18 November 2019
The feasibility of a government-backed cyclone reinsurance pool will be examined as a possible measure to bring down premiums in northern Australia, after insurers and Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar held discussions in Townsville on Friday.
The meeting was organised to discuss affordability issues and mitigation measures, with the agreement to examine a reinsurance pool option coming as a surprise and revealing a developing schism in the industry’s long-held opposition to a reinsurance pool.
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says the industry agreed to work with the Government to consider “a range of options” to reduce premium pressures and increase coverage.
“This includes developing a list of communities where priority physical mitigation projects might be effective, in consultation with local stakeholders,” spokesman Campbell Fuller said.
“Insurers remain committed to reflecting the effectiveness of mitigation and property resilience through premium reductions.
“Insurers also agreed on preliminary work with Government and Treasury to explore the feasibility and potential effectiveness of a government-funded cyclone reinsurance pool.”
The industry position has been that reinsurance pools are unviable, expensive, and don’t solve underlying issues. It was relieved when the 2015 Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce snubbed the concept of government intervention and instead favoured mitigation.
Allianz has consistently bucked the trend and argued that a pool is needed to bring relief in the short term, while strongly supporting mitigation work as a longer-term project.
A spokesman said today that “Allianz regards a government-backed reinsurance facility as the most efficient and effective mechanism to deal with the problem”.
But it is no longer a lone voice. Today IAG told insuranceNEWS.com.au it “sees merit” in investigating a government-funded pool.
But rival insurer Suncorp, which has far higher exposures in northern Australia than IAG, says while it supports preliminary work to “once again” investigate the pool proposal, its “long-held and well-documented concerns” remain.
As previously reported, an ICA discussion document in advance of the meeting suggested insurers offer to sign agreements guaranteeing premium reductions if certain mitigation measures are carried out.
But insuranceNEWS.com.au understands this idea didn’t get off the ground at Friday’s meeting.
Treasury will now work with the industry on the design of a reinsurance pool before any next steps are announced, most likely by early next year.
insuranceNEWS.com.au will carry further detailed reports on this issue in our Daily bulletins this week.
The insurance industry has raised the loss estimates from the latest bushfire catastrophe in NSW and Queensland to $110 million as claims continue to pour in.
About 1000 claims have been lodged, according to updates provided today by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).
ICA also urged property owners to submit their claims directly with insurers and brokers instead of going through third parties.
IAG has received 472 claims, including 34 from affected policyholders in Queensland, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
The spokesman says the insurer’s assessors and builders have started working with customers to determine the scope of works and related matters.
Suncorp-owned GIO has dispatched a support team to Taree, NSW, one of the worst affected areas, to help customers with lodging claims, finding accommodation and temporary financial support.
Taree customers of other Suncorp brands like AAMI, Apia and Shannons can also lodge their claims with the team.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says 421 homes are confirmed destroyed. There are about 48 bushfire outbreaks, including 25 uncontained blazes in NSW, as of this morning
While none of the fires have been issued “emergency” warnings, the fire service expects the coming days will be challenging as temperatures are forecast to soar.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, though,” the service says on its Twitter account.
“Heatwave conditions are developing across large parts of the state, so fire dangers will increase.”
Aviation clients are seeing soaring premiums, the crop insurance market is becoming more difficult amid drought, while natural peril and public liability costs are increasing, broker Gallagher says in a half-yearly market update.
Premium increases of 30-50% have affected some Australian aviation clients and further gains are expected in the next 12 months due to capacity constraints, a lack of competition and a weak dollar, the report says.
Allianz and AIG withdrew from the local aviation market in 2017 and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions has announced its intention to stop writing new business for the sector.
“This leaves QBE and Lloyd’s as the only significant insurance providers left for the Australian aviation industry,” Gallagher says.
“Compounding the issue is a reduced appetite for risk with the alternative markets available outside of QBE catering to only around 10-20% of the risk requiring cover.”
The Gallagher update warns difficult climate conditions, including drought and storm and fire risks, are worsening agricultural insurance problems.
Gallagher says the normal $125 million premium pool for fire and hail cover is likely to fall below $100 million following significant planting reductions due to low soil moisture, especially in northern NSW and southern Queensland, while irrigated crops are also affected by water shortages.
“Unfortunately, the insurance market is very limited in terms of availability, crop type and region. While cotton is well supported the appetite among insurers for horticulture and viticulture is curbed and for vegetable cropping is non-existent,” it says.
“Any significant losses this season will result in a further contraction of an already difficult marketplace.”
More widely in Australia, claim impacts from secondary perils, such as storms, hail and flooding are becoming greater.
“There is every indication that the frequency and severity of secondary perils is being driven by climate change and heavy risk exposure in densely populated areas, including state capitals,” Gallagher says.
“Put simply, the higher the concentration of assets, the greater the impact of claims.”
Insurers are applying increasingly sophisticated models to assess risk profiles of properties and postcodes and in some cases additional excesses, or restrictions on cover, are being imposed.
Further premium increases and restrictions are expected over the next 12-18 months, the report forecasts.
In public liability, clients with a good claims history and stable turnover are seeing price increases of 5-15% as insurers increase scrutiny.
Issues include greater complexity of claims, while the rise of litigation and litigation funding is adding to legal costs.
As of September 4, there were 107 class actions in the Federal Court, including16 securities class actions filed this year.
Commercial premium price increases in the Pacific region, where Australia is the largest market, rose 18.8% in the third quarter, as global gains accelerated, Marsh says.
“Global pricing has now increased every quarter for nearly two years and market capacity is starting to show signs of tightening in certain geographies and lines of business,” Marsh President Global Placement Dean Klisura said.
The Marsh Global Insurance Market Index, which reflects renewal pricing, showed an overall 7.8% rise in the third quarter, after gains of 5.8% in the preceding three months.
The Pacific region had the largest composited pricing increase in the index, a quarter trend that has continued for almost three years.
Financial and professional liability pricing rose 27.5% in the region, with increases of 100% “not uncommon” for listed company directors’ and officers’ entity cover, where class actions are a factor.
