Apart from the healthcare industry, one of the core sectors that have amplified their importance during the harsh times brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic is the insurance sector. It has proven itself as a core player in the development and resilience of the economy throughout the US.
With lockdown restrictions implemented all over the country starting from April 9th, insurers have been forced to work remotely[Mac191] . This has forced digitization for some who weren’t necessarily looking forward to it, while others have taken this as an opportunity to innovate systems.
All interactions with consumers have now moved to digital channels, thus having significant impacts on behavior of both, insurers and the insured. This shift has raised many questions, one of the major ones being that could COVID-19 actually be the “catalyst” the sector needed towards the long-term betterment of the system? Or is this just a mere “opportunity”?
And are the impacts short term or long term?
Here, we shall discuss some of the impact of COVID-19 on the insurance sector and how it impacts the quality of life of families involved.
Understanding the Impact on the Insurance Sector of COVID-19 & the Lockdown
Insurance companies across the United States have started offering discounts for existing and new customers to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus. Some companies have also started offering partial refunds as the situation becomes direr.
While all this sounds very appealing to customers and their quality of life, it is not a quick-fix scheme. Insurance providers will have difficulty justifying these refunds and discounts once things start to settle – especially if there are claims for even 60% of the people who took those discounts.
Usage-Based Insurance (UBI)
COVID-19 has brought to life one of the time-old problems people have with the insurance sector:
“How will insurance companies ensure that rates given to me are fair?”
By February, or even the start of March, no one was certain that there would even be a lockdown. This is an extreme measure and nothing like our day-to-day asset security or driving hazards. This presents a threat for insurance providers as to how they’ll be able to tackle the increased risk level and what impact it will have in customers’ premiums.
This question has led to the whole insurance sector leaning towards the usage-based insurance (UBI) model. Taking motor vehicle insurance as an example, the insurance package in this model depend on:
- How much the car is driven (Pay As You Drive (PAYD))
- Your driving behavior (Pay How You Drive (PHYD))
Increased Demand for Protection
After the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak (2003), countries (such as Hong Kong) saw a sharp increase in the number of providers as the demand for business protection increased, and a similar trend is expected post COVID-19.
In fact, the situation develops and despite the virus being out there, economies ‘reopening’ have resulted in a rise in demand for life insurance (an increase of 30%). Online portals and digitization have played an important role in this increase.
Value of New Business (VNB) Pressure
Looking at history, during SARS outbreak, existing policyholders surrendered their unit-linked insurance policy (ULIP), leading to a positive medium-term change in product mix. According to Avinash Sing, a senior analyst,
“Insurance sector would see short-term pressure on VNB due to sluggish business growth post Covid-19. However, overall margin would be broadly stable as high margin protection continues to outgrow savings.”
When looking at the insurance sector under the COVID-19 situation from a bird’s-eye view, a few impacts are evident:
- Life insurers will see growth in policy sales (short term)
- New business will see a negative hit
- COVID-19 has ushered an era of digitization; welcomed by some and thrust unto others
- Demand for pure protection product will lead to more uncertainties
All that said and done, neither party (the providers nor the families) get the better end of the deal due to COVID-19. Some aspects are in favor of providers while some are in favor of families. At the end of the day, it’s all about perseverance for both parties – and with the wheels of economy starting to slowly turn, there is no telling what uncertainties may rise for the insurance sector and quality of life for families.
[Mac191]Link to “The Efficiency of Remote Insurance Agents During COVID-19 Lockdown”