July 22, 2016
How to Unlock Group Insurance Market
by Denise Garth
Group insurers still aren't scratching the surface of the market, but are some just one or two details away from unlocking it?
A combination lock relies upon multiple numbers to match in order to release the catch. You can have three of the four numbers correct, and the lock will remain closed. Is this what is happening to the promise of group insurance sales? Are some insurers just one or two details away from unlocking the market?
Many organizations would claim to have tried it all. Some have added auto enrollment capabilities, which did help. Some have improved service portals. Many have products and packages that likely meet the needs of today’s employers and their employees. Sales are happening, but if the research surveys are right, group insurers still aren’t scratching the surface of the market, particularly a fast growing new segment seeking something new.
Employees still have every reason to want to purchase additional protection products through their employers (e.g. ease, security, underwriting, price). Employers still have every reason to want to carry the best selection of protection and wellness products administered on an easy-to-use platform. Providers, then, need to create and promote an ecosystem that sells itself to employers by selling through to employees.
See also: Group Insurance: On the Path to Maturity
Fortunately, the market has plenty of opportunity. We are seeing healthy, steady growth, especially within the new health and wellbeing products offered as flex benefits. Insurers that hit on the right combination of product selection, digital readiness and market relevance, are going to find themselves tapped into a free-flowing market.
How do providers create this win-win-win?
Add health and wellbeing products
One of the innovative ideas considered by a number of providers is focused on the health and wellbeing of employees. New health and wellbeing products are being developed and offered in different insurance segments. The first ones to enter the market were in South Africa with Discovery’s Vitality program and last year in the US when John Hancock teamed up with Vitality. This trend is now emerging in the UK, being replicated by the Private Medical Insurance (PMI) and group protection provider segments. A number of employers are offering a monthly benefit amount, which employees can use to select different products (a smorgasboard or flex approach) based on their unique needs and life-stage. Health and wellbeing products are part of the offerings in conjunction with traditional group protection plans. These health and wellbeing products provide standard PMI coverage to employees as well as significant auxiliary benefits and incentives. These include discounted gym memberships, reduced Eurostar fares, food discounts and more. To effectively provide these benefits, the insurer must build an ecosystem of partners who provide these benefits and services as a core part of the group protection product.
Introduce education and gamification tools
Benefits, no matter what kind, can be confusing. If the coverage is unclear, the product is unlikely to sell. When it comes to health and wellbeing offerings, gamification can proactively engage employees in selecting and using the right benefits, helping them achieve their well-being goals. An alternative approach for some group protection providers is to partner with health and wellbeing product providers (many of whom already have these educational tools in use) to market and offer a joint product to the employees. Regardless of approach, it is important to make these products easy for employers and employees to understand, select and use.
Add and promote self-service functionality
A digital portal to enrol, service and engage employees on a regular basis is a must. The ability to quote and bind online as well as provide online service is of paramount importance to capture the small and medium enterprise market. Extending these capabilities to brokers and employers will not only improve the experience significantly, but also ensure that such books are profitable for the insurance company.
Improve system robustness, speed and flexibility
A number of companies are struggling with their IT applications, to support the level of flexibility required by the complex flex and voluntary business. A robust, configurable policy system can streamline the design and launch of these risk products and services rapidly into the market. Competitiveness starts with the agility provided by this foundation.
Prepare relevant package types
Insurers are reactionary by nature. When it comes to consumer and employer demand, product development and coverage packages should be timely and relevant. The insurer who is closely watching benefits trends and anticipating new offerings will be in a prime position to proactively capture more of the market. Smart insurers will also pay close attention to common differences between SME needs and large enterprise concerns when developing packages that fit.
See also: How to Set Benefits in Different Nations
PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
From marketing to sales to channel development, group risk insurers need to ramp up distribution efforts across the board. During this season of opportunity, it would be a crime to be prepared, yet not aggressive enough in pursuit of the many companies who still desperately need a group risk partner.
Gather relevant data. Use it in yearly promotion.
Once you are covering a particular group, the job is only half done. Use data gathering to know your clients and understand their employees. The details on how coverage improves within a client company will come in handy during contract negotiations and review the following year. In addition, many of the fine details will help your teams to improve take up rates with certain products and improve products that may need changes to improve utilization.
This article was written by Vinay Nagwekar.