“The claims environment has led to a number of insurers exiting the marketplace, with others taking firmer positions on price, capacity and retentions,” the report says.
“A large volume of Australian business is being placed into the London market, where similar firming is evident.”
In property insurance, many risks in Australia and New Zealand experienced price increases of 10-20%.
Gains across many industries, including real estate, mining and downstream energy, came amid reduced capacity and appetite from major insurers.
Data for the report is gathered from the world’s major insurance markets and comprises nearly 90% of Marsh premium.
US pricing increased 6.4%, accelerating from a gain of 4.8% in the second quarter while UK gains gathered pace to 11.8%, driven by property and financial and professional liability. Asia pricing increased 5%, the largest composite increase in five years.
The head of strata insurer CHU has been named Financial Services and Insurance Executive of the Year.
CEO Bobby Lehane says diversity and inclusion is a major plank for CHU and he is implementing the two approaches as a strategic imperative for the business.
CHU will focus increasingly on sustainability and biodiversity next year, as the strata industry is a significant contributor to emissions.
“The strata industry, from owners to managers, needs to be on the front foot with sustainability programs and initiatives,” Mr Lehane said in accepting the award, which is organised by CEO magazine. “Insurers, who face serious risks from climate change especially, need to be at the forefront.”
SMEs are turning to financial advisers, accountants and the internet for advice on insurance, ahead of using brokers with expertise in the area, a QBE report finds.
More than 60% of small business owners surveyed for the report believe they are unlikely to have the right cover in place and nearly a quarter say their operations would likely go under if someone made a liability claim.
But in looking for advice, 51.6% of respondents used an accountant or financial adviser, 40.2% did their own research, 23.8% asked family or friends, 17.7% turned to industry peers and 14.6% used an insurance broker.
The report says information online is designed for a broad audience while peers may also have different issues despite being in the same industry.
“QBE principally sells through insurance brokers, so we’re advocates for engaging an insurance professional who can have the right conversation,” QBE Australia SME GM Aaron Gavin said.
The report, SMEs and Insurance: A Pulse Check On Risk Trends For Business, surveyed more than 600 SMEs and drew on five years of QBE claims data analysis, with a focus on liability risks.
The most expensive liability claims for small businesses related to injury to labour hire personnel, injury to third-party workers, electrocution, fire, defamation and slander, the data shows.
The top 10 also includes being trapped by machinery or equipment, physical assault injury, faulty products, slips and falls, and injuries through impact by an object.
The highest claiming sectors are roofing services, plumbing, laundries and drycleaners, automotive repairs and services, and auto fuel retailing.
Mr Gavin says underinsurance and a lack of business continuity cover are also key issues.
“We’ve seen plenty of examples…where we were able to reinstate the property, and legal liability was covered, but because the business couldn’t continue trading and cashflow was impacted, it lost customers and ultimately went out of business,” he said.
Risky or “off the beaten track” destinations are attractive to 87% of Australians aspiring to travel overseas, research commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Understand Insurance initiative shows.
Almost a third of respondents would still depart if DFAT raised its Smartraveller advice to Level 3 (“reconsider your need to travel”), and 25% of those people said the appeal of the destination justified the risk.
In the under-30 age group, 60% say they are attracted to places that feel adventurous.
About 10% of travellers choose not to buy insurance, with 15% of those saying they expect to be safe in their destination while 71% are going to a country where they hold nationality.
The research finds 22% of men under 30 travel overseas without insurance and one in four travellers wrongly believes the Federal Government will pay for medical treatment or emergency transportation if something goes wrong.
Understand Insurance is an initiative of the Insurance Council of Australia.
The Smartraveller advisories range from Level 1 (“exercise normal safety precautions”) to Level 4 (“do not travel”).
ICA says travel insurance is available for most high-risk destinations except Level 4 destinations, which are usually excluded. Policies may not cover financial losses resulting from acts of terrorism, war and civil war, but most will cover medical costs.
Travellers who decide not to go on a booked trip before departure in response to an upward change in advice are likely not to be covered for cancellation unless the advice moves to Level 4.
But travellers who go to a country despite a Level 3 or 4 advice are likely to find claims relating to the advice level are not covered.
Travel claims are the leading cause of general insurance disputes since October 1, when the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) began naming companies in its rulings.
Complaints over rejected claims for travel-related losses led the way with six, followed by five each for motor vehicle and home and contents, according to an insuranceNEWS.com.au search of the AFCA website.
Half of the six travel cases involved policy exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions.
In one of the cases involving Zurich, AFCA ruled the insurer had no grounds to rely on non-disclosure of a previous episode of angina and high blood pressure medication to reject the claim for cancellation of trip costs.
The couple who took out the policy had to cancel the trip after one of them required a coronary artery bypass graft.
Zurich said it would not have provided the cover if the couple had disclosed the details. The insurer also argued the claim arose from a pre-existing condition for which no additional cover was correctly applied for.
But AFCA sees the matter differently, saying Zurich has not shown “it clearly informed the complainants of the general nature and effect of the duty of disclosure prior to the inception of the policy”.
AFCA further adds Zurich is not entitled to rely on the pre-existing condition exclusion as it “was on risk for any loss caused by cardiac failure, which broadly applies to the condition causing the claim”.
Zurich was ordered to pay the complainants $19,750 plus interest.
Meanwhile, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has commenced “scoping a review” of travel insurance products with further work planned for next year, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
According to the Consumer Action Law Centre, travel insurance is an area where consumers are unfairly disadvantaged.
“People continue to face shocking outcomes at claims time when it comes to travel insurance,” Senior Policy Officer Cat Newton told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
“It’s time for insurers to look at their policies carefully…and to ensure that they are selling those policies appropriately for people who can benefit from them and understand what they are signing up to.”
PSC Insurance Group will pay £3.4 million ($6.4 million) for Carroll Insurance Group (CIG), a UK-based Lloyd’s broker that specialises in bespoke insurance solutions.
