Life brims with health even as disruption rages

| 28 Nov 2017

Life business is fun. It is already turning on its head in many markets with the mantra of not just protecting your family when you die, but letting you live longer healthily. Life is beyond just savings for death or life, critical illness, risk protection or investment income. It is about making new waves to enter the health arena too.

The foot soldiers who make the army shine

Life insurers have been early embracers of disruptive technology. Today, they are leading the pack, empowering their beloved agency force with smart tools to make them better and more productive in upselling.

Having hosted the Trusted Life Agents and Advisers Awards for two years now, AIR is just enamoured by the role that agents play in the lives of the ordinary people in the spirit of selling; they are the real face, touch and feel factor of the protection that life insurance offers. They are the truly unsung heroes of the life insurance business, and we have taken the cudgels on their behalf and have also launched Asia Advisers Network to give them more visibility in insurance. We share this enthusiasm with the industry, as when we look around, the markets with the deepest life penetration have good, strong, bright and smart agency forces!

They dare to lead

Life is ahead in the online space, with several digital insurers fast expanding. Likewise, on the bancassurance front, life products go beyond just credit insurance sales. Life insurers are taking steps to own their customers, and hence grow their businesses by responding to their wants and needs through social media tracking. The dialogue is spinning positively.

The life business is booming also because it has many passionate leaders. Many life leaders have moved into the space of keeping their policyholders healthy, giving them credits and points and gifts for taking more steps each day, or just living healthily. Business aside, this is a wider social role that life companies play and it appeals directly to millennials who like to see socially-conscious business entities. They go out of their way to support these companies. Imagine how the world of business is changing in life, where your clients talk you up more than your ad campaigns or marketing strategies ever can. And what a blessing that will be, not just in drawing business, but also in attracting talent into the industry.

An outsider’s take

The healthcare business is a natural link for life companies serious about increasing their slice of the protection pie. There are already several players, including reinsurers, looking at linking retirement and healthcare to help the elderly fund their own old -age healthcare expenses, one of the biggest nightmares of most families with ageing parents and relatives. And in the smart era, there is also telehealth, which insurers can jump into, bearing in mind that the market in the Asia Pacific is growing at 12% annually to reach US$1.8 billion in 2020 in the Asia Pacific region.

While retirement planning would appear to be a natural fit for life insurers, companies have been very slow to get into this business, citing regulatory and RBC burdens as a turn-off. Annuities have lost their appeal to insurers, though the public, especially the cash-rich elderly with predatory off-springs eyeing that pile for their own immediate comfort, really want it to shield that wealth. There is a natural pool of clients awaiting the dawn.

Lastly, there is the view that life insurers can do more by offering portability of protection from one carrier to another, or even to allow modular purchases.

Being good for goodness’ sake

The life business is booming because it does “good” well. A Pollyanna notion you think? In Asia, life is at least two-thirds of the insurance pie, and in some markets it even makes up more than 70% of the insurance market. The life business is worth some $2,500 billion and is estimated to increase by a billion dollars a year. So take heart, it is a shining industry, where there are many winners, not just one!

This article first appeared in Asia Insurance Review’s PIC Daily.

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