A discussion on Volunteers and Life Insurance.

A discussion on Volunteers and Life Insurance.

Volunteering is an Australian tradition. Helping out your mates and being there for each other, especially in times of crisis, is part of our culture and way of life. Like most Australians I have been following the bushfires and have witnessed incredible bravery and sacrifice from volunteers across the country. 

They respond because they care about their communities. My own personal experience was, a giant pine tree crashing into my home causing severe damage. This was the result of a freak storm just before Christmas, the first responders were my local State Emergency Services brigade. Calm, cheerful and reassuring, just great and capable people.

Volunteers come from all walks of life, you can be in a traditionally low-risk job by day and ‘after hours’ fighting fires, responding to storm damage, or helping flood affected communities. So how does this impact insurance, and are you covered if you undertake volunteering?

The role of the underwriter is to protect the pool of insured lives at his or her company. So, when deciding whether we should cover such risks, we consider:

  • What is the exposure – how many volunteers of many persuasions (SES, RFS, CFA, Army reserve etc) are there in Australia compared to the population?
  • And what about the time they spend in the more hazardous volunteer job compared to their usual job? This is a part time role – so we have butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in day jobs and volunteering is their ‘after hours’ role.
  • What is the incidence? Of the many people who volunteer for a range of community service tasks – how many are unfortunately killed or injured in those roles compared to their ‘civilian’ job?
  • And taking all that into consideration, would this incidence have a marked and abnormal effect on the pool of lives insured? That is, are we letting in lives who present a greatly increased risk compared to the average?

So, at Integrity, like a good many other life companies, we cover all our insured customers when they are acting as volunteers in any capacity. Whether you’re directly involved or providing support like food and resources to the front line you’re covered. If you’re not with Integrity Life, you should check that you are covered as there may be an exclusion. If any clients have any doubts and would like our reassurance, please direct them to this article, or we are happy to write to them and confirm their cover.

At the end of the day, our position is; with volunteering being so prevalent, it should be considered part of the experience of the pool of insureds and have no effect on the pool, so we insure our clients even when they’re volunteering

Scott Hodgson

Scott Hodgson

Chief Underwriter

How to build an Award-Winning Adviser portal.

How to build an Award-Winning Adviser portal.

When we launched Integrity Life, there wasn’t a technology solution on the market that could do everything Advisers told us they needed. So instead of launching as just a life insurer (no easy feat) we also launched as a tech company. Even today, half of our company works in technology, development or user-design. This year we were rewarded for the investment in technology with a Good Design Award. These awards recognize the greatest innovations from across the country and we’re thrilled to be the only insurer to ever have won. At the heart of this, striving for the most game-changing platform in the industry, is our Head of Development, Fraser Hamilton. We spoke with him about a year of big achievements.

Hi Fraser, first, congratulations on the Good Design Award. It’s a big deal! Why do you think the judges were so impressed?

Fraser Hamilton: Thanks, we certainly think it is a big deal, especially given this was a platform designed from the ground up to meet the needs of Advisers. I think the judges were impressed by how we were able to simplify the complex process of purchasing life insurance with features such as the flexibility to complete the application in any order and never having to enter the same data twice. The friendly look and feel of the design and of usability was also a consideration, particularly in an industry that doesn’t always focus on the end-user.

What are some of the features in the Adviser portal you have delivered this year?

Fraser Hamilton: We’ve delivered many new features this year – in fact we are able to deliver changes across the entire platform every two weeks. Specifically, we’ve delivered Five+, our small-to-medium enterprise group product in only six weeks. As a ‘digital first’ life insurer we delivered features that allow an Adviser to send the application to the end customer for completion via the online platform – this provides the customer with greater privacy and convenience in how they provide their personal information particularly when compared to other industry approaches such as tele-underwriting.

What are you most proud of?

Fraser Hamilton: I’m most proud of how we have started to deliver a retail life insurance platform with industry leading user experience in just nine months, using some of the most modern technology used in life insurance – anywhere in the world. We were able to achieve this by really backing ourselves and making bold decisions. This gives us huge advantages in time-to-market.

Without giving away the farm, can you tell us about any features you’re really excited about coming soon?

Fraser Hamilton: From an Adviser perspective I am really excited about the policy administration features we will be providing – they are real game changers. From a technology perspective we are continuing to evolve the platform to make it even easier to deploy new features more rapidly. We currently release every two weeks, but there is no reason why we can’t release every day if desired.

How does the team deliver so much? And how do you decide what feature to do next?

