The past decade has seen an unprecedented shift in the consumer attitude towards life insurance. The narrative of a life insurance product has now moved from 'fear of uncertainties' to the 'cover of financial protection'. The pandemic has further deepened the importance of financial protection against risk which will continue to be the core of life insurance offerings. It also brought to focus two key aspects that will shape the 'tomorrow' of life insurance - health and retirement. For the life insurance industry to remain relevant and resonate with the changing preferences of the customers, health and retirement will be important business drivers that will enable a buoyant business.
Making health holistic
The life insurance sector has come a long way in terms of product offerings, services and operations. Globally the common goal across insurers has remained consistent – to provide financial protection and security to customers. Brands are now enabling this further by encouraging consumers to become partners in this journey of financial protection for themselves as well as their loved ones.
Technological advancement in the life insurance industry has helped enhance products and services provided to customers. For example, connecting wellness services to digital channels such as apps and wearable sensors that provide data tracking have benefitted customers alike to monitor their health journey. For the customer, this has enabled healthier lifestyle choices and savings in terms of reduced premiums. For insurers, this has helped in infusing greater customer engagement in this category along with offering premium discounts based on risk associated with lifestyle choices. Many life insurers now have a ‘wellness score’ on which they offer incentives, rewards and premium discounts to encourage customers to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Not ripe for retirement?
A change in economic and demographic trends is another crucial factor that will shape the life insurance sector in the years to come. Life expectancy over the years has been consistently rising in India. We are seeing the aging population retire, with dependence on government and employer-sponsored pension schemes. This is a challenge, especially when it is the sole source of financial security for the retired population. India is amongst a handful of countries that has a large retirement savings market but with a significant retirement savings gap as stated in a report by the World Economic Forum. The report also highlights that most retirees will outlive their savings.
Keeping these learnings in mind, life insurers are already investing their time and resources towards customising products that give customers the flexibility to steer their insurance journey, while keeping them financially protected at all times. One-size-fits-all insurance products are being supplanted by comprehensive and refined offerings that keep the customers interest and well-being at heart. For instance, life insurance companies are incorporating liquidity and investment as an important part of their products by offering the flexibility to withdraw money sooner, or add riders to top-up their specific protection covers or change premium payment frequency, as required. Apart from this, insurers must also look at developing avenues for both protection and income generation that provide for alternating phases of protection and retirement asset accumulation.
COVID-19 has fundamentally reshaped the way people go about their lives. The global reset has reiterated the importance of protecting loved ones and the need for financial wellbeing over everything else. Looking ahead, life insurance has the opportunity to meet the ever-evolving needs of the customer and create long-term channels of loyalty and growth. Insurers should aim to provide customers with a unique experience that helps them lead a positive, protected life and in doing so, propel the sector towards achieving its goal of providing financial security in the most challenging of times.
An industry veteran in the financial services sector for nearly three decades, V. Viswanand is deputy managing director at Max Life Insurance and a member of the board.
Under his belt, he is responsible for distribution, including proprietary channels, bancassurance and third-party business, institutional sales, business development and distribution operations.
He steers the strategic direction and growth of the company and leads the Max Skill First training partnership as well as the procurement and facilities functions.
He played an instrumental role in not only propelling the company to emerge as the industry leader in customer retention, claims paid ratio and customer loyalty but also had led the company’s wins in several global and national accolades in quality and technology, including the coveted gold medal at ASQ, USA and RBNQA.
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