The acquisition follows the completion of the £42 million ($78.8 million) deal last month for Paragon International, a Lloyd’s broker based in London.
PSC says the latest addition to the business will contribute about £2 million ($3.8 million) in incremental revenue annually.
“CIG is a highly complementary acquisition…and we expect that synergies can be realised given an increase in products and capability across the combined operation,” PSC says in a statement.
The transaction will be settled in two stages, with the first to involve a £2.4 million ($4.5 million) cash payment when the deal is completed. The outstanding amount is “adjustable” and will be based on CIG’s revenue after 12 months.
PSC told shareholders at this month’s AGM that the business expects $58.7 million in underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the current financial year.
The business achieved underlying EBITDA of $43.3 million in the past financial year.
Suncorp has participated in a $10 million funding round for sharing-economy company Car Next Door as it seeks to better understand changing vehicle use.
The insurer, Australia’s largest motor and compulsory third-party underwriter, has made an initial investment of $1.5 million and will have a board observer seat.
“We know the traditional way Australians own and use cars is evolving and this partnership will allow us to learn and better service our customer needs,” Insurance CEO Gary Dransfield said.
Car Next Door, which started with 20 cars and 60 borrowers in Sydney in 2013, allows vehicle owners to earn money by renting them out. More than 3000 cars have been shared through the platform.
Suncorp says the partnership will include the development of innovative insurance products and joint promotional activity.
“We can support Car Next Door’s members with insurance, and we can also introduce our customers to a new way to safely and easily rent out their cars in their own neighbourhoods,” Mr Dransfield said.
Suncorp Group CEO Steve Johnston said today that embedding digital and data in product design and distribution remains a key area of focus.
“This has most recently been demonstrated as we internally pilot ‘Bingle Go’ a market-first insurance product designed specifically for customers who rely on more than their car for their everyday commute,” he said.
Mr Johnston also told a UBS Investor Conference that the reinsurance team was continuing to review options ahead of a number of multi-year programs expiring at the end of June.
“Based on discussions with the reinsurers we remain confident there will be strong demand for Suncorp’s program,” he said.
Falls in interest rates over the course of the year will have an impact on investment income and the present value of claims, he told the investor briefing.
QBE has donated $100,000 to support the Red Cross in its bushfire relief and recovery efforts in NSW and Queensland.
The insurer will also match dollar for dollar the donations its employees make to the bushfire financial appeal launched by the humanitarian organisation.
“These funds will support the extraordinary work the Red Cross is doing on the ground and in evacuation centres, providing care and support for devastated communities,” QBE Group CEO Pat Regan said.
QBE announced earlier this month it had agreed to a three-year partnership with the Red Cross and Save the Children to provide disaster relief funds after catastrophes.
Australian insurtech Evari aims to take its business to the “next level” after partnering with Bunnings to offer insurance to more than 700,000 customers.
Cover for members of the retailer’s PowerPass scheme, which is available for professional tradespeople, includes legal liability, tools and equipment, and tax audit.
Evari was launched two years ago by former Zurich General Insurance CEO Australia and New Zealand Daniel Fogarty.
He says his company’s “differentiated, technology-enabled offering” for trades businesses has been a great success.
“Now with Bunnings we can take the business to the next level,” he said.
“This partnership allows us to take our offering to the heart of the trades industry and co-market with a brand which shares our commitment to making life easier for, and providing a great deal to, trades business owners.”
Mr Fogarty says Evari’s mobile-first approach, paperless policies and simple online processes have been popular with tradespeople across the country.
“Tradies are constantly on the move and generally running their entire business from their phone, so why should managing their insurance be any different?”
Evari has launched a UK office and is also licensing its platform to other insurance businesses.
Liberty Mutual will insure Australian businesses against unexpected extreme weather conditions after expanding the Weather Index product it already distributes and underwrites in Europe into the Australian market.
With weather patterns becoming less predictable, businesses that rely on certain weather conditions are increasingly nervous about the impact of extreme weather on their operations, Michael Lincoln, VP Crisis Management Asia Pacific at Liberty said.
Liberty’s Weather Index is a parametric product that covers the insured for the probability of a pre-defined event happening.
“There are a wide variety of potential applications,” Mr Lincoln said. “Theme park operators that know excessive rain deters visitors, solar farms that rely on hours of sunshine, or building construction teams that can’t work in windy conditions.”
The index – which helps protect businesses from rainfall, temperature, evaporation, wind speed, wind direction, frost, sunshine duration, cloud cover or air pressure – is expected to attract broad interest from agriculture, renewable energy producers, construction, mining, food and beverage producers, tourism and retail.
The index relies on data captured by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to determine the parameters underpinning the contract. A client can nominate a strike price for their desired risk, and a payout schedule on a sliding scale can be put in place to provide payment should the cover be triggered. The more extreme the variation, the higher the payout rate will be.
“With the policy indexed to clearly defined triggers, it makes it very straightforward to assess claims,” Mr Lincoln said.
Agile Underwriting has formed an IT partnership to strengthen its cyber offering.
The agreement with local IT security firm Zirilio allows brokers to offer clients value-added cyber security solutions.
“Security testing is essential,” Agile Emerging Risks GM James Crowther said. “It’s not enough to ask questions. Insurers should proactively offer incentives for good security practices, [and] in some cases help improve customers’ defences.
“That’s the idea behind a partnership like this, which offers a reward for those who take their cyber resilience seriously.”
Agile will provide a 10% discount to clients on completion of the cyber assessment and any remediation.
Ex-Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) Pacific CEO Willem van Wyk has joined former colleague Stefan Feldmann at HDI Global.
Mr van Wyk will head up HDI’s regional market management practice in Australasia and ASEAN, starting in January.
His departure from AGCS was announced in July, at the same time as the insurer revealed its exit from financial lines and liability business in the region. He has been on “gardening leave” since being replaced by James Stack in August.
Mr Feldmann, HDI Global MD and Regional Head ASEAN and Australasia, says he is “very much looking forward to working with [Mr van Wyk] again”. The pair previously worked together at AGCS.
