Another robo-adviser goes online

Another robo-adviser has gone online. How many robo-advisers will there be? The way we phrase that question may not be helping us assess the future. Rather than define the business as 'robo' why not ask, how many advice businesses will have some advice automation in the future? Put that way, I find it hard to argue that many won't have much advice automation.

Demography and financial services

Statistics New Zealand has published details of a further decline in the fertility rate - which is now solidly below replacement rate. It is worth thinking about the impact that this key demographic has, in conjunction with another more controversial one (net migration) on the provision of services such as health and superannuation.

On the estimates of only a few years ago, when net migration was negative, and immigration lower, the sum around the ageing population looked really bad. A few years of high net migration (which is mostly younger folk, but working age) has probably improved them somewhat - without having done the numbers my is that it kicks the can down the road a few years, allowing the coalition government the luxury of extending National's promise not to increase the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superanuation for the duration of this parliament, at least.

The future could see the trend stay low, or achieve a slow recovery as younger people who have deferred starting a family begin to start families in their early thirties. Either way, there are probably long-term impacts on retirement savings policy and health service provision to consider. But while net migration creates infrastructure headaches, it provides some valuable demographic breathing space to other problems.

Birth rate down to record low – Media release

19 February 2018

New Zealand’s total fertility rate in 2017 was down to 1.81 births per woman, its lowest recorded level, Stats NZ said today. This means that based on birth rates in 2017, New Zealand women would average 1.81 births over their lifetime.

Although the number of births increased slightly (59,610 live births were registered in 2017, up 180 from 2016), the fertility rate still decreased. This related to the increased population size rather than fewer babies being born.

“While the fertility rate is now the lowest ever seen, the total New Zealand population continues to grow, driven by near-record levels of migration in 2017,” population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

The lower fertility rate may lead to reduced population growth if it stays below the ‘replacement level’ of approximately 2.1. The replacement level reflects the average number of babies that women would need to have over their lifetime to maintain the size of the population. The total fertility rate has only dropped below 1.90 births three times before, most recently to 1.87 in 2016.


New Zealand's total fertility rate has been relatively stable for the last four decades, ranging from 1.81 births per woman (in 2017) to 2.19 (in 2008).

“In contrast, fertility rates increased dramatically following the Great Depression and World War II, peaking at 4.31 births per woman in 1961,” Mr Dolan said. “New Zealand then experienced declining fertility over the following two decades.”

New Zealand’s fertility rate of 1.81 is similar to Australia’s rate of 1.79 (from the latest data in 2016).

The reduction in birth rates since 2008 has been mainly driven by trends among women aged 15–29 years, whose birth rates are now at record lows.

In 2017, the teenage fertility rate dropped to 15 births for every 1,000 women aged 15–19 years, just under half the 2008 rate of 33. The teenage fertility rate peaked at 69 for every 1,000 women in 1972.


Insurtech start-ups in the KiwiBank accelerator

While there are no life and health insurance start-ups in the accelerator there is plenty to be interested in. Two appear to have a general insurance flavour, the best of which is Stash, a outfit I have come across before and deserves to break out into broader market success. I also like the concepts for the blockchain identity development and the KiwiSaver advice service. Check out the list here.


NZ financial product comparison: Pocketwise

A new NZ financial product comparison site compares KiwiSaver schemes, mortgages, credit cards and loans. Pocketwise is the name of the new site, which launched last month. View the site at this link and an article about their growth plans by David Chaplin from Investment News NZ at this link. Congratulations to Binu Paul and Richard Dellabarca on the new venture. 

KiwiSaver nest-eggs lost for lack of insurance coverage

Rob Stock has a good article in explaining that hardship is often caused by disability - these are the essential facts:

"In the 12 months to the end of March, $81 million was paid out of KiwiSaver in cases of financial hardship, with 13,790 people drawing out an average of $5786 to help pay the bills."

Therefore KiwiSaver next-eggs are sometimes lost because they are used up early during a period of disability. This is an important issue which was sidelined from the design of KiwiSaver by politicians who legislated to keep basic levels of insurance out of the superannuation scheme. Well worth a read, and inclusion in client newsletters. 

Another financial planning issue was also identified - and it presages a large increase in people working until they are seventy years old: 

Two years' ago BNZ forecast that based on current payment trajectories, a third of people with mortgages wouldn't have paid them off by age 65.

...or they use KiwiSaver to pay of the balance. 

KiwiSaver: The Inevitable Comparison With Australia

Hat tip to Rob Dowler for referring me to this article. The article starts by simply comparing average account balances in KiwiSaver vs average balances in the Australian compulsory retirement savings scheme, noting nine times more in the Australian scheme balances. However, comparing wealth, not just superannuation balances, at retirement produced some interesting numbers. Yes, NZ males were still behind their AU counterparts, but NZ women were actually ahead of Australian women. The article doesn’t have enough information to help one understand exactly what is being compared, but I still thought the numbers were interesting, including noting that Australian people need more because their state pension is means tested.


Recent Insurance News

Here is the story of one family's story about how private medical insurance was essential in diagnosing and treating colon cancer. 'Private medical insurance is the only reason my husband is still here, as at 36 years old he was too young to qualify for public screening programs.' Click here to read more.

This story about a denied claim looks to feature questions of insurable interest. Link

Here is an interesting article by Andy Symons titled 'What if financial services had ingredients on the product’s packet?' 'Whether it’s for ethical reasons, an allergy or to stay true to a diet, checking the ingredients label when out shopping at the supermarket is now as common as having a bank account. But what if banks were required to put the ingredients on the labels of their products and services?' Okay, that's not strictly about insurance, but it is topical. Are you okay with your KiwiSaver investing in the shares of manufacturers of cluster munitions?