Industry awards finalists revealed, and more daily news

The Life Insurance Company of the Year award finalists for the 9th Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance awards were recently announced. Finalists include AIA, Asteron Life, and Fidelity Life. Additionally, Amy Cavanaugh, Pinnacle Life General Manager Operations and Len Elikhis, AIA Chief Officer - Product and Vitality are among the finalists for Young Insurance Professional of the Year award. Click here to read more

“The top New Zealand insurers will have their time to shine at the upcoming awards hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF).

This year will mark the 9th year of the awards that aim to "...unite all sectors of insurance for a celebration of excellence, professionalism and community".

The finalists were announced this week with Fidelity Life up against Asteron Life and AIA NZ for the top life insurer award.

The 2019 awards also saw Fidelity Life's Ben Holloway win the gong for the young insurance professional of the year.

This year, Pinnacle Life's Amy Cavanaugh and AIA NZ's Len Elikhis are two of seven young professionals nominated for the award.

"This year’s awards are centred around 2020, celebrating how our industry has supported the customer, community, and its people," the ANZIIF says.

The judging panel will explore how organisations or individuals have contributed to professionalism in the insurance industry and how they have successfully addressed issues by implementing innovative change.

The ANZIIF expects more than 400 of the industry’s top professionals spanning the breadth of New Zealand insurance to attend the awards being held at the Cordis in Auckland on Wednesday, November 17.

2021 ANZIIF New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards finalists:

Life insurance company of the year:
- AIA New Zealand
- Asteron Life
- Fidelity Life

Insurance learning programme of the year:
- AA Insurance
- AIG New Zealand

Young insurance professional of the year:
- Stephen Cantwell, FMG
- Amy Cavanaugh, Pinnacle Life
- Len Elikhis, AIA New Zealand
- Joseph Fitzgerald, Wotton + Kearney
- Steph Kelly, FMG
- Daniel Mathieson, Sherpa
- Megan Wolak, Delta Insurance

ANZIIF lifetime achievement award: Announced on the night”

Amy Cavanaugh:

Lo-amy-clr

Len Elikhis:

Aia-elt-len-elikhis

 

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Closing the protection gap and more daily news

Swiss Re yesterday published the results of a survey undertaken this year to understand New Zealanders' attitudes and behaviours towards life insurance:

The inaugural report, Closing New Zealand's mortality protection gap, estimates that the mortality protection gap for New Zealand households – the gap between households' financial resources and the protection they need to maintain their living standard in the event of the death of a primary earner – at USD 435 billion (NZD 670 billion) as of 2020. 

The findings show that this gap is projected to widen to more than USD 500 billion (>NZD 750 billion) within the next 10 years, in part due to rising consumption and household debt levels. As an industry, there is a need to act now.

The current COVID-19 crisis has increased the sense of risk and insecurity. More than 80% of those surveyed in New Zealand believe that losing the income of the primary earner will affect their family significantly. This is slightly higher than the 72% of all advanced Asia Pacific markets Swiss Re surveyed prior to COVID-19.

Swiss Re's findings show almost two thirds of households in New Zealand have some form of mortality protection gap. About a fifth of households have just 10% or less of the financial resources required to cover their protection needs; in other words, a protection gap of 90%.

The report also examines how to close the gap in New Zealand. Swiss Re estimates that in the decade to 2030, this could be achieved with an additional USD 1.5 billion (NZD 2.3 billion) of life premiums every year. Yet only 39% of consumers reported owning a life insurance policy, and survey responses find that buying life cover is not their default option for increasing security.

You can download the report here:  Closing the mortality protection gap in New Zealand | Swiss Re

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Asteron Life financial performance, and more daily news

Suncorp NZ has reported that Asteron Life has achieved a profit after tax of $38 million in the year to June. This figure is down $2 million when compared to the same period last year. The financial outcome has been credited to improved claims experience, although interest rate market adjustments impacted the results. Additionally, there was a 4.0% increase for in-force premium as a result of new business growth and retention rates. Asteron Life has credited financial advisers for the $2 million increase in new business growth. CEO Jimmy  Higgins has said Asteron Life’s flexible products and adviser and customer focus during COVID-19 was recognised by advisers for delivering good customer outcomes.

“The New Zealand life insurance business delivered profit after tax of $38 million, down $2 million on the prior corresponding period.