Mr van Wyk has 30 years’ industry experience. He started his insurance career with CGU in South Africa and also worked for Marsh in the Middle East and Australia.
Personal injury claims manager EML has opened a third office in Newcastle, taking its NSW office count to seven.
The Australian-owned mutual, which has more than a dozen offices nationwide, says the new premises will accommodate more than 100 staff to help people after a work-related injury or illness.
“Many of these EML employees are supporting workers with the most complex of injuries,” EML GM of Return to Work and Support Services Adam Keogh said. “The quality of talent in the Newcastle region has been impressive.”
EML employs more than 2300 people nationally and offers services in personal injury management and prevention.
AUB Group says it has completed an expressions of interest process involving local and global providers as it seeks to improve its product and capacity offerings.
CEO Mike Emmett told the group’s AGM in Sydney last week that the exercise includes a focus on specialty product design, commercial innovation, technology and expanded use of the group’s insurance capabilities.
“We need to provide our partners with more competitive products with differentiated features tailored for their customers,” he said.
The company engaged with 27 providers in the expressions of interest stage and is progressing into a formal “request for information” process with individual insurers.
Acting on capacity and product offering was one of the six strategic imperatives identified at the company’s annual results presentation.
Mr Emmett, who took over from Mark Searles in March, says AUB has made “strong progress” in the key areas.
Other priorities include technology improvements, reducing costs and improving efficiency, consolidating for scale, acquisitions and reviewing its Risk Services strategy.
AUB Group is also stepping up its governance focus to drive a culture of accountability and transparency across its network, Chairman David Clarke told the AGM.
“The board has increased [its] expectations for more rigorous governance and risk management standards and [is] working with management to ensure adoption,” he said.
“As a result, the current governance model across our partner business is under review.”
Mr Clarke says AUB is mindful of the heightened focus and scrutiny of the financial services industry in light of the Hayne royal commission findings.
“AUB Group is committed to having a responsible and sustainable portfolio of businesses, with a focus on policies and programs that ‘do the right thing’ by our partners, our environment and the communities in which we operate,” he said.
IAG New Zealand non-executive director Simon Allen has been appointed Chairman following the retirement of Hugh Fletcher.
He will also be an independent non-executive director to the parent company’s board, IAG said in a statement.
Mr Allen has more than 30 years’ corporate experience in Australia and New Zealand. He is presently Chairman of Crown Infrastructure Partners and the New Zealand Refining Company.
The NSW Government has been urged to put on hold plans requiring building practitioners to hold full professional indemnity (PI) cover until it has engaged with the insurance industry.
The Legislative Assembly inquiry led by the Public Accountability Committee made the suggestion in its first report on the troubled building industry.
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has previously voiced its concerns that the PI requirement, which is contained in the draft Design and Building Practitioners Bill, may affect insurers as they have stopped offering exclusion-free covers to the industry.
“It is extremely concerning that there is no current insurance product that would provide the kind of professional indemnity insurance that is required under this bill,” the committee says in the report.
“The committee would have thought that there would have been some assurance that an insurance product would be available before legislating this requirement.
“Given this, the committee recommends that the NSW Government not proceed with the bill until it works closely with [ICA] to develop appropriate insurance products.”
The report released last week makes 19 recommendations. These include setting up an independent building commission statutory body, creating a senior building minister portfolio and extending the scope of the Home Building Compensation scheme to include residential buildings that are three storeys or higher.
The deadline for the committee’s final report has been pushed back by three months to May 14 next year.
Click here for the report.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) planned deferred sales model should be amended to remove some of the “granular and rigid” sections, according to feedback.
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says it supports ASIC using its product intervention powers to implement the model but has urged the regulator to “allow for more flexibility” in the proposed set-up.
“For example, the proposed commencement of the deferral period is tied to when a consumer has been given online access to a tailored consumer roadmap,” ICA says in a submission. “This would lead to consumers who do not have ready access to online channels being denied insurance.
“Similarly, while we strongly support action to address the risk of pressure selling or other unfair tactics at the point of sale, the proposed deferred sales model should not preclude conversations with consumers that genuinely aim to provide information about the products offered to them.”
ASIC launched the consultation last month seeking feedback on its deferred sales model plan, the extra obligations attached to the sales scheme and measures to monitor the impact of the changes.
New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC) says it is continuing to overhaul its operating model following failures identified after the devastating Canterbury earthquakes.
The state-owned organisation formally apologised in its annual report released last week for “compounding the stress of customers” affected by the devastating 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.
EQC is the subject of a public inquiry into its response following the quakes, and says it has already incorporated improvements into its operations.
“We still have changes to make to improve our readiness,” Chairman Michael Cullen said.
“This work will take into account lessons learned from previous natural disaster events, and findings from the public inquiry once these are known.”
The inquiry, chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright, is due to deliver recommendations by the end of March. Findings will draw on 972 written submissions received and feedback from public forums across the country.
Sir Michael says EQC was slow to adapt and respond to changing circumstances during the unprecedented Canterbury events and was not as easy to deal with as it should have been.
“We recognise the shortcomings in our response to the Canterbury earthquake sequence, and that they have had a significant negative effect on our customers, their families, the wider Canterbury community and our staff,” he said.
“For that we unreservedly apologise.”
The annual report says 84% of remaining Canterbury claims open at June 30 last year were resolved, against a target of 98%, leaving 556 of those claims remaining.
Total claims open fell to 2588 at the end of June this year from 4800 a year earlier, in a period when about 6600 claims were reopened and about 8200 reopened claims were resolved.
Improved case management saw 80% of reopened claims processed and closed within six months.
A WA court ruling has highlighted the insurance obligations of owner-builders if they sell their property within seven years of receiving a permit, the state’s regulator says.
Perth owner-builder Jonathon Robert Reardon was fined $2400 after he pleaded guilty in the Joondalup Magistrates Court on November 1 to an offence related to not having the necessary home indemnity insurance.
Mr Reardon received owner-builder approval and a building permit in 2013 and completed construction of a two-storey home in the Perth seaside suburb of Yanchep the following year.
