Life insurance is an essential financial protection for Australians, helping ensure families and dependents will be provided for in the event of death or serious illness. While the industry has gone through significant changes over the past decade, there remain uncertainties about what the future may hold.
Industry Background and Recent Shifts
To understand where the industry is headed, it’s important to review how it has evolved in recent history. Life insurance in Australia was traditionally sold through dedicated broker networks, with companies developing complex products that were not always easy for consumers to understand. However, significant regulatory reforms were introduced after the Global Financial Crisis to make the market more consumer-focused and transparent.
Key updates included the Financial Services Reform Act of 2012, which aimed to establish a single, national licensing regime for financial advisers. This overhauled licensing and education standards and banned conflicted remuneration structures that previously rewarded brokers for selling certain insurers’ products. The Life Insurance Framework was also established in 2015 by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to enhance product design and disclosure standards for consumers.
These reforms have resulted in noticeable shifts. Australia’s largest life insurers moved to simplify products and make underwriting and claim processes more streamlined. Direct sales models also grew as insurers looked to engage customers online and via phone, removing broker commissions from the equation. Studies show this has contributed to lower premiums on average.
However, the industry is still recovering from a period of declining participation rates and profitability issues. Reforms disrupted traditional distribution channels, and changing consumer behaviors impacted sales. The COVID-19 pandemic brought further economic challenges, which analysts believe may influence future insurance demand and priorities.
Trends and Predictions for 2024
So, what does the future hold for life insurance through 2024 based on current trends and analyst opinions? Here are some key projections:
Continued Shift to Direct Models
Insurers successfully using direct and digital models are expected to gain further market share. Advantages like paperless applications, self-service claims lodgement, and cheaper premiums without commissions will attract more customers accustomed to online services. Industry analysts anticipate at least half of new policies will be taken out directly by 2024 rather than through brokers.
Growing Focus on Simpler Products
Complicated products many insurers traditionally offered are fading away. Customers and regulators strongly prefer straightforward designs involving single or limited premium payments providing agreed life cover amounts. All major insurers will likely standardize around similar, highly simplified offerings by 2024 to remain competitive and compliant.
Expansion of Low-Cost Options
Streamlined underwriting processes allow for low-cost protection tiers to be feasible. Insurers will expand basic plans, providing essential death cover from just a few dollars per week. This subsidizes premiums for higher-risk applicants and makes insurance affordable for demographics like younger individuals not historically served. By 2024, inexpensive protection options accessible to most Australians are expected to be ubiquitous.
Increased Preventative and Wellbeing Features
Life insurers recognize the marketing and consumer value in proactive health support versus just financial protection after death. Incentivized well-being programs proving customers’ lifetime fitness for coverage are growing rapidly. Features may expand to incorporate digital health monitoring, online counseling services, fitness rewards, and more by 2024 as insurers invest heavily in preventative wellness support.
Further Policy Exclusions Guidance from Regulators
APRA will likely issue additional guidance on appropriate exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions and dangerous activities before 2024. Heightened consumer awareness following the media focus on declined claims means insurers will continue streamlining practices while ensuring affordable premiums. Regulators aim to facilitate access while preventing adverse selection, so clarified product standards are anticipated.
Augmented Customer Service Standards
Customer service consistency, timeliness, and transparency remain a focus for APRA and consumer advocates. Insurers expanding service through virtual assistants, chatbots, and other automation will need human oversight to address complex issues. Training and formal codes of practice guiding complaint resolution will likely solidify before 2024 according to analysts monitoring other financial sectors’ standards uplift.
Potential for Group Insurance Innovation
Group or workplace life schemes provide sizable policy volumes for insurers but could see inventions emerge. Integrating offered discounts with employers’ existing wellness programs is one idea to boost participation. New mobile platforms visualizing workforce demographics and risks may enhance underwriting. And private health insurers collaborating on packaged protection plans could simplify benefits communication. In the coming years, group life may lead to coverage innovation.
Opportunities and Considerations
Aside from projected trends, the coming years present both opportunities and considerations for life insurers, advisers, regulators, and consumers alike.
For insurers, there is an opportunity to leverage technology and data to create highly customized underwriting approaches and supportive member experiences distinguishing their offerings. Strong partnerships across the healthcare ecosystem could expand diagnostic and treatment coverage options too. Regulators will hope to see continued simplification of disclosed risks and responsibilities to empower consumer choice and trust.
However, privacy issues, potential rate rises correlated to overall costs of living, and vulnerable groups still facing access barriers despite the regulatory focus on inclusion will require ongoing attention. While digitization benefits many, traditional advice models retain importance for applicants confronting complex medical or financial scenarios. Open communication between all industry stakeholders on priorities and concerns will likely smooth transitions ahead.
Overall, continued prudent regulation, insurer-responsible innovation responding to changing needs, and community collaboration give hope the Australian life insurance system can remain sustainably supportive for citizens and the greater economy through the coming years. The industry appears well-placed to navigate likely challenges if built on consistent educational resources, accountability, and cooperation.
FAQs about Australian Life Insurance in 2024
With any projections about the future, uncertainties remain – so here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q: Will premiums be higher or lower by 2024?
Analysts believe premiums will remain stable or slightly decrease on average, assuming the current low-interest rate environment does not drastically change. Insurers expanding affordable basic options and leveraging technology for cost efficiencies may offset general inflationary pressures. However, results will vary across individuals based on health, occupation, and policy features.
Q: Will brokers still have an important role to play?
Yes, while direct models grow, some predict that over half of new business will still involve advice in 2024. Brokers offer value in addressing complex needs as well as assisting vulnerable groups access insurance. Efficient hybrid models blending digital and face-to-face interactions may also emerge to serve varying applicant preferences. Quality independent advice tailored to clients’ goals remains integral to positive consumer outcomes.
Q: What about claims processing – will that improve?
Insurers committed to streamlining underwriting also aim to enhance claims services by leveraging technology. Customers should experience quicker lodgement, assessment, and payout procedures, whether pursuing major disability or simple death claims, by 2024. However, the human element remains essential for more complex cases requiring careful consideration and support. Overall, processing reliability, consistency, and transparency are priorities regulators will monitor.
Q: How might policy definitions or exclusions evolve?
Product standards clarification from APRA aims to balance inclusion and sustainability as community expectations shift. Exclusions relating to pre-existing ailments diagnosed after policy commencement may be refined. Definitions of total and permanent disability may incorporate modern healthcare advances enabling longer lifespans with conditions previously precluding work. However, changes will be gradual and extensively consulted to maintain affordable premiums for all Australians seeking reliable protection.
Q: Could access for groups like retirees, students or low-income earners improve?
Advocates hope so, and targeted initiatives from community organizations partnering with life insurers show promise. Basic retiree and youth protection options are expected to proliferate through education programs emphasizing prevention and well-being over crisis management. Digital enrollment also facilitates simplified underwriting for those facing disadvantages in accessing traditional face-to-face advice models. Continued cooperation across sectors suggests such vulnerable Australians should find suitable life insurance increasingly available by 2024.