Olivia Sarah-Le Lacheur, CommInsure's head of life distribution, speaks to Risk Adviser about the company's strategies for engaging advisers on life product distribution and product development.
What strategies is CommInsure looking at to better engage advisers on risk products?
We believe that through ongoing engagement with advisers we can provide the tools they need to help existing clients understand the true value of insurance and engage prospects in conversations about where insurance fits in their overall financial plan.
One of the key ways we engage advisers is through our professional development programs (Risk Skills Academy and Underwriting and Claims Academy) and marketing programs (Smart Adviser Marketing), which are all CPD accredited.
Over the last decade we’ve invested a great deal in professional development programs and business tools, not just for advisers, but for people brand new to the industry.
The CommInsure Risk Skills Academy (RSA) is one of our key programs, and has been delivered to more than 4,850 advisers in every State of Australia since November 2006. We’ve also had more than 2,600 accountants, lenders, mortgage brokers and some solicitors and general insurance brokers complete the RSA Referral Partner Program.
How much focus will CommInsure place on the IFA sector to broaden distribution?
There are 8,740 advisers who have an active relationship with CommInsure, so we have a broad reach across the entire adviser community.
What we focus on is how we can work closely with advisers to identify when our product solutions will best meet the needs of their clients – whether they’re self-employed, salaried, aligned or not doesn’t change the needs of their individual clients.
The CommInsure business is 140 years old – we started off with products sold through self-employed advisers, and we’ve continued that relationship the whole time. We have some current IFAs that have been writing CommInsure’s products for over 40 years and we are proud to continue our relationship with them.
Will CommInsure be looking to make any product enhancements in the near future? If so, will this cover all risk products?
CommInsure appointed a new head of life product and strategy, Sally Phillips, who joined us at the start of February. We look forward to utilising Sally’s expertise and innovative approach to product design, claims and underwriting as we look at enhancing our risk offering in the future.
Premium cost is a key issue for advisers, and their clients, and will become increasingly more so with the introduction of the life insurance reforms. Will CommInsure consider making any tweaks to premium costs or, alternatively, follow other insurers to hold off increasing premiums for a set period of time?
Insurers seek to build products and pricing that is sustainable for the policyholder and insurer. Many factors impact the pricing models over time. Our industry is being impacted by two things at the moment: The first is managing the impacts of income protection claims of a longer duration, such as mental health claims; and the second is the need to invest in the implementation of regulatory changes to comply with various legislation, such as the Life Insurance Framework. These factors are taken into account when looking at the premiums paid by our policyholders, along with factors such as our guarantee of upgrade and loyalty benefits. Our guarantee of upgrade means that definition enhancements are passed back to existing policyholders in the current product series, which was launched 20 years ago, delivering great value to policyholders at claims stage.
Lapse rates have been flagged as a big issue for insurers – what will CommInsure be looking to do in order to improve the retention of policies? Will CommInsure be working closely with advisers to improve policy retention?
One of the key ways we’ve been supporting advisers and policyholders with policy retention is via the retention specialists in our contact centre. A customer who calls us wanting to cancel their cover due to affordability issues is able to speak to a retention specialist to identify what options are available to make the premium more affordable and retain cover. Any changes that can be made on the contract without personal financial advice, will be implemented immediately and the adviser notified of the changes. Where the customer requires personal advice, we connect them with the financial adviser attached to their policy. After the advice is provided and the adviser sends us the required changes, we implement these as per our usual processes.
For advisers, we also provide them with weekly emails to identify any of their customers who are about to fall into policy lapse. This supports the adviser in understanding which customers they need to contact and by when, in order for the customer to retain their valuable insurance cover.
Some insurers are placing more focus on the direct life market in order to reach clients – is this something that CommInsure will consider doing as well? Or will advisers be a core focus for life product distribution?
CommInsure has a diverse portfolio of products, including both direct and retail advised products. In retail advice we are committed to supporting advisers to tailor an advised insurance product solution for their clients in line with their personal financial plan.
We know that there is enormous value for a customer in speaking with an adviser. An adviser can listen to your needs and aspirations, identify an appropriate strategy and timeline to help you reach your goals, and then research the most suitable product for your circumstances. They can also take the customer through the application and underwriting process, and secure a tailored solution and premium outcome for them.
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