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Life peak body aims for Q4 start as new code finalised

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Australian life insurers announced today they have commenced work to form a peak body to serve as the “collective voice” of the industry, which until now has been represented by the Financial Services Council (FSC).

The announcement comes as the industry prepares for a new Life Insurance Code of Practice that will come into force on July 1 next year, with more than 50 new consumer protection measures added following a public consultation.

A spokesperson for the new group, the Council of Australian Life Insurers (CALI), says it hopes to be “up and running” by the start of the October quarter. Staff recruitment has begun including for a CEO to lead the organisation.

“The decision to establish a new peak body is one that was made collectively by the life insurance industry members, through a consultative and collaborative process,” the spokesperson told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “That process was led by a working group of life insurance CEOs.”

The spokesperson says CALI will be the first dedicated life insurance industry peak body in Australia.

FSC CEO Blake Briggs says it looks forward to collaborating with CALI and that it will complement the FSC’s broader advocacy on behalf of the financial services industry and its consumers.

CALI says it will focus on meeting the “evolving” needs and expectations of its customers, partners, stakeholders and the community, and supporting the ongoing progress and development of the industry.

The CALI spokesperson says life insurers believe the time is right for a life insurance-focused peak body to focus solely on matters affecting the industry and its customers, given the changing landscape in both regulation and structure.

“Throughout a continued period of policy reform in the lead-up to and following the [Hayne] royal commission, the life insurance industry has undergone significant change, including structural changes via industry consolidation and specialisation,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson says CALI will be the “progressive voice” of life insurance in Australia, focusing on what is important to consumers and making continuous improvements to meet those expectations.

“CALI will also look to foster and strengthen the knowledge and understanding of Australians on the value of life insurance and the importance of the benefits and protections it provides,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson says AIA Australia, Challenger, ClearView, General Reinsurance Life, Hannover Re, HCF, Integrity Life and MetLife Australia have indicated an intention to become CALI members.

MLC Life Insurance, Munich Re, NobleOak, Pacific Life Re, QInsure, RGA Reinsurance, Resolution Life Australasia, Scor Life & Health, Swiss Re, TAL and Zurich Financial Services have also expressed similar plans to join the peak body.

CALI will be working to take over future responsibility of the code as part of the transition arrangements with the FSC.

There will be a 12-month transition period for the industry to make the necessary system changes for the revamped code, which the FSC launched in 2016.

The changes to the code are its first since it was introduced and the FSC says key improvements relate to pressure selling, family violence, mental health, surveillance and disclosures.

In relation to mental health, the new code bans blanket mental health exclusions in the standard terms and conditions on all newly designed contracts.

Click here to download the new code.