How has the insurance industry fared across the board since the pandemic and after the pandemic? Are people now more aware of the importance of purchasing a critical illness protection plan and/or life insurance to protect a person’s financial future in the event of an emergency?
The pandemic has transformed the insurance industry with a different impact on the general insurance and life insurance segments. Within life insurance, Covid-19 was the second leading cause of life insurance claims over the past year, highlighting another area where the pandemic has affected the community. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of our health and immunity, as well as the need for us to make careful lifestyle choices and investments to help reduce preventable health risks. Consumer interest in critical illness insurance solutions could potentially stem from this awareness, but there is no hard data to back it up.
However, there is a direct correlation between financial preparedness and health risks. Building on the YouGov Critical Illness Survey we commissioned earlier this year, we are able to understand in quite some detail how people would cope financially if faced with a serious illness. More than six in 10 respondents were very or extremely worried about getting a serious illness in the future. This is not a very positive trend considering that every individual here talks about their own health, which one would expect them to be very aware of. More than half of respondents thought they would only be able to manage their finances for up to three months if faced with a serious illness, again this is their response to their own financial situation.
How is the insurance industry leveraging technology in both operations and customer service?
In an effort to anticipate and meet customer needs, a key driver of our customer service success has been the adoption of a human-centered design that powers our technology solutions for customers and the partners.
Putting the customer at the heart of our design, we have fully enabled an end-to-end digital advisory journey, digital onboarding process and omnichannel solution to manage their policy changes online through their mobile or connected devices. For example, we introduced tele-underwriting for mortgage protection policies and a digital solution that underwrites nearly half of our new business portfolio. This provides customers with a seamless, engaging and intuitive journey that is also sustainable. Technology is also leveraged in the flow of information between our partners, suppliers and even the regulator.
What are some of the major health trends (telemedicine, increasing preference for holistic medicine, etc.) that have impacted the insurance industry in the UAE?
Technology adoption has exploded during the pandemic, not only providing new models of work, but also changing the way we consume information. This also extends to health care information. Concepts such as telemedicine that were new before the pandemic have now become the norm.
Digital transformation across industries has led to an increase in customers seeking information and higher service expectations. Today, people are increasingly aware that they can better control their health and well-being if they act early. We see more and more customers concerned about improving their quality of life and preventing the onset of lifestyle-related diseases.
How do you see the insurance industry in the UAE evolving in the coming years, especially with increasingly stringent regulations?
The latest developments and initiatives from government and policy makers are concrete steps towards improving the business potential and the overall quality of life of the community. For example, companies in the United Arab Emirates are now attracting the best talent in the world thanks to new visa measures.
Other measures such as the end-of-service benefits scheme and unemployment benefits for expatriates will certainly keep talent here in the long term, also supporting industries such as the insurance sector. As the market landscape evolves and new regulations and initiatives are introduced, I believe changes will be based on active dialogue and data with the aim of benefiting the community which in turn will expand the market. as confidence grows.
Where do you see the challenges and opportunities in insurance and life, critical illness and life insurance policies in the UAE?
There continue to be awareness and education challenges. There is a clear distinction between medical insurance and critical illness protection offered by life insurers, but community-wide awareness of the associated benefits needs to increase. Generally, people think that if they have medical insurance, they don’t need critical illness protection – when in fact, they serve very different purposes. For example: Your medical insurance is often tied to your job and
On the innovation front, there are ongoing opportunities in the insurance industry to do more to educate, simplify our offerings, and have empathetic, “human” conversations with customers.
Finally, we can do more to improve people’s confidence in the industry in general. That’s why our annual report on benefits paid is important. it is used to transparently share information about the number of claims we pay, quantum, claims reimbursement service levels, etc., so that people can act with confidence to protect themselves and their loved ones.
How did Zurich Insurance, in particular your division, perform in 2021 and the first quarter of 2022?
2021 was one of our best financial years. Our success can largely be attributed to a clear customer focus, simplification, investment in digitalization and careful risk management. In the region, we also did very well, meeting our customer satisfaction, employee experience and financial goals for the year. This trend continues through 2022 so far.
Another example of our growing role is in our work as administrator of the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) scheme, helping to reshape the benefits landscape for this country. Since July this year, it has expanded to include expatriate employees of government entities in Dubai.
In terms of challenges, the past two years have also been rewarding and have provided tremendous insights and learning experiences, allowing us to navigate a rapidly changing landscape and look to innovation to identify new solutions and new products to meet the developing needs of our customers.
Any new products you introduced?
Our critical illness protection offering is a new product to this market, which was co-created by our community. It also removes the need for life insurance as a mandatory benefit and caters to the bespoke needs of people without dependents or life cover needs, but accommodates those who need a safety net to an unforeseen critical health condition that would impact their income and finances. Other direct-to-consumer products launched recently include YourLife, an instant life insurance solution without the need for a medical exam. YourCare is a critical illness insurance solution in the same vein. Fully digitized, these products can be purchased online with cover starting at just Dhs 3 per day, ensuring critical illness protection and life cover are more accessible than ever.
How does the insurance industry establish trust and transparency between customers?
The most fundamental way to ensure trust is to deliver on our promise to protect customers and their loved ones in critical times and to pay claims while delivering an exceptional experience. Second, as insurers, we must also continue to simplify our offerings and improve the customer experience.
Financial advisors play a vital role in helping clients identify their protection and investment needs and providing them with the right advice and regular assessments. There is a critical need for high quality, professional financial advice to build trust.
Finally, part of building trust is also self-reporting and providing information that can secure collaborative builds from other industry participants. An example is our Paid Customer Benefits Report based on life benefits and life coverage recently published in its seventh edition and live on our website. With this report, we seek to raise awareness of the need for life insurance and critical illness protection to ensure better financial preparedness and security.
Based on our experience supporting over 230,000 customers in the Middle East region and managing $58 billion in coverage, we would like to believe that our reports are a barometer to provide an understanding of the health risks faced by the community faces, supporting governments, healthcare providers and the wider population with rich and tangible ideas.