ANZ-owned insurer OnePath has been named the Money Management/DEXX&R Risk Company of the Year for the fourth consecutive year as part of the Adviser Choice Risk Awards. Jason Spits asks the winners about the secret of their success.
OnePath has been named Money Management/DEXX&R Risk Company of the Year for the fourth consecutive year, ahead of TAL and MLC, also winning two out of the six other categories in this year’s awards.
DEXX&R managing director Mark Kachor said the ANZ-owned insurance group OnePath continued to offer a strong product range, including premiums at the lower end of the market for death cover and a range of fully-featured trauma and disability income products.
Kachor said that while product development over the past 12 months had been incremental and the gap between OnePath and competing products had narrowed, enhancements made to competing products had not elevated them to a level where they surpassed OnePath.
OnePath head of retail risk insurance Gerard Kerr said the insurer had focused on its product offering and service proposition – including its claims process and underwriting.
Kerr said OnePath had handled more of its claims processing online and over the phone and had reduced processing time – in many cases by 25 per cent.
“About 50 per cent are paid in 10 days and we pay trauma claims as soon as we receive clear-cut medical evidence of a trauma event. Our focus has been on getting the collection of information right and then delivering on the cover and protection that we said we would do,” Kerr said.
“We have partnered with financial planners to do this and feel that if we get the technology, services and products right and not drop the ball on any of them, we will do well.”
Kerr said the insurance market was going through significant change. The separation between direct insurance and advice-related insurance was closing due to technology changes, which were providing consumers with more information. At the same time Kerr said the cost of insurance was still an area where the industry feels pressure.
“With people worried about the cost of living, they are checking their insurance spend with other things such as their power bill and making a decision to save by reducing or dropping their insurance. However, these are macro-cycles and insurance has always had these issues,” Kerr said.
“If our products are not broken and our service remains good we can get good traction and continue to roll out positive changes as we go.”
TAL Life has also repeated its past performances, securing silver this year as it did in 2011 and 2012. TAL Life chief executive Brett Clark said the insurer had partnered with financial planners who provide advice on its products, making them partners in achieving good outcomes for both groups.
“We want to provide great services and outcomes for our adviser business partners and we really do see them as business partners. That’s what we’ve focused on right across our business – providing great outcomes for them,” Clark said.
Clark said TAL had continued to develop its product range over the past 12 months, recognising that it operated within a competitive environment but with the ability to draw on internal and external knowledge to direct its product development.
“We have a team that looks at the competitive dynamic in the market and we have a good sense of all of the product ranges in the market that are available to advisers.
“We also operate an outside-in process as well where we bring the adviser into the room and run a number of different sessions and forums and get feedback in a formal sense,” Clark said.
At the same time TAL has had to be responsive to a life insurance market that was going through some structural change, Clark said – change which has happened at the industry level but was yet to play out at other levels.
“We have seen the regulatory change come through our industry and by and large we are into implementation and moving into that new regulatory landscape. I think there is more structural change to be dealt with and that is taking place at the consumer and customer level,” Clark said.
“Australians now are far more engaged with the life insurance industry and the products and services that we have to offer. In response, the life insurance industry has been trying to build an engagement and affinity with life insurance and the important role it can play in people’s lives.”
Taking out the bronze award for 2013 was MLC, the first time in recent years that the insurer has placed in the top three.
DEXX&R’s Mark Kachor said the strength of the new product range released by MLC had resulted in its product range now featuring in several categories in the Adviser Choice Risk Awards, securing it silver in the Trauma (Rider) and Disability Income categories as well as a gold in the Personal Super Disability Income category.
MLC Insurance Product and Underwriting general manager Sean McCormack said MLC had made a number of enhancements to its products in the last 12 months.
These included Riskfirst Rapid, which allows a customer to apply and receive cover up to mandatory limits based on an assessment of their personal statement, while those parts of the application which require medical reports are processed in parallel.
McCormack said MLC had also split TPD insurance between the super and non-super environments and had adjusted its online quoting tool. It had also introduced a visualisation tool for planners to use with clients to explain the insurance structure they are recommending and what it means for customers.
“We always look to be innovative and continue to improve our products and our upgrade philosophy, meaning we ensure that our clients always have the best and latest cover on offer,” McCormack said.
“We will be continuing the momentum from our retention project and will implement strategies such as a new customer experience system, SMS notifications for dishonours and renewal payment reminders, as well as adviser retention initiatives.”