Insurance for the greater good

New Zealanders often take pride in our notable rankings on the world stage, whether it be our privileged political freedom, our happiness, sporting achievements, low levels of corruption or topping the World Bank Group’s ‘ease of doing business index’ two years running.

While these rankings shine a positive light on our small and nimble country, we are not performing as well when it comes to insurance. In fact, according to OECD calculations, New Zealand is amongst the most underinsured countries in the world.

We have an aging population, and with more and more people relying on our public health system, the burden on hospital waiting lists and welfare services will continue to grow.

Insurance plays a critical role in reducing this burden, a societal contribution that I would really like better understood. Last year Sovereign paid out more than $350 million in claims, including more than $11.2 million in claims for mental health related conditions. While we’re proud of the role we play in our community, imagine if the number of our customers – and therefore, claims – could double, or even triple. That would take huge pressure off the public health system and free up waiting lists and medical resources for those who really need them.

So why are New Zealanders so reluctant to cover themselves and their families for the worst that might happen? There are a number of reasons, and various ways the industry and other business leaders can help move the dial.

For starters, many people don’t fully understand how insurance works or why they need it. Insurance products can be complex – that’s why we are doing everything we can to simplify the way we communicate our products, creating digital tools for our advisers and connect with new customers via social media. We’re challenging the way things have always been done.

Financial advisers also play an important role in providing advice and support to people as well as helping their clients through the claims process. This personal, tailored service helps to build consumer trust in the industry and ensures families have the right level of cover for their needs.

Cost can also be a barrier when considering insurance, which is why we have a range of products and options to make it affordable. The reality is that insurance can protect your greatest asset, the ability to earn, if you are unable to work due to illness or injury. It also gives you access to the latest proven medical technology quickly and makes sure your loved ones are cared for after you’re gone.

I recently visited several of our customers who have made a claim, and they all told me how important it’s been having their finances taken care of while they undergo treatment and recover from illness and injury. We come into our customer’s lives during the most stressful and traumatic events, and it makes me incredibly proud to hear about the difference we’ve made to them and their families.

I believe all businesses can have a positive influence on their employees’ financial wellbeing and assist them in planning for the unexpected, whether it’s through education or access to group insurance schemes. This is the challenge that lies before the whole of New Zealand and we are certainly going to play our part to see that this goal is realised. I encourage other businesses to do the same.

There is a peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones are taken care of no matter what. It’s a level of security that I wish for more Kiwi families.

Originally published in The National Business Review.

Keeping one eye on the horizon

Providing insurance to one of the most underinsured countries in the world comes with obvious challenges such as the need to educate Kiwis on the benefits of protecting themselves from the unforeseen.

Financial commentators predict that the type of insurance consumers buy in 20 years will be very different to what’s on offer now. At Sovereign, we are preparing ourselves for the future by using the power of technology and data to target new areas of customer demand.

A recent digital triumph was our new ‘bank-grade’ hybrid cloud system delivered in a hugely ambitious – and successful – timeframe of just 10 weeks. A visible customer component is our Quick Quote web and mobile tool, which allows advisers to provide quotes instantly using their mobile devices. While it appears straightforward, it’s anything but. It involved building and deploying key enablers – such as a secure virtual data centre in the cloud (Amazon Web Services), a modern integration and business process management suite – and a configurable pricing engine, modern APIs and user interfaces.

Technology team_resellernews

The technology project team (L-R) – Nick Stanhope; Andrew Scott; Patrice de Marigny; Raffaella del Prete; Tony Lees; Linda Nightingale; Richard Beamish. Absent: Corina Elama; Feng Wu; Ross Stephenson; Liviu Elama and Michael Ung.

The new investment will give Sovereign speed, flexibility and choice. It will enable data-led automation, coherent omni-channel customer experience, machine learning and artificial intelligence – all necessities for a modern and customer-centric business. It’s a small step in a much bigger journey toward making insurance more accessible to more people.

We are also using data to increase our understanding of customer risk, behaviours and needs. Recent analysis told us our customers wanted simple and flexible support after an accident. As a result, we launched Accidental Injury Cover this month. This product complements traditional income protection products and ACC by providing our customers with access to an immediate payment they can use however they wish, whether it’s hiring some help at home, taking taxis or having some time off work. This is available as an optional benefit with no underwriting regardless of whether someone is in paid employment or not.

In the last financial year, we paid out around $70 million in health insurance claims, which gave our customers access to the best medical treatment options. Demand for effective and less invasive options continues to grow in the private sector and we are seeing greater capacity as more specialists and medical facilities come online in New Zealand, particularly in the area of cancer care. We’re constantly looking into our claims data to ensure that our products reflect demand.

The ability to respond to, and even anticipate, the needs of our customers means we can make a difference through our product design, provide greater choice and simply improve the user experience.

Our eyes are constantly fixed on the horizon because we are in the business of being there for customers in their time of need – today and tomorrow.

Originally published as Sponsored Content in the NBR. Republished with permission.