In 2016 he entered into a sales contract but didn’t have the home indemnity insurance policy required if an owner-builder sells a property within seven years of the permit issue date.
Building and Energy Acting Executive Director Saj Abdoolakhan says the laws are designed to protect new owners from defects.
“Home indemnity insurance covers subsequent owners if the owner-builder fails to rectify faulty or unsatisfactory workmanship for reasons such as insolvency, death or disappearance,” he said.
WorkCover WA has appointed Chris White as CEO for five years. His term started last week.
Mr White has been acting CEO since January 2017, and has held a range of senior management roles, including implementing government workers’ compensation reform.
More than 26,300 claims were lodged with WorkCover WA in the 2018-19 financial year, decreasing only slightly from the 26,857 in the previous year, according to its annual scheme trends report.
The slight drop is a sign that a significant decrease in the number of claims lodged with WorkCover WA over the last five years is starting to stabilise, the agency says. The number of claims lodged fell 15% over five years.
That drop was attributed to Western Australia’s changing economic climate.
Sixty per cent of total claims were lost-time claims, and long duration claims of 60 days or more off work account for 38% of the total number of lost-time claims. However, workers with 10 days or more off work showed a 75% return to work rate, reflecting efforts to return people to sustainable employment, the agency says.
Total claims payments amounted to $901 million, including $347 million in income payments and $246 million in lump sum payments. About 84% of all disputes were solved within six months.
The highest number of lost-time claims were in manufacturing, agriculture, and arts and recreation.
The Federal Government is planning to amend insurance in super rules in the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act to fix some of the contradictions created by the insurance in super reforms.
In a letter sent to all super funds last week, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) says the Act will be amended so that the Tax Office (ATO) can reunite lost or low-balance inactive accounts with active accounts without it affecting the rights of members who hold fixed term insurance cover, “so that this type of insurance cover is not removed”.
Legacy products providing fixed term insurance cover that don’t receive ongoing contributions aren’t intended to be subject to these reforms, it says.
This may affect conventional products where switching off cover may have an adverse effect on the member, such as those products that are fully paid up or are non-premium paying, it says.
APRA also says that members only need to opt-in to insurance once under the Protecting Your Super reforms for it to be valid under the Putting Member’s Interests First reforms, and vice versa.
The regulator is also supplying a template letter for trustees to maintain insurance arrangements for members who work in dangerous jobs. The exemption must be made in writing, published on the trustee’s website and start on the day it is submitted to APRA. It can also be withdrawn by the trustee.
About 2.3 million low-balance inactive accounts have been transferred to the ATO since the end of October, and nearly 700,000 accounts have been matched by the ATO with an active account elsewhere.
Approximately four in every 10 Australians who hold a super account are paying at least two sets of fees and potentially two or more sets of insurance premiums, Assistant Superannuation Minister Jane Hume says.
APRA has also reminded trustees that it expects communication about the reforms to be factual, balanced, and in appropriate context.
The letter and dangerous occupation exception templates can be found here.
Some super funds have established an ex-gratia payment pool for members who have unknowingly lost insurance cover from the Protecting Your Super (PYS) bill and made claims. But others are taking a “hard-line approach”.
Hostplus Head of Insurance Shane Fielding told an audience at the Australian Super Fund Association conference that in the month after the bill was implemented the super fund received seven insurance claims from members who didn’t know their cover had been cancelled; five terminal illness claims and two death claims. The claims were denied.
This is only “the tip of the iceberg”, Mr Fielding said. “There will be TPD claims that we don’t get notified about in the months or years down the track that are related to this period where we cancelled people’s cover.”
MLC Life Chief of Group and Retail Partners Sean McCormack says some of its partners are taking a “hard-line approach” to members who made claims when their cover was cancelled, and others were making ex-gratia payments.
RGA Reinsurance MD Mark Stewart told the conference his company had not seen any pressure yet for ex-gratia payments to be made in relation to the PYS legislation. However, RGA did look at changing its reinstatement terms after the PYS bill.
Mr McCormack says different fund partners are managing the loss of members’ insurance differently and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The provisions MLC Life put in place “appear to be holding up”.
MLC Life told insuranceNEWS.com.au it declined one claim where the member was no longer covered due to the PYS reforms.
It has now implemented a range of product measures to provide additional cover extension to its super fund clients where it is appropriate.
MLC Life is striving to offer the best insurance terms to its customers and was assessing all claims empathetically, professionally and fairly, it told insuranceNEWS.com.au
Research from both RGA and Hostplus shows that younger members overwhelmingly did not opt-in to life insurance. Only 10% of Hostplus members aged between 16 and 25 opted in.
Less than 10% of members with insurance in super through RGA chose to opt-in. The numbers were highest among those age 56 to 65, and those 65 and above.
Significantly more death, total and permanent disability (TPD) and disability income (DII) claims are being declined by insurers if they come from non-advised customers compared to financial advisers.
The latest Australian Prudential Regulation Authority life insurance claims and disputes statistics show the admittance rate for death claims from individual advised clients is nearly 97%, compared to 88% for non-advised clients. And 85% of TPD claims are accepted from individual advised clients compared to 73% for non-advised clients.
Nearly 95% of DII claims are being accepted from advised clients compared to 85% from non-advised clients. The rate is the same for trauma claims (87%).
The claims-paid ratio is widely variable between advised and non-advised clients among the different types of cover. Individual advised TPD policies have a claims-paid ratio of 46%, against 58% for non-advised policies. The claims ratio for trauma for individual advised customers is 59%, against 41% for non-advised. Individual advised death policies have a claims-paid ratio of 42% against 39% for non-advised customers.
TAL has realigned its business around individual life, group life and investments lines in response to structural changes in the life market.
The realignment comes after TAL acquired Asteron Life earlier this year from Suncorp and integrated it into its existing retail business. Some jobs were lost as a result.
