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.


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


The role of insurance advisers

Life insurance takes care of your family, your health, your lifestyle and your future if you were to lose your income through death, illness or injury.

There are a few types of insurance that fall into the category of life insurance but they’re all a bit different.

Life insurance pays out a lump sum of money when the insured person dies or is diagnosed as terminally ill.

Income Protection looks after your biggest asset; your ability to earn. If you suffer from a long term illness, disability or loss of income that is not covered by ACC and are unable to work Income Protection can ensure money is still coming in.

Permanent Disablement cover pays you a lump sum if an accident or illness leaves you permanently disabled. This could be caused by either an accident or illness. You choose how to spend the money paid out to you. That could be the mortgage, looking after your children, getting access to the best medical care, or ensuring your business survives. It’s your choice.

Critical Illness Cover pays a lump sum of money if you’re diagnosed with a specific illness or condition listed on the insurance policy, giving you time to recover. This could be; a heart attack, stroke, cancer or conditions like multiple sclerosis. Some critical illness cover can pay out multiple times based on the severity of your condition.

So when do you need these types of insurance?

Consider where you’re at in life….

Are you the main income earner for your family, or do you live alone and rely on your income?  If so, Income Protection means you can keep receiving income even if you can’t work.

Permanent Disablement Cover and Critical Illness Insurance are good to consider at any age. Even though most of us think we will never have to make a claim in our lifetime for an illness like cancer, or for a back injury that leaves you unable to work, it can happen. These types of insurance give you financial security if life does throw you a curveball.

You can find out more about the life insurance products available from Sovereign here.

What is life insurance?

Why giving back is good business

Businesses that are just throwing money at charities are missing the point. To make a real difference to New Zealand we need to invest our most valuable asset – our people.

Community activity boosts employee wellbeing and productivity, that’s why volunteering and fundraising programs should be standard issue within businesses.

By contributing to a cause, people feel better about themselves and the company they work for. People with higher levels of wellbeing are more resilient, can deal with adversity better, and are more productive.

Who doesn’t benefit from increased productivity?

For the charity itself, attracting willing volunteers and expertise is time consuming. Corporations can provide instant relief by putting forward their people, and it can go far beyond traditional volunteer work – providing free financial, legal, marketing, fundraising or technology support is invaluable.

And it goes both ways.

At Sovereign, our customer facing teams need to be empathetic and supportive to support our customers when they need us the most. By understanding what an individual or family is experiencing during a traumatic time, employees can make a real difference.

With this in mind, Sovereign invited Sweet Louise trustee and palliative care nurse Janet Mikkelsen to speak with staff about her experience supporting terminally ill patients. With 30 years of experience, Janet provided staff with insights that empowered them to better understand the role they could play in comforting customers and making things easier for them.

Embedding a community partner like Sweet Louise within your business, for everyone’s benefit, ensures success.

“Sweet Louise has greatly benefited from communications via Sovereign’s digital channels and through internal campaigns. Jointly they have led to payroll giving, volunteer assistance, donations, increased awareness of the work we do and support for external Sweet Louise events such as Auckland Marathon runners.  Sovereign staff have really got behind the cause and shown their desire to help those living with incurable breast cancer. All of us at Sweet Louise are very chuffed to have such meaningful corporate support from Sovereign,” says Sweet Louise CEO Fiona Hatton.

My advice: Don’t decide to support a charity, choose to partner with them. Create an authentic and meaningful connection that makes a difference.

Here are a few thought-starters:

  • Support causes that link to your business purpose.
  • Connect with organisations that are willing and have capability to support employee engagement activity.
  • Provide employees with the choice to support personal causes through a wide mix of volunteering opportunities.
  • Make sure community activity has a high profile internally by sharing how our people and community partners are making a difference.

Growth or fixed mindset – which are you?

There are two mindsets people tend to embody – a “fixed” or a “growth” mindset.

Those with a fixed mindset tend to believe their intelligence, personal attributes and skills are permanent and something they were born with. They spend most of their days keeping up appearances by proving these qualities to others and avoiding failure. This is their belief of success, but when failure occurs people with a fixed mindset question their competence and self-worth while being overly concerned of being judged by others.

On the contrary, those with a growth mindset look at life in an entirely different light. They view their skills, personality traits and qualities as something they can develop and enhance through their own efforts. They believe change and growth is always possible and necessary to succeed. Failures are not seen as flaws, but opportunities to learn.  They want to challenge themselves, push their limits and strive to achieve things that others may not think they are capable of.

Virtually all people who are admired for their strength, talent and perseverance are shown to have a growth mindset. These people have accomplished great things, have a zest for learning and show great resilience to conquer their goals in life.

The good news is – you can transform your mindset.

Start noticing

You may think you are a person who has a growth mindset, but is that really the case? Become aware of how you react to your failures, opportunities or challenges you face.  Is there a little negative voice in your head when make a mistake or discouraging you from pushing yourself a little harder? Being aware of your mindset is the first step to creating change.

Allow for constructive criticism

No one likes hearing negative opinions about their work, personality or abilities but constructive criticism can be so helpful in our development and growth.  Seeking out the opinions from those people you admire and taking their comments will help you to succeed.

Challenge yourself 

During a workout when you think you have nothing left, push yourself a little harder.  Challenge yourself to complete a task even if you think you’re mentally stretched or it’s beyond your abilities. Those in a growth mindset visualize themselves accomplishing the challenge at hand.

Learn from your mistakes

If you embody a growth mindset, you understand that the failures and mistakes you make are great learning tools.

Curb your self-talk

Rather than thinking ‘I can’t do it’, try saying to yourself ‘at the next attempt, I will accomplish it’.

You have a choice in how you perceive life and how others perceive you. You can challenge yourself to achieve your goals and make your journey a memorable one. It is this strength, resilience and drive people admire the most.

So how are you going to live your life – with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

Join the conversation in Sovereign’s Take Charge NZ group on Facebook.