We might all be forgiven for thinking that the life insurance industry had been bashed so hard by the pandemic and eroded by creeping technology that it would soon be virtually unrecognisable. But perhaps not.
Recent weeks saw the judging for the 6th Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards 2021 – organised by Asia Insurance Review’s subsidiary Asia Advisers Network. As one of the judges, I had the rare privilege of combing through the credentials and achievements of some of the best and hardest working insurance agents and advisers in the region.
While the overall impression imparted was one of dedication and professionalism, it was some of the details of the submissions that made me realise that – in spite of all the technology and disruption – there is still a powerful force behind the growth of life business in Asia and it is in the hands of these agents and advisers.
Without betraying any confidences, these agents and advisers met the pandemic head-on and found ways to continue interacting on a one-to-one basis through initiatives such as “self-shot video content, social media platforms, self-made EDMs and webinars”.
Others still relied on a mix of old and new technology: “When social distancing measures put a stop to face-to-face meetings, I proactively stayed in contact with my clients through ‘phone calls and social media.”
Who couldn’t relate to this approach? “The primary role of an insurance adviser is to analyse the customer’s needs and provide them with the best possible solution while utilising expertise and experience and providing them with delightful service.”
If more people spent more time trying to delight their customers there might be far more successful businesses.
It was also incredibly encouraging to see that the agents and advisers segment has successfully shed the male-dominated image of yesteryear – and many of the most inspiring finalists were women. One female finalist observed: “I realised the need to close the financial literacy gap for women ... I’ve collaborated with many women owned-businesses to provide financial literacy webinars and Instagram live series for women to have access to a robust and meaningful financial education.”
Without wishing to oversimplify the situation, this may be the way that gender barriers to financial literacy and engagement will be broken down – one person at a time. Is it a coincidence that as technology barriers in the insurance industry are crumbling, so too are gender barriers and other remnants of a bygone age?
Similar technological leaps are being seen in other insurance distribution channels in addition to agents and advisers, of course, including in bancassurance.
Indeed at the Asia Conference on Bancassurance and Alternative Distribution Channels organised by Asia Insurance Review last month, delegates heard all about digital transformation in bancassurance during the pandemic, the next generation of bancassurance including mobile - and how digital bancassurance can drive incremental growth.
The core message that seemed to come through all of this development and adaptation in the life insurance industry is that customers simply need the cover. While the distribution channels might change and evolve the end result will still be the same – life insurance will continue to grow year by year.
At a recent life insurance roundtable with leaders of the Australian sector one participant pointed to the pandemic and cautioned that the industry “mustn’t waste this challenge”. Instead we should use it to enact real change.
Is it just possible that we might be nearing an era in which life insurance is actually bought rather than sold?
Asia Insurance Review