Insurance is as important for the mind as it is the body

Five Ways to WellbeingMental health is no different to physical health: we can no less escape the constraints of our minds than we can the frailties of our body.

If we look at the numbers, we find that one in six Kiwis will at some point in their lives be diagnosed with a common mental health disorder. Many more will experience episodic challenges.

As an insurance guy and an actuary, I am passionate about the vital role that insurance can play in helping New Zealanders who are experiencing mental health issues.

Sovereign’s disability income claims data shows that mental health issues tend to require more recovery time than other health issues. About 50% of mental health claims remain open one year into the claim. This compares with 15% of injury clams and 35% of illness claims. In fact, the average length of a mental health claim is about 260 days – the only other condition that comes even close is cancer at about 210 days (the next highest duration is cardiovascular at 140 days).

We understand that our customers need more than financial support. That’s why we take a holistic approach to claims and spend considerable effort supporting customers with their recovery journey. For example, we offer customers access to a dedicated case manager to help co-ordinate private psychological support, occupational therapy, vocational re-training, and return to work support. Helping to support customers back to living their lives not only makes good financial sense but is a core part of our brand promise: being the difference in life’s moments of truth.

Several months ago, I had the privilege of facilitating a mental health panel at our bi-annual Adviser conference. Amongst the panellists was Shaun Robinson, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation. Shaun spoke of the mental health challenges and opportunities facing our nation. I especially connected with the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” – simple, evidence-based actions that help us maintain positive mental health. These are:

  • Connecting (me whakawhanaunga) – connecting with our families, our friends, and our communities gives us a sense of belonging and a wider purpose in our lives.
  • Giving (tukau) – giving our time, energy, attention, or financial resources is shown to significantly improve our own happiness;
  • Take notice (me aro tonu) – slowing ourselves down each day to notice ourselves, others, and our environment is both calming and helps us focus on those things that matter;
  • Learning (me ako tonu) – people are curious beings. Indulging our interests is both incredibly enjoyable and helps to give our lives a sense of balance; and
  • Being active (me kori tonu) – physical activity helps to keep us healthy, resilient, alert, and feeling good.

If we think of our mental health as a bank account, regular “deposits” of these five actions helps us to accumulate a surplus of positive mental wellbeing to guard against the inevitable bumps in the road.

Just feel better

Wellness is about having the energy and vitality to do the things you love. To have a healthy body that doesn’t hold you back and to have a balance in your life that allows you to enjoy the small things.

With this in mind I developed the Wheel of Wellness, a model to help you understand the different components that create Wellness in your life.

Take a look at the Wheel of Wellness here, explore each of the four health essentials videos and get an understanding of how they all piece together.

Wellness is not about extremes, and it’s not achieved in one day, one workout or one good meal. Wellness is created when we work on our nutrition, exercise, sleep and happiness equally and consistently.

Here are 10 simple things you can do to get started:

  1. Build a foundation of movement: Aim to get 10,000 steps in every day and spend more of your day standing.
  2. Eat whole foods that you prepare at home.
  3. Organise your evening so you can get an additional half an hour of sleep and keep building on it. You should aim to reach 8-9 hours per night.
  4. Recognise the things that make you happy and do more of them: Write a list of the 10 things that bring you joy and start to bring these into your week in some way.
  5. Stay in touch with people who are important to you.
  6. Devote a little bit of time every week to yoga, stretching or massage.
  7. Drink more water.
  8. Get outside – whether it’s for a walk, exercise or a meeting.
  9. Focus on making the last three hours of your day relaxed so that you can have a quality night’s sleep – this means no large meals, screens or phones.
  10. Keep building on all of these steps.

Follow Nicola on Facebook or join her in the Take Charge NZ group for more advice and support.

Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable

Diversity and inclusion

Sharron-Moana Botica, Chief Customer Officer

If you want a business that attracts and retains top talent then a diversity strategy has to be your number one priority.

Over the last ten years, Sovereign has become a multi-cultural business that reflects the country we serve. If you take a walk through our offices you will see representatives from more than 50 ethnic backgrounds.

Diversity of thought benefits our customers, makes us more innovative as a business and helps us to develop new products.

The way things have been done previously are not the way they need to be in the future.

We understand that this journey will never end – there is always more we can do. Recently, we started the process of integrating the “MX” salutation and “X” gender reference into both our customer and people systems. These designations refer to individuals who either don’t identify as being of a particular gender, or for people who don’t want to be identified by gender.

As Sovereign’s LGBTI executive sponsor, and an ally of the Rainbow community, understanding what it means to be intersex was important to me. I didn’t fully realise what it meant until viewing this video, which was passed to me by a member of the Rainbow community at Sovereign. Watching this video really struck a chord.  It was obvious how challenging and difficult life could be through a lack of inclusion.

So we set about making these changes happen. Introducing the “MX” salutation was easy enough but including the “X” designation in our customer system was a little harder – the main reason being that insurance premiums are calculated in part by gender.

We worked with key stakeholders to help them understand why these changes mattered and the positive impact it would make to our business. We also connected with influencers across the company who could help us explain why these changes were relevant for different departments.

Finally, once the changes were made, we used the communication channels available to us to let people know these options were now available to them.

For anyone attempting a similar change I would recommend the following actions:

  • Bring all the people (or departments) that are impacted together.
  • Start the conversation with a view as to why it is important to do this.
  • Don’t get dragged down to why it can’t happen.
  • Understand responses and work out a plan on how to resolve them.
  • Focus on the end result.

The value of these changes is that we are making a difference to people who were previously excluded. This has made many people proud to be part of Sovereign.

Even ten years ago, there would not have been the sliver of an opportunity for an insurance company to consider gender X. It is a sign of how much we have evolved, and the value of ongoing diversity and inclusion activity, that we have been able to challenge history.

We are in the process of updating our systems and collateral that has gender sections, changes that will take time but importantly the changes are underway.

It is also a sign of Sovereign’s transformation – the way things have been done previously are not the way they need to be in the future.

I’m happy to answer any questions about Sovereign’s diversity strategy – so feel free to fire away in the comments below.


The role of insurance advisers

Insurance products are complex, which is why the service that insurance advisers provide is so valuable when you are considering what cover you need.

Advisers can assess your needs and decide which cover is right for you, help you complete your application, advocate on your behalf with insurance companies and assist you in making a claim. They can also reassess your needs over time as things change.

Here are some questions to ask when you’re selecting an adviser:

  1. What type of advice do you give?
  2. What insurance providers are you aligned with?
  3. Do the products you sell suit my needs?
  4. Can you advise on any products that I already have?

All advisers have a legal responsibility to act with care, diligence and skill. They must not mislead, deceive or confuse their clients. And they must be registered on the Financial Service Providers Register.

An adviser’s licence will set out the types of products and services they are able to offer. A Registered Financial Adviser is qualified to give advice on products like mortgages and insurance. They must be registered but they don’t need be authorised by the Financial Markets Authority.

Authorised Financial Advisers can advise on the same products as Registered Financial Advisers, as well as investment products, including Kiwisaver. All Authorised Financial Advisers must comply with a Code of Professional Conduct Code and need to meet minimum standards for competence, knowledge and skills, client care, ethical behaviour and ongoing professional training.

A Qualified Financial Entity Adviser can advise you on the same products as Authorised Financial Advisers if those products are provided by the company they represent.

Many advisers work on commission but some may charge a fee, depending on the complexity of your needs, so it’s a good idea to talk to them and make sure you know what’s expected. Insurance companies will pay them a percentage of your premium.

You can use our online tool to find an adviser near you:

Here is a video explaining the role of advisers