Fraser Hamilton: We are able to deliver so much because we do not have any legacy applications and our frequency of deployment allows us to continually improve the platform and keep it fresh. We are also very disciplined at focusing only on the highest priority features required by the business. We determine what we work on next by working closely with the executive team to establish a backlog of features to work on and to set the priority for the coming sprints. Because we release very frequently and we continuously gather feedback on the experience, we are constantly responding to the needs of our Advisers.


Fraser Hamilton

Fraser Hamilton

Head of Development

Why good design matters in Life Insurance.

Why good design matters in Life Insurance.

Our Managing Director and CEO, Chris Powell, was recently at a dinner, sitting next to the head of a large dealer group. He was chatting to Chris about our Adviser Portal and our next biggest competitors’ portal. He had decided to do a timed test between the two. Same case, same data – portal against portal. One took 45 minutes, and one took 14. Chris relays that, at this point in the story, he was thinking confidently to himself “ours will be the quickest”. Of course, it was, and in this story, we have our first example of why good design matters. How much it matters, is about to exponentially increase.

Advisers have had a tough year in 2019. The combination of changes in commissions, exams, increases in fees from some dealer groups, the Royal Commission and bad press driving down trust (even for the good guys) it’s no wonder many are leaving the industry. For those who stay, they’re going to need a shift in focus and new ways of working to maintain the same levels of business. Operational efficiency is going to be part of the way that Advisers are able to do more with less. Focusing on margins will mean that all processes will be under the microscope. Enter, good design.

What is ‘design’ anyway?

When we talk about ‘design’ we’re not talking about how lovely our logo looks (although we certainly have our admirers having won both the Sydney and Melbourne Design Awards for brand) we’re talking about a process by which everything from forms, to buttons, and every little digital behavior is tested and optimized. Why? Because we have a simple goal in design. Make it as simple, easy, and quick to use as possible. 

Can design effect lives?

In our earlier anecdote, you can see how good design can save you time and money, but can it go further? If you’re in Australia, then you may be familiar with plan packaging for all tobacco products. We made history in 2012 as the first country in the world to introduce such a measure. To make sure we got it right, the Department of Health and Ageing hired market research company GfK Blue Moon to find the ugliest colour in the world. After seven studies involving 1,000 smokers, the researchers chose a particularly nauseating shade of brown known as Pantone 448C, or ‘opaque couché’. It was associated with death, tar and dirt – and now it’s been coupled with cigarettes, too. The measure is attributed to reducing the number of smokers by significant numbers. It’s not difficult then to see how poor design could have a detrimental impact on someone’s life if they fail to disclose critical information or believe they are covered for something they’re not – and it can all come down to design.

The final note.

This year, we were fortunate enough to win a Good Design Award – the only Life Insurance company to ever win one. It was awarded for our Adviser portal based on how easy and simple it was to navigate and use. Like us, the people at Good Design Australia have seen the power of good design first-hand. They believe that good design doesn’t just exist for aesthetic reasons, although they are important, it’s about solving human problems, driving innovation and ultimately making life better. And that’s why we’re in Life Insurance!

Integrity Life

Integrity Life

From the newsroom

Understanding mental health and life insurance.

Understanding mental health and life insurance.

If you read the headlines, you can be forgiven for thinking that insurers don’t understand mental health. Certainly not the nuances between a ‘tough patch’ as a response to a normal life and a debilitating condition. With 1 in 5 Australians experiencing mental ill health, it’s a topic that’s not going away, so we spoke to our Chief Underwriter and industry veteran, Scott Hodgson, for his perspective on why insurers struggle to support and understand mental health. 

Let’s jump right in, Scott. Why do you think underwriters (and insurers) have such a tough time grappling with how to handle mental health?

Scott Hodgson: At a company level, mental health conditions are a major cause of claims, and so life insurers want to understand the risk to manage it over time (so they can get the pricing right). It’s a very sensitive topic at a personal level and so advisers and underwriters find it hard to discuss with some applicants. Plus, it is difficult to properly classify the risk when assessing it, as individuals all have different responses to life events – and different diagnoses can often be made for what might be similar triggers for a mental health issue.

Additionally, there are no universal clinical indicators, for example blood tests, for mental health conditions, so diagnosis and treatment requires skilled practitioners, and even the medical profession finds treating mental health patients complex.

What is your view on exclusions related to mental health?