The strong underlying performance was driven by improved claims experience but offset by unfavourable market adjustments as a result a rising interest rate environment. The in-force premium growth of 4.0% was driven by new business growth and strong retention rates.

New business was $2 million higher than the pcp, mainly due to increased business through independent financial advisors.

Higgins says that Asteron Life’s focus on supporting advisers and customers through Covid-19, and its suite of innovative and highly flexible products, were being recognised by advisers as a strong choice for delivering good customer outcomes.” Click here to read more

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New Zealander’s health concerns, and more daily news

A Swiss Re study has revealed that because of COVID-19 one in three New Zealanders have increased health concerns. The study found that one in two participants felt that their financial future was positive while 14% were anxious about their financial future. The number of participants that had increased health concerns and participants that were anxious about their financial future were the lowest among other developed countries within the Asia-Pacific region. Leigh Watson, head of life and health in Australia and New Zealand noted that although the New Zealand findings weren’t as concerning as respondents from other countries in the region, mental wellness and price certainty were identified as issues. The study found that New Zealanders felt that policy features were the most important aspect of insurance and claims payout was the least important aspect. Watson highlighted that the insurance industry has a role in promoting wellbeing.  Watson has said that Swiss Re is looking to work  alongside insurers to help customers through difficult situations.

“A Swiss Re study has shown that one in three New Zealanders have an increase in health concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic - however, this is the lowest reported level of concern among developed markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

The study showed that half of all surveyed New Zealanders were keen to resume domestic and international travel and social activities, and one in two respondents felt that their financial future was positive. Fourteen per cent (14%) felt overwhelmed or anxious about their financial future - the lowest percentage in the surveyed region.

When it comes to insurance, respondents felt the ability to set a fixed premium was the most important policy feature (31%), while monetary payout was the lowest priority (19%).

Leigh Watson, head of life and health in Australia and New Zealand, said that while New Zealanders appear to have less money troubles compared to other APAC countries, issues like mental wellness and price certainty remained a concern.

“While New Zealanders aren’t so worried about the financial impacts of the pandemic, they are worried about the mental wellness impacts, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19,” he said.

“We can see that New Zealanders would also like to see more price certainty in their insurances, and the industry is definitely trying to tackle this through a greater focus on more sustainable products and pricing.”

“Claimants are also looking for faster and easier claims processes,” he continued.

“Our claims team recognises that an innovative and agile response is required to support our insurer clients, and ultimately customers, to help them navigate unforeseen challenges in their time of need.”

Watson said that the insurance sector needs to “draw lessons” from the pandemic and how customers are responding to pressure, and it particularly needs to increase its focus on resilience and mental wellness.

“The insurance industry has a role to play to promote wellbeing, and to support a more proactive management of everyone’s physical and mental health,” Watson said

“The impacts of COVID-19 on mental health remain a concern, and we are assisting insurers in helping their customers through difficult situations and towards long-term recovery.” Click here to read more

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University adviser course finalised, and more daily news

Massey University and Kaplan Professional’s Certificate in Business Studies (Financial Services pathway) adviser course is now ready. Massey University worked with Kaplan Professional to create a course that’ll help new advisers and existing advisers. Dr. Jeff Stangl, international and strategic partnerships director at Massey Business School has said that the 18 months spent on the development of the course ensures that those registered will improve their skills.

“Massey has been working with Kaplan Professional for one-and-a-half years to make sure that the course will allow advisers to leave feeling confident and settled in the new regime.

Dr Jeff Stangl, Massey Business School international and strategic partnerships director, says that now is a time for New Zealand’s business community “to lift their game nationally as far as the educational requisite for advisers is concerned”.

Stangl says that the amount of work that went into creating this course means that those who enrol should expect to see their skills improve greatly.”

The course was created using material from both New Zealand and Australia. The digital course will cost $1,800 and will provide advisers access to Ontrack, Kaplan Professional’s continuing education platform. Additionally, New Zealand advisers will have access to personalised support. The course includes a compulsory Financial Advice Fundamentals course and an elective specialisation. Adviser wishing to take additional courses they will need to pay $900 for each specialisation.

“The creation of this programme was pretty intense, we engaged subject matter experts on both sides of the Tasman. It was truly a trans-Tasman collaborative effort to create a programme specifically for the New Zealand market.”

