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Travel insurers must be agile: new Cover-More CEO

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Travel insurer Cover-More CEO Cara Morton, formally announced in the role today, says agility and innovation will be critical in responding to COVID-19 impacts and demands for cover as borders reopen.

“Our business is quite different in the different geographies, but the one commonality at this time has been the requirement to be agile around product development, and that is going to have to continue,” she told today.

Ms Morton says a new product is set to be introduced in the Australian market by early next month, following strong domestic travel uptake in New Zealand, and innovations are planned as international travel picks up.

Ms Morton took up the Global CEO role on an interim basis in June after joining the Zurich-owned insurer two years earlier as CEO of Global Medical Assistance.

Zurich reported earlier this year that sales at Cover-More halved in March compared to a year-earlier, and were at less than 10% of year-ago monthly levels in April, May and June.

Ms Morton says there has been slight improvement, given the ongoing border closures in Australia, its biggest market, but there is still some local activity.

“There are people still travelling overseas, who are getting approvals from the government for work or personal reasons and they are taking out travel insurance.”

Ms Morton says projects underway include work to provide greater clarity over what is covered in policies, a leisure travel medical and security assistance app and the development of a travel disrupter.

The insurer sees potential for more partnerships with travel providers and destinations that want to ensure visitors have insurance in place as they seek to revive activity.

In Australia, the recovery in purchases will happen well in advance of actual travel, with people typically booking trips up to 12 months in advance, she says.

Ultimately vaccines or cures will be critical, Ms Morton says, and news this week of a vaccine that was more than 90% effective in trials is a positive sign after earlier speculation flagged lower levels of efficacy.

Ms Morton declined to detail the impact of the pandemic on employee numbers or redundancies in the local market.

“Unfortunately, some tough decisions had to be made, but we are doing everything we can to navigate these times and Zurich has been supporting us through this process,” she said.

Zurich Regional CEO Asia Pacific Jack Howell says Ms Morton has extensive experience in business transformation and strategy and has moved to make Cover-More stronger and more sustainable.

“Since taking on the role of interim CEO of Cover-More, Cara has quickly demonstrated bold and courageous leadership, steering and navigating the business in exceptionally challenging times,” Mr Howell said.

“In particular, her focus on customer-centred design and digital transformation will see continued innovation of Cover-More’s future.”