Scott Hodgson: I’ve seen a worrying trend of automatic exclusions without really understanding the situation. If for example, you have a major life event (loss of a loved one for example) and you see a psychologist, perhaps you’re even on medication temporarily, but you didn’t take a heap of time off work and this was years ago, I don’t see why this would mean an exclusion. But because the risk cannot always be quantified it is necessary to exclude in some cases. This is preferable to not offering cover at all, and of course over time the exclusion can be reviewed. Once sufficient time has passed and the condition is managed well (or has receded) then the exclusion may be removed.

Is there any good news on this front in terms of changing attitudes, policy and research?

Scott Hodgson: Fortunately we now have good public policy around mental health, much more openness and de-stigmatising in general as well as better training of general practitioners in respect to mental health, plus access to Medicare supported sessions with psychologists. So while it might seem like mental health conditions are at epidemic levels, it is simply that these conditions are now being discussed and disclosed. Hopefully this leads to much better management than in the past. In time gone by you may remember a neighbor or relative who had a “nervous breakdown” that was discussed in hushed tones? These days anxiety and depression related to life events should be considered manageable conditions, that need empathy from the community.


Scott Hodgson

Scott Hodgson

Chief Underwriter

Designing flexible products that work for ‘real life’.

Designing flexible products that work for ‘real life’.

It’s been said that life insurance is ‘sold, not bought’. Partly this is due to the complexity of products but also because human nature is to believe ‘it won’t happen to me’. The key to advisers being able to have meaningful conversations with clients is the mutual understanding that comes from a simple product that is grounded in the real world. The conversation should be about the lived experience not detangling complexity. To better understand how we have approached this challenge, we spoke to Head of Retail Product, William Rogers.

So, Will, could you talk us through how you approached the product design? Where did you start?

Will: When we started to design products, we took the time to undertake detailed customer research to understand what advisers and their clients wanted and where the opportunities were to improve life insurance in Australia.

To bring the product to life, we approached the design with ‘simplicity’ as the key focus. Simplicity leads to greater understanding of the value of a policy and allows advisers to have better, more meaningful conversations with their clients about the life they want to live and not get bogged down in the complexity that is endemic in the life insurance industry.

The modular design of our product is simple to look at (pictured below), so while most people would be familiar with the cover types, could you talk us though what you mean by ‘shared product features’?

Will: Good question! The simplicity in product design allowed us to focus on 3 key elements within the product being, Shared product features, 4 core covers and our unique Care Support Package. This focus on the 3 elements delivers a fully featured but simplified retail product.

The shared product features are those elements of an insurance policy that are available on or apply to all core covers.

A few that are worth calling out are features like ‘guaranteed renewable’ and ‘guarantee of upgrade’. This guarantee of upgrade provides policy holders with the certainty that when an enhancement is made to a benefit or medical definition within their policy, we will upgrade their cover to the new standard. Should they claim, we will assess their claim based on the terms at the time of their claim as well as any period of time from when they took out the policy.

We don’t have any policy fees or minimum premium. One of our guiding principles that goes hand-in-hand with simplicity is transparency. The price is the price. We don’t believe in adding fees and service charges on top of the premium.

Cover increases in line with CPI, that is the actual CPI not 5%. This means that for our policies, the actual increase applied for CPI for 2018/19 was 1.6%. This means cover increases at a pace that aligns to what our policy holders are seeing in their life and reduces the risk of over insurance.

Premium relief options. This includes the ability to freeze the annual premium amount which caters for policy owners who see the value of their cover however may be facing financial pressures to retain their cover.

We believe in these brilliant basics that should apply to all our core cover types. By making them standard and grouping them together it keeps our PDS simple and easy to understand.

What is the ‘Care Support Package’ and why is this separate?

Will: The Care Support Package groups 9 benefits which are generally seen as ancillary benefits within IP and lump sum covers into a single package or option that can be linked to a single cover – whether that be income insurance or a lump sum cover. Once you add this to our covers, we believe it becomes superior overall cover while maintaining the simplicity.

Benefits that are included in the Care Support Package include Accommodation Care, Home Care, Grief Counselling and Professional Services benefits.

It also includes a Terminal Illness benefit – which provides a benefit to a life insured in the form of a reimbursement where they have less than 30 days to live. This benefit can be used in the way that they need. This could be to have their family support network around them, in a tent in the middle of Bondi Beach to watch the sun rise or spend these final days in their own home, with their support network of doctors, family and friends close at hand.

It should also be noted that the Care Support Package fee is waived when you take out three covers or more. 

William Rogers

William Rogers

Head of Retail Product