For many of us in the superannuation and life insurance space, we recognise and understand the value life insurance through superannuation can provide members. However, for superannuation fund members on the outside looking in, the scrutiny surrounding the industry and ensuing media attention has helped to distract and confuse the perception of the cover members may receive.

The Protecting Your Super (PYS) and Putting Members’ Interests First (PMIF) reforms have gone some way to improve the perceived value of insurance in superannuation by removing default cover for some members and raising awareness for others. However, there are still members who are either not aware of their cover, or even if they are familiar, they may not understand what it helps them protect. As an industry, we will continue to be challenged on this if we cannot shift member awareness and engagement.

Providing certainty and security

The need to re-instil confidence in life insurance is critical. Member expectations are high; as we all increasingly expect simple, intuitive experiences from businesses that we interact with, especially now amidst a pandemic. Our ability to meet these expectations will play an important role in members’ engagement and their perceptions across both insurance and superannuation more broadly.

If we can provide confidence, we can build deeper relationships and create more meaningful interactions with members. Our research has also shown the benefits of engagement to superannuation funds. For example, we know that those members who take out voluntary cover have an average nine-point higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) with the superannuation fund, and they are three times less likely to exit the fund than members with default insurance. They’re also five times less likely to leave the fund than members with no insurance.

We also have the numbers to assure members when they need us most, at claim time. We have found that the average person in the street only expects around half of life insurance claims to be paid, yet the reality is that as an industry, insurers pay around 96 per cent of claims. At TAL alone, we paid out over $2.3 billion to more than 34,000 Australians and their families in 2019.

People’s needs and behaviours are changing

You could say we’re living in a time of contradictions. There’s less traffic on the roads but nowhere to go. The air is cleaner than ever before but we’re being encouraged, and in some cases mandated, to wear a mask. The disruptions to everyday life caused by COVID-19 have meant there are changes happening everywhere that many of us thought we would never see in our lifetime.

What’s clear however, is that people’s needs and behaviours are changing at a rapid pace, perhaps even permanently. Only time will tell whether we’ve changed forever, but for now, the move to digital and contactless interactions is the new norm.

We have started to see glimpses of how engaged members can be. Back in March when COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, we saw a huge spike in insurance applications. In fact, TAL’s underwriting volumes peaked, with a substantial increase in customers engaging with and looking to upgrade their insurance through superannuation. The volumes we experienced were unprecedented across our business and it demonstrates the value Australians place in insurance when their health, safety and ability to earn an income are threatened.

A deliberate approach to engagement is essential

To seize this opportunity and step-change the level of engagement, superannuation funds will need a deliberate and focused effort. At TAL, to better support our superannuation fund partners to help improve member outcomes, a Member Engagement and Innovation team was established to combine innovation, member analytics and insights, member engagement, and underwriting teams to drive engagement in:

  • Insurance – to create an experience that helps members engage with insurance, making it a positive choice rather than a ‘hidden cost’
  • Health – to help members lead healthy lives across physical, mental, and financial health, enabling then to reach a healthy retirement and minimise costs to all members
  • Claims – to support members back to health when they are unwell, as well as beneficiaries, when the worst happens.

Engaging members with enhanced digital experiences

COVID-19 has effectively fast-tracked the need for agile, intuitive and simple technological solutions. Initiatives such as the Early Release Scheme demonstrate that the industry is mobilising behind that challenge.

At TAL, we too have been focusing on empowering and motivating members by offering better and more scalable experiences, with more seamless integration with members’ superannuation funds. Whilst there is much work still to do, we have already made great progress. For example:

  • Digital campaigns – In response to both PYS and PMIF, we supported a number of our superannuation fund partners to deliver integrated marketing campaigns using our marketing automation platform, and for PMIF alone we enabled around 16,000 members to retain their insurance.
  • Tailored products and services – TAL’s innovation team recently developed Discover, a unique voluntary cover initiative to engage and empower members to help them to choose the right level of cover for their needs, whether that’s increasing, decreasing or even cancelling their cover.
  • Apps – To support members when they need us most, our Claims Assist app complements the human interaction and expertise of our claims team, to bring a new level of transparency and simplicity to the process.

Supporting mental health

The pandemic has challenged all Australians; from a loss in financial security, missing out on being physically and socially active, through to the complications of lockdown. While COVID-19 started out as a health crisis, it has progressed into an economic one, and could ultimately lead to a social crisis.

In the coming months and years, we expect more and longer lasting claims due to the consequences of the pandemic, particularly related to mental illness. Mental health conditions are one of the most common reasons for claims, and with almost half of all Australians experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime, TAL has made it a major focus.

To help members look after their mental wellbeing, TAL has worked in partnership with the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre, to develop an online program called ‘Headlight’ to help members understand and manage their mental wellbeing. The program works by identifying risk factors and providing targeted recommendations to support their overall health. Initially launched in pilot with a partner superannuation fund, there has been an encouraging engagement of almost 8 per cent compared to an industry average of 2.75 per cent. With keen interest for personalised mental health support, we have extended Headlight to support members impacted by COVID-19 with targeted wellbeing counselling, with seven superannuation fund partners extending the services to their members so far.

Confidence and engagement

The life insurance industry has always played a critical role in supporting Australians in times of need. While we already understand the value and assurance it can provide members, it’s now our task to better communicate our work in enhancing digital interactions, and focusing on mental health, as part of members’ overall experience with their cover. During unpredictable times like these, insurance through superannuation has an opportunity to instil confidence, demonstrate value and improve engagement with members, to drive benefits for members and superannuation funds alike.