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Insurers expect COVID crisis to change industry

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More than 60% of senior insurance executives in Australia and the Asia Pacific believe business models will need to be reinvented post-COVID, according to a survey by global investment giant BlackRock.

Future product offerings will be more flexible and targeted with closer policyholder engagement, according to the survey of 360 executives in 25 markets including Australia.

Some 62% of multiline and life executives say specialised pandemic risk coverage will be a priority, while 45% want to focus on fewer, more profitable products.

A spokesman for BlackRock told insuranceNEWS.com.au 110 executives in Asia Pacific took part in the survey. However, she says a breakdown of individual market findings is not available.

BlackRock says the pandemic has put an additional layer of pressure on an industry that is already in a state of flux, caused by low interest rates and digital challenges. It says the near future will require management to focus on how they will reinvent their business models and where they invest to generate profits.

“This year’s findings suggest that Asian insurers are strategically reviewing their product offerings within the context of repositioning their business models, while advancing their digital transformation agenda to enhance risk assessments, optimise yield and accelerate distribution of products,” BlackRock Head of Financial Institutions Kimberley Kim said.

The survey also finds insurance executives are concerned with portfolio resilience, sustainability and technological transformation.

Nearly 60% are looking to reposition their investment portfolios because of the prevailing economic uncertainty and low interest rate environment. They plan to focus on higher-quality assets with more diversification, with 47% looking to take on more risk.

“Persistent low rates across developed markets are leading insurers to embrace meaningful allocations to illiquid alternatives and higher-yielding emerging markets assets,” BlackRock says.

About 78% of the respondents say COVID-19 has made them increase their focus on environmental, social and corporate governance objectives. One in three say they have turned down an investment opportunity in the past 12 months because of concerns in these areas.

And close to 70% see technological transformation as a priority.