Its Chief Distribution Officer Tim Thorne has been appointed Chief Commercial Officer – Individual Life and will be responsible for bringing end-to-end solutions to financial advisers and customers in the direct and retail markets.
Former chief commercial officer Andrew Howard will now be CCO – Group Life and Investments.
The insurer has also promoted Jenny Oliver to the new role of Chief Claims Officer. She was previously general manager – Group Insurance.
Darren Wickham has been made EGM – Group Life, and Gavin Teichner is now EGM – Individual Life.
TAL Group CEO Brett Clark says the roles will give TAL greater agility in a rapidly changing insurance landscape and allow more effective and efficient management of its relationships.
The corporate regulator’s three-year exemption for advisers from their compliance obligations has come into effect.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced last month that it would grant the exemption, after the Federal Government announced it would create a single disciplinary body for the industry.
The announcement led to the withdrawal of industry plans to create a compliance scheme to monitor and enforce the code of ethics created by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority.
That scheme was being crafted by the Financial Planning Association of Australia, the Association of Financial Advisers, the Boutique Financial Planners, the Financial Services Institute of Australasia, the Self-Managed Super Fund Association, and the Stockbrokers and Financial Advisers Association of Australia.
The exemption will give advisers time to make sure they are registered with the new scheme. Advisers still have to take reasonable steps to ensure they comply with the code from January 1.
Regulator warnings over life insurers’ communications about insurance in super are “difficult to reconcile” with the preferences of younger generations, according to MLC Life Insurance.
Chief of Group and Retail Partners Sean McCormack says demands from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that insurers not push members to keep their insurance could present challenges given research shows young members want to have “loud” communications about their cover.
“They say ‘we’ve got a limited span of attention, so if you want to get to us, you’ve got to get to us early and you’ve got to be loud; you’ve got to be in our face, and communicating up front and clearly’,” Mr McCormack told the Australian Super Funds Association conference in Melbourne last week.
He says there is an “opportunity to help educate the regulator” about the research insurers have done on member communications around the reforms, and use that to “guide the future approach that ASIC asks the industry to take”.
He told the conference that demands for an in-your-face style of communication comes from a lack of trust and confidence in insurance in super, because young people were being opted in to insurance without perceived choice or knowledge.
ASIC recently warned super funds and insurers to use balanced and factual information about the Putting Member’s Interests First reforms, and not to create an impression that the only option for members was to retain insurance.
It says some communications about the Protecting Your Super bill weren’t balanced when describing the available options, benefits and negatives, and focused on the potential loss of insurance without considering the benefits it would bring by stopping account balance erosion.
But Mr McCormack says the research shows that customers want educational, simple and relevant communications that reinforce the value of insurance.
“With the way that we were instructed [by ASIC] to adopt that Protecting Your Super reform, it’s very, very challenging to hear that.”
TAL is defending itself against accusations that a subsidiary is sending unsolicited emails in a campaign encouraging people to take up funeral insurance in return for bonus gifts.
Media reports say the policies – offered by wholly owned direct operator Insuranceline – come with a choice of movie tickets, a gift card or a tablet. The emails were sent to thousands of people.
One email reads: “Funeral Insurance is a smart idea. And it's even smarter when it comes with a bonus. That's why with Insuranceline you'll get a bonus gift with every policy for a limited time only. Choose from a Lenovo tablet, $100 Visa gift card or eight movie tickets – whichever you prefer.”
But TAL says sending unsolicited emails doesn’t form any part of its marketing activity.
“Any email marketing campaigns undertaken by Insuranceline rely on having obtained consent by individuals to receive marketing materials, and invite them to visit the website to find out more information at their discretion,” a spokeswoman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
“All requirements in relation to providing an unsubscribe option from the publisher’s email list are complied with, and TAL also includes an additional unsubscribe option which removes a recipient from all lists for Insuranceline marketing emails.”
Some of the recipients reportedly included Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody and a senior financial services executive, who says he has never been a customer of TAL or Insuranceline and hadn’t consented to receive emails from the company. Attempts to unsubscribe were also unsuccessful.
Emails were sent from different domain names, which the financial services executive says were to evade blacklists created by their targets.
“TAL uses a reputable Australian partner to send marketing EDMs (electronic direct marketing) on our behalf, and we are committed to ensuring any marketing campaign is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations,” the spokeswoman said.
She says TAL strongly supports the anti-hawking provisions and the Spam act to protect consumers from pressure sales tactics and unsolicited marketing. Anti-hawking laws target unsolicited phone calls and meetings.
A joint submission to the corporate regulator by the Consumer Action Law Centre and other consumer groups earlier this year urged it to use its product intervention powers to target funeral insurance to prevent further consumer harm.
Underwriting Agencies Council Chairman Lyndon Turner will not stand for re-election at the group’s December AGM after being a board member since 2011.
Mr Turner, chairman since 2015, says it is the right time to step back and let others play a greater role in leading the organisation.
“From the UAC perspective we are in a good position and such good people put their hand up for an opportunity that it is time to allow them to be involved,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
Mr Turner is MD and CEO of NM Insurance, which is expanding in Australia and New Zealand. The company has more than 70 staff.
“I will still be involved with UAC, just not officially or in an executive position,” he said.
About 460 delegates enjoyed three days on Hamilton Island last week for the sold-out annual Insurance Advisernet (IA) conference and awards.
Award-winners included Chubb as Insurer of the Year and NTI as Underwriting Agency of the Year.
The conference was attended by authorised representatives (ARs) from Australia, brokers from New Zealand, and insurer and service partners.
Rugby league legend Wally Lewis and Naomi Simson, celebrity founder of Big Red Group, inspired the attendees. Futurist Steve Sammartino was also a keynote speaker.
IA MD Shaun Standfield conducted a closed session outlining initiatives to grow adviser business, including new technology and marketing innovations.
Golf was enjoyed by about 120 attendees in ideal weather on the Hamilton Island Golf Course while another 120 participated in the “IAthlon” walking and running event.
Ian Carr provided an update on the IA Foundation and over the three days more than $200,000 was raised.