A big part of the course’s attraction is the fact that it allows participants to have one-year’s access to Ontrack, Kaplan Professional’s continuing education platform. Stangl says the product is a game changer. “This is a newly released CPD tracking software that is already becoming the standard in the Australian market. It is just a brilliant piece of engineering.”

The Certificate in Business Studies (Financial Services pathway) will be delivered online and New Zealand advisers will have access to personalised support.

The course costs $1,800 and includes the compulsory Financial Advice Fundamentals course, plus one elective specialisation (investment; life, disability and health insurance; general insurance; or residential property lending). Additional specialisations are $900 each.” Click here to read more

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Science behind high Income Protection premiums, and more daily news

Recently we reported that Income Protection prices are on the rise as a result of the Australian market and COVID-19. New Zealander insurers are now being urged to amend processes and premiums before regulators intervene and introduction mandatory guides. Partners Life begun the conversation when revealing that it has increased IP premiums by 12% and made policy changes. Kris Ballantyne, chief marketing officer, has said that Partners wishes to offer affordable policies that customers can maintain for as long as they need. AIA and Cigna have both noted that they aren’t looking to introduce significant premium increases.  

“It took insurer Partners Life to break the silence last month when it revealed a brave plan to start publishing the content of discussions with the Financial Markets Authority.

 

In doing so, it revealed it lifted its income protection premiums by 12 per cent in the past year, and had made policy changes, including not allowing self-employed people to any longer select an “agreed value” of income to be covered, instead limiting cover to actual loss of earnings.

 

Partner’s Life’s chief marketing officer Kris Ballantyne said the company was a “first mover” on income protection, driven by wanting to provide policies they [consumers] could afford to keep as long as they needed it.

 

It was a big challenge as there were a lot of agreed value policies covering self-employed people, and owners of small businesses.

 

Neither of its two big rivals, AIA nor Cigna, was expecting to make such large premium increases, though AIA had stopped selling new policies in which the income covered automatically increased by 5 per cent a year.

 

AIA chief product officer Len Elikhis said that over time, “the insured’s benefits would creep up and approach the insured’s income”.

Shane Burdack, senior underwriting consultant as Swiss Re Australia highlighted that customers with significant wealth had very little incentive to return to work when on claim, resulting in increased premium prices.

“Swiss Re senior underwriting consultant in Australia, Shane Burdack, said that in New Zealand insurers gave little thought to the net wealth of policyholders.

 

Yet people with significant wealth – sometimes through investments, sometimes because of payouts from other insurance policies – had a low incentive to go back to work, and stayed “on claim” for longer driving up costs.” Click here to read more

  

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Fluctuations in Income Protection prices, and more daily news

The New Zealand Herald have reported on Income Protection price increases. Financial advisers have credited the changes to IP to the Australian IP market although COVID-19 has played a role in the change in pricing and the underwriting process. During the FSC digital Generations 2020 Conference, Kimberley Robinson from Swiss Re Australia warned that it was important that New Zealand insurers make amendments. Robinson highlighted that in Australia the regulator had to step in after losses totaled A$3 billion in a five-year period. Robinson said that the losses were a result of an increased focus on sales volumes, cross-subsidisation, a competitive market, and in some instances, insurers providing more benefits on claims before claim time.

At an industry conference held online this week by the Financial Service Council insurance underwriter Swiss Re warned that New Zealand insurers also needed to make changes.

Kimberley Robinson, product solutions leader at Swiss Re in Australia, said Australian regulator APRA had intervened after big losses in the sector which added up to around A$3 billion over five years.

"We have suffered losses on individual income protection on an unsustainable level."

Robinson said factors contributing to those losses included an increasing focus on sales volumes over profitability, cross-subsidisation of the product and a fiercely competitive market.

"In some cases we were providing customers with more benefit on claim than they earned before claiming."”

To tackle issues relating to sustainability and customer support, the FSC recently set up a CEO life insurance forum and ran its first meeting. Although Richard Klipin didn’t comment on the pricing of IP, he noted that the sector is not growing and that it is instead expanding sideways. Klipin highlighted that the challenge for the industry to transforming insurance into something that is relevant, affordable and accessible. He continued by saying that insurers need to focus on having the ability to deliver on the promise of cover

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