achieved and to see our staff recognised for their hard work.”

Angela Busby, AIA New Zealand’s Chief Strategy Officer who presented an award at the event, said that, “It is a testament to AIA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion that 60% of our executives are women. Events like the Women in Insurance Awards, where we have the opportunity to support our female staff and demonstrate our leadership in this space, are crucial to the industry as a whole.”

Theresa Gattung CNZM, who chairs the board and was at the event to see Sharron take out the award said, “I am delighted for the team.  As a business we have made conscious efforts to embrace gender equality as well as diversity, health and wellbeing.  This award is well deserved.”  The awards were presented at the conclusion of the annual Women in Insurance Summit in Auckland on the 30th July. The awards were set up to champion successful women in the insurance industry. This was the first year the awards were introduced to the summit.

Sharron Botica (002)

Life insurers view on HIV/Aids challenged

Jason Myers, NZ AIDS Foundation CEO, has stated that AA’s life policy clause excluding HIV/Aids related deaths is discriminatory.  He continues by stating that it is an outdated view.  Mark Savage, AA Life General Manager, has said that AA needs to exclude conditions or lifestyle factors that the underwriting process will not give them enough information about. But Myers argues AA's rationale doesn't make sense, as heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and stroke are among the diseases most likely to kill New Zealanders, but they are not excluded. Click here to read more. 

I suspect that this is really an historical issue. When HIV/AIDS was really an unknown, it was excluded because no one really knew how bad the disease could become, across the population as a whole. New Zealand is fortunate that measures to contain the spread have been successful, and measures to prevent transmission have kept the number of cases low, and the impact on people with the disease manageable. It also means that the impact on death rates is negligible. That means that some insurers - such as AIA, for example - feel comfortable enough to include cover for HIV even in their medical insurance contracts. 

Partners Life nominated for this year’s Diversity Works New Zealand Awards

Paul O'Brien from Partners Life has been announced as a finalist in the Walk the Talk category at this years Diversity Works NZ Awards for exemplifying excellence in promoting and managing a diverse workforce. The awards are being held at the Cordis in Auckland on the 28th of August. Click here to read more. 

Breaking through the mental and figurative glass ceiling

Regardless of the industry, the glass ceiling remains a prominent issue here in New Zealand. Despite the glass ceiling, women often refrain from applying for executive roles in fear of being inadequate.

This was the case for Nadine Tereora, current CEO of Fidelity Life. Regardless of her many years’ experience in the industry, when the role of CEO at Asteron Life opened up, she didn’t feel that she could take the opportunity. It took convincing to apply for the role, which she describes as “the biggest turning point” in her career.

To succeed in a male-dominated, such as the insurance industry here in New Zealand, Tereora believes that women need high levels of courage and self-belief. Furthermore, Tereora emphasizes the importance of flexitime and work-life balance for both men and women.

Click here to read more.

Losing money because of bias?

Giving up bias helps us reach more people, serve them better, and ultimately, make better returns.

If we believe that people with Chinese cultural background don't buy insurance, when in fact they do, we tend not to try and offer our products and services to them - and so we leave out a big section of our market.

If we believe that women don't buy income protection insurance, and so we don't recommend it, then likewise, we miss out - and so do they.

Untested preconceptions about the market confound us all the time. The essence of the science of management is measurement. What we measure we can manage. The opposite of that is the tyranny of 'gut feel', which is little more than the accumulation of past experience - not all bad, just a lagging indicator which tends towards self-reinforcing views of the data. That's because if we don't try and sell women income protection we continue to experience a market in which few of our female clients buy income protection. It happens to all of us. Take this research, for example, reported by The Economist as evidence of bias in Facebook advertising algorithms. Perhaps an example of how you have to watch for bias in every stage of the marketing channel right through to the customer.

Planning series: women shun financial advisers in favour of money advice from robots - why?

When you are planning the year ahead, keeping an eye on new trends may provide you with insights. At first, I thought I would write about advice automation when I read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, but then I realised there may be a different angle. The article states that women are more likely to invest through robo-advisers than men.

'Six Park reveals that accounts held solely by women have more than doubled in recent months to sit at 40 per cent, up from 20 per cent in January. The firm delivers financial advice online using algorithms and technology in place of a human financial adviser.' Click here to read more. 

It is fascinating, it felt to me that the issues of convenience would apply equally to men as to women - so there must be some other reason why women seem to take up robo-advice offers more than men. Maybe it is a reflection of the old-school, male dominated industry image. Of course, I might be wrong, this is probably insufficient data, but perhaps there is a business case for diversity. Which brings us back to planning. You might be able to figure this out on your own, but maybe you need some fresh perspectives. Bear in mind, if your next hire is just like all the other people you have ever hired, they aren't likely to take you to new places.

You might also like this article.

Reflecting the communities we serve

The Association of British Insurers has hosted a Dive In event in Edinburgh recently to highlight diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry. There are lots of good resources to be found at this website. Below is one, a few minutes with a partner of a major law firm talking about the importance of having a team that reflects the wide range of clients that they seek to serve.


Congratulations to Workplace Savings and Financial Services Council Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of Workplace Savings Awards and Financial Services Council Awards. I was delighted to see Treena Jordan of AIA win the diversity award, and Ben Rose of nib win innovation, and Jenn Dobinson who has done lots of work with the New Zealand Society of Actuaries, along with colleague Peter Kenny of AMP.

Treena Jordan's win in the diversity category is worth explaining. Treena championed the removal of the HIV / AIDS exclusion from AIA's medical insurance. Recognising that the situation with HIV and AIDS has changed and enabled this product decision was important, advocating to recognise that and enable the change for consumers - that's the hard part, and I am very glad it has been done. There is more to be done - especially in trauma policies on the same point, disclosure around gender and sexuality, and supporting access to our products for vulnerable people with changes like in-language resources, and improved access to high quality financial advice.

Nominees that I particularly want to acknowledge are:

Mark Banicevich, Partners Life - who has done some incredible work with the FSC, given a great deal of time and effort, and is very generous with his time and expertise. He has strong values focused on the development of a better market place - and demonstrated those at the FMA and now in his role at Partners Life. Partners Life has allowed him to serve the industry in that way is also worth recognising.

Robyn Bartlett, Asteron Life - has a strong track record in product innovation. This is both hard to achieve in personal risk insurance and requires commitment and dedication in a supportive environment. The development of Workability, the changes made to the wider income protection range is another good example, since the nomination was made the launch of the continuous trauma benefit is more evidence.

Here are some photos of a couple of the winners - please bear in mind they were taken at the gala dinner.

IMG_1036 sml
IMG_1036 sml
IMG_1036 sml