This year’s award winners are:
The Lloyd’s Development Group (LDG) is seeking up to 25 insurance industry employees who work in Australia for a two-week professional development tour of four Asia-Pacific countries.
The tour, which will be held next year, will visit Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea and Hong Kong. It is being organised by Sydney-based LDG and is scheduled to run from October 25 to November 7.
The networking and learning experience is open to staff who work in Australia at an underwriting agency, (re)insurance company, syndicate service company, Lloyd’s or a (re)insurance broking firm. Entrants must be LDG members with less than 10 years' industry experience. An association with Lloyd’s is not required to apply and participate.
Applications close on December 13, and those who are successful will be advised by late January. The cost of $6000 must be covered by the applicant’s employer.
Participants will develop a working knowledge of the Asia-Pacific (re)insurance market, meeting with clients, brokers, underwriters, law firms, regulators, loss adjusters and Lloyd’s Asia. The tour will also include some visits to infrastructure sites and other places for claims case studies of major catastrophe and risk losses.
Those selected will meet prior to the tour to prepare a presentation. Participants must also research the firms and markets to be visited.
The LDG is a not-for-profit industry group working to provide targeted education and networking for early career brokers, underwriters and claims professionals in the Australian (re)insurance market founded in July 2016. For more information visit the website.
Chubb has promoted Adrian Habils to the role of Deputy Property Manager, Australia and New Zealand.
Sydney-based Mr Habils has worked at Chubb for more than 11 years, most recently as Distribution Manager, Property, Global Broker Unit, NSW/ACT.
Specialist marine insurance broker AlphaXO Risk Partners has appointed Robert Hammersley as a director.
At the same time, founder Simon Gosnell is taking a step back from the day-to-day running of the company as he transitions to retirement. He remains involved in the ongoing development of AlphaXO.
Mr Hammersley has been MD at W E Cox Claims Group for four years, helping to set up the Australasian branch. He formerly headed marine insurance units at Lumley and QBE.
Specialty lines insurer HDI Global has appointed a new Sydney-based underwriting manager as it grows its footprint in Australia.
Gerrie Johnson has taken on the role of HDI’s underwriting manager, Delegated Authority Business. Ms Johnson was most recently class underwriter, international property at Talbot Underwriting. She has previously held roles at AIG and Lloyd’s syndicate Probitas 1492 in London.
“We are continuing to build our overall underwriting capability in delegated authority business in Australia, where we continue to see significant growth opportunities,” GM Mark Fleiser said.
HDI hired two senior aviation underwriters in Australia last month, and also appointed Willem van Wyk to head up its regional market management practice in Australasia and ASEAN in a newly created position. He will start in the role in January.
Mr van Wyk and HDI MD Stefan Feldmann were formerly colleagues at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).
The insurance market will be propped up in coming years by very strong demand in China and other parts of emerging Asia, helping the industry buck a trend for weakening global economic growth, Swiss Re says.
Global economic growth will weaken in 2020 and 2021, the reinsurer says, yet the world insurance market can expect to see non-life and life premiums increase by about 3% in each year.
It will be led higher by China in particular, where non-life premiums are forecast to grow by 9% in 2020 and life premiums by 11%.
China will account for 60% of all insurance premiums in Asia over the next 10 years, Swiss Re’s market outlook report predicts.
“The exponential growth of mid-market private medical in China, with premiums up 1500% over the past two years, offers an indication of the size of potential," Chief Economist Jerome Jean Haegeli said.
Expanding risk pools will include non-motor personal, medical and health covers.
Swiss Re forecasts 2020 economic growth will slow to 1.6% in the US, from an estimated 2.3% this year, and to 0.9% in the euro area. The main risk to the growth outlook is further escalation of US-China trade tensions, particularly as the main engine of the global economy will be emerging Asia, with gross domestic product growth in both India and China forecast to be nearly 6%.
Swiss Re expects strengthening in non-life insurance pricing, driven by rising loss costs in property catastrophe and US casualty, to continue.
The euro area is at risk of “Japanification”, with low and negative interest rates “here to stay”.
“In the long term, negative interest rates are negative, leading to higher household savings, misallocation of capital, higher debt levels and leverage, and lower bank and insurer profitability," Mr Haegeli says.
“A new policy mix is needed, including fiscal spending in infrastructure and sustainable investments.”
The experience of insurers in Japan in three decades of low growth and low interest rates offers pointers for peers in other regions facing a similar scenario of economic inertia, Swiss Re notes.
“In search of yield, Japan's insurers have invested much more of their assets abroad. Non-life insurers have also turned more aggressive in their investment strategy by significantly reducing cash and reserves, and increasing their exposure to equities,” the report says.
Life insurers have also changed their product mix to write more higher-margin health products and less interest rate-sensitive savings products.
Concerns over the use of potentially dangerous cladding materials have again emerged after a fire broke out at a student housing block in the UK.
Authorities are still investigating the cladding used in the six-storey building, although they have said it is not the same as the one found in the Grenfell Tower. Combustible cladding was blamed for the rapid spread of the inferno in the London public housing block in 2017.
“We have been warning the Government since the Grenfell Tower fire that urgent action must be taken to protect lives,” National Fire Chiefs Council Chairman Roy Wilsher said after Friday’s fire in Bolton.
“It is a national outrage that more than 200 buildings still have [aluminium composite] cladding on them.
“At this stage we do not know what cladding was on this building, but this will be looked at as part of the investigation along with the whole building structure.”
The Greater Manchester Fire and Service Rescue says an inspection of the student housing quarters post-Grenfell showed it did not use the same cladding materials.
“Following the fire, our investigation will consider the materials used within the external wall construction and what, if any, role these materials played in the development and spread of fire. This investigation will be complex and take some time,” the fire and rescue service said in a statement yesterday.
Insurance software company Ebix’s revenue has grown 14% to $US147.2 million ($215.89 million), despite a 20% drop in revenue from its Risk Compliance Solutions (RCS) channel.
