I googled it. As usual the living collection of human knowledge known as Wikipedia proved helpful. Awareness Days - just how many are there actually? Wikipedia lists them conveniently, and not just the days, but there are weeks and months as well. The causes are many; I considered counting them. However I noticed that the one cause which inspired me to google was not there, and simultaneously realised that even this long list was incomplete and so a count would be futile. This is how I first became a Wikipedia contributor: under the heading "months", I have added for September: Life Insurance Awareness Month.
Before I continue, let me clarify. The pursuit of greater awareness on many human welfare issues is both noble and correct. In particular, consumer education about the tremendous difference that adequate life (and health) insurance makes in the lives of many is good. It is also personal. When, a few years ago, one of my best friends became a mother, that moment though joyful was also undoubtedly the most trying experience of her life. Her baby boy was born very prematurely and needed months of crushingly expensive specialist medical care. Without health insurance, my friend and her husband may have needed to sell their successful family business and the source of their livelihood to pay for his care. With health insurance, their family savings and livelihood are intact, and most importantly, their baby boy is now a thriving toddler with a love for books and stories and a growing vocabulary that inspires me to read more.
As much as I am an advocate of efforts to raise awareness about the need for individual financial protection, I am also an advocate that awareness alone is not enough. In today's highly connected world of information overload, it should not be surprising that people become weary of awareness. While awareness may raise intention, data verifies that action will not automatically follow.
In the latest publication of Swiss Re's European Insurance Report, we could observe the industry's failure to convert intention to action for one of the most important protection solutions offered to society. For working individuals, especially young adults, their most valuable financial asset is how their health and wellbeing enables them to continue working and earning a living. A disability insurance product, which can come in many forms, is the solution the insurance industry offers to protect this asset. In the previous iteration of the research, we measured the percentage of consumers who were aware of their need and declared an intention to buy cover in the next 12 months. In the latest study, out of those who were unprotected 12 months earlier, we measured what percentage actually purchased some coverage. Disappointingly, no matter which way you segment the data, with age and country shown in the accompanying graph as an example, the number of consumers who inevitably act make up consistently less, and usually less than half, of those who intend to act.
So this begs not one, but two questions to be answered:
1) How can the industry better engage with the unprotected consumer whose awareness was not sufficient to inspire any intention or will to do anything about it?
But also not forgetting to ask…
2) How can the industry make insurance solutions more accessible to those who "fall through the cracks" despite a full understanding of their needs, and still remain exposed and vulnerable?
Re/insurers need to make a more concerted effort to understand and influence these dynamics of human behaviour. We study our competitors' actions intensely, but I would argue that our greatest competition is not another insurer; rather our greatest competition is the inaction of the consumer himself. Do we really understand if our solutions do what consumers need them to do? Are there unmet needs or points of frustration in the purchase process that keep too many shut out of the peace of mind that life and health insurance could give?
While promoting consumer awareness will take us partway to overcome inaction, society's weariness of awareness is the reason why I don't believe it will take us quite far enough. Consequently, the industry needs to do more.
Category: Funding longer lives