I spoke to Andrew Gill, Managing Director at Pacific Life Re (PL Re) and Board Director of affiliate company UnderwriteMe Australia, about how reinsurance and insurance more broadly are evolving in the digital age.
What makes PL Re’s reinsurance model different to others in the market?
Andrew: We partner with a smaller number of well-aligned insurance partners as opposed to being ‘all things to all people’. We identify opportunities where we can undertake more in-depth research and are data-focused. Our UnderwriteMe technology platform aims to deliver an enhanced customer experience and greater efficiencies for both our insurance partners and the end customer.
For example, on average currently about only 1 in 5 people being underwritten are able to get immediate cover online without the need for human intervention. Our Australian studies to date show that UnderwriteMe’s standard underwriting rules can deliver immediate terms to 3 in 5 applicants, 3 times the market average.
We expect that UnderwriteMe will transform the customer journey by making life insurance easier to purchase for the end customer and that this will help support the future growth of our industry.
Should the industry be paying more attention to InsurTechs?
The life insurance industry in Australia still has a long way to go to be at the forefront of technology and automation. The industry should pay attention to InsurTech and look for opportunities to drive further innovation. We need to encourage people to purchase life insurance by making the process as easy as possible with innovative technology.
In the next year, what do you believe will be the insurance industry’s major challenges?
In the last 12–24 months, we’ve had challenges coming from all fronts – regulatory, media coverage etc. The life insurance market will need to focus on addressing these challenges, whether that is the Life Insurance Framework (LIF) changes, the code of practice, or responses to some of the negative media sentiment.
However, we can’t take our eye off the ball in terms of improving the end customer experience. There are a lot of internal processes and regulatory challenges we need to focus on, as well as building general trust. The major challenge is managing and balancing these almost competing priorities and getting the basics right so we can move forward.
Are there any impending market influences that might impact businesses?
Yes. In the UK for example, the market is looking at solutions that make life easier for the adviser, because that market moved to an environment of stricter compliance requirements and disruptive changes (not unlike the current situation in Australia).
The industry needs to identify ways of improving the efficiency of writing business, otherwise we are likely to see the numbers of new risk specialist advisers dwindle and consequently, the number of Australians with the appropriate level of life insurance will also reduce.
What can Australia learn from PL Re’s China and Singapore movements?
From a distribution and product perspective, these markets are still very different from ours. Agency distribution through tied-advisers is a key form of distribution, there are various different regulations, levels of market maturity and so forth. Overall, we can learn from Asia’s nimble, innovative approach and rapid take-up of InsurTech.
What are some of the key leadership qualities for an MD?
Resilience. Leaders need to take people on the journey and say, “These are the challenges we’re facing, and this is how we’ll move forward.” That resilience and being able to see the vision and path forward in difficult times is key to the role of an MD.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’m an actuary by trade. I was good with numbers at school and worked my way up by developing my technical skills. My younger self thought that the way to build a successful career was to continue building those technical skills – but I would tell my younger myself to focus on taking a step back and look at developing leadership qualities.
Finding a good mentor to help you develop is another piece of advice. Don’t feel like you know everything and don’t feel ashamed to ask someone for help and guidance. Finding a mentor early on is worth its weight in gold.