Ebix in Australia is the insurance industry’s major source of transaction platforms such as Sunrise Exchange, Smart Office Pro, iClose and a suite of broker systems.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based company says its RCS channel dropped to $US17.76 million ($26.05 million) in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year. Total revenues were $US128.6 million ($188.61 million) compared to the previous corresponding period.
Revenue from the insurance exchanges channel increased 6% to $US51.19 million ($75.08 million).
Insurance operations President for North America Ash Sawhney says the company’s insurance business pipeline in the US is the strongest it has ever been.
HDI Global parent Talanx expects continuing premium growth of about 4% in 2020 after a strong performance so far this year.
The Hanover-based company has reaffirmed guidance for full-year 2019 profit of more than €900 million ($1.45 billion) and says 2020 profit is expected to come in at €900-€950 million ($1.45-1.53 billion).
In the third quarter, the combined ratio for property and casualty (P&C) improved to 100.4%, from 102.1% a year earlier. P&C gross written premium (GWP) rose 19% to €3.81 billion ($6.14 billion).
“The property & casualty (P&C) reinsurance segment played a significant role in the growth in gross premium thanks to good results in business with solvency-easing products,” Talanx said.
For the nine months to September 30, the underwriting result for P&C Insurance was up 21% at €196 million ($315.64 million). Gross premium income in P&C rose by 1.9% to €1.3 billion ($2.09 billion).
The first-time inclusion of HDI Global Specialty in the third quarter lifted gross written premium by 63%, Talanx says. HDI Global Specialty launched this year as a joint venture between HDI Global and Talanx-owned Hannover Re, covering business lines such as legal expenses, errors and omissions, directors’ and officers’, sports and entertainment, aviation, offshore energy and animal cover.
Talanx says its 30% upturn in gross premium in the industrial lines division “stemmed largely from HDI Global Specialty”.
Natural catastrophe losses of €454.7 million ($732.25 million) for the first nine months of 2019 included €32.9 million ($52.98 million) from the floods in Queensland earlier this year.
Specialist insurer Beazley has increased its gross written premium by 12% to $US2.19 billion ($3.21 billion) in the third quarter compared to the previous corresponding period.
Premium rates on renewal business increased by 6% compared to last year.
Premiums were down in the property division as a result of ceasing writing construction and engineering business, but the new specialty lines division saw 24% premium growth to $US662 million ($971.22 million), while there was also 16% growth in cyber and executive risk.
Organic growth and rate rises across many lines of business were responsible for the growth in premiums, CEO Andrew Horton says.
Beazley’s exposure to natural catastrophes has led to higher claims activity, costing it $80 million ($117.37 million) net of reinsurance and reinstatement premium.
Like many others before it, the latest report into what ails the building industry delivered little in the way of new insights into a shambolic state of affairs.
Most of what was contained in the NSW upper house inquiry’s take of the problems and the solutions it offered more or less follow a familiar and well-worn path.
But it is still worth highlighting what the Public Accountability Committee said in the 196-page report even if it is confined to the NSW construction sector. Many of the issues it explored apply to what the rest of the states and territories are facing.
Furthermore, things have taken a turn for the worse since the committee launched the inquiry in July, a month after residents in Sydney’s Mascot Towers were forced to pack up and leave in a matter of hours over fears the building was structurally unsound.
The professional indemnity (PI) market for the construction sector, as insuranceNEWS.com.au has reported extensively, is in tatters. As is the case in the UK, not only have premiums shot up by as much as 500% or more in many instances, but insurers are taking a tougher line. Renewals now come with huge excesses and broad exclusions, including for cladding.
As committee Chairman David Shoebridge so aptly puts it in the report: “As a direct result of the lack of standards in the industry, there is no functioning insurance market willing to take on the risk of residential building and construction.
“The magnitude of defects we are seeing today is just the tip of the iceberg. The Government needs to urgently address the standard of building quality to ensure the insurance market is confident in underwriting that risk.
“The issues occurring within the industry are not only significant and complex but have dire consequences if left unresolved.”
They haven’t been resolved and the consequences have been dire. The building crisis has panned out exactly the way the insurance industry and other stakeholders warned it would unless appropriate measures were taken.
The problems were allowed to fester for years as governments at state and federal levels either responded with half-baked actions or hoped the problems would go away if ignored long enough.
So severe is the crisis that the insurance industry has stopped offering PI covers without exemptions to clients who have anything to do with the Australian construction business.
The last provider of exclusion-free PI insurance, Landmark Underwriting, walked away in July, joining an exodus that began in earnest after the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire disaster in London sparked concerns over the widespread presence of flammable cladding in high-rise blocks.
And the fallout has been swift and devastating. Surveyors, certifiers and many other building practitioners have warned they may not be able to operate for much longer under such draining conditions.
Like their UK peers post-Grenfell, they are paying the price for years of government failure to pay heed to warnings that all is not well inside the building sector.
In Australia the tell-tale signs spilled out in the open as early as 2014, when a fire damaged the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne. The use of non-compliant cladding made of the same combustible material found in Grenfell, was blamed for the rapid spread of the fire.
Still, governments stayed mostly indifferent, ignoring the growing chorus of calls for stronger building codes and enforcement action to stamp out the systemic issues plaguing the industry.
After Grenfell, insurers’ hopes for a stronger government response were dashed. As Insurance Council of Australia GM Risk Karl Sullivan told the committee at a hearing: “There has been no clear resolution at a national level or state level that would allow insurers to hold the confidence that it is being dealt with completely.”
Backed into a corner, with no more room to hide, politicians blamed everyone but themselves. The committee thinks otherwise, as have many of the submissions from stakeholders and residents caught up in the mess.
“It comes down to a failure of government to regulate,” the committee says in the report.
The Mascot Towers Owners Corporation in its submission is similarly blunt.
“The silence surrounding the industry could not last forever,” the corporation says. “Governments at all levels have reaped billions of dollars from the Sydney property market. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the Government.”
Mr Shoebridge says restoring the confidence of insurers is paramount. And there is no better way for governments to do that than by first shrugging off the paralysis that has been obvious for so long.