Assumption Life’s Vision for the Future
Assumption Life CEO Andre Vincent told
the Insurance and Investment Journal
the company’s plans for the future..
Assumption Life took a huge risk in 2013, and it paid off in a big way.
That year, they took universal life products out of their line-up entirely and decided that they would only offer insurance products that could be sold through their online platform.
The plan worked better than anyone could’ve anticipated because Assumption Life was able to keep their entire sales force and increase their revenue.
“Younger advisors love the idea of only operating on an electronic platform. Older advisors are a little more reluctant, but they get over their reservations once they have tried it,” explained Assumption Life’s CEO Andre Vincent to the Insurance and Investment Journal.
“These converts like the immediacy and the built-in safeguards against errors, which refuse to submit an application for insurance if it is incomplete. In addition, commissions are paid to the advisor in the same week the sale is made. Managing general agents also like the platform. They are able to save time and resources since they do not have to deal with paper.”
They were able to retain most of their advisors by keeping it simple. They only do business with other insurance providers if the requested products can be processed on paper.
But even with this stunning success, Assumption Life is not stopping there. In fact, they’re planning to move beyond the heavy competition of the individual life insurance market.
“Assumption Life is known among advisors for the ease of its individual life insurance transactions. This is what the company wants to become known for in other product lines as well,” said Vincent.
By the second quarter of 2014, they’re looking to release a simplified issue critical illness product that can be sold online and they will register as a Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan administrator in Quebec, so group benefit insurance is in their sites as well. They hope to complement that offering with an individual pension plan, which allows people to make contributions beyond their RRSP.
Other products are on deck for 2015, with Assumption Life planning a living benefits and health insurance package.
“This platform will not be ready in the next few months. It involves a lot of work and partnerships with reinsurers,” explains Vincent.
This new direction was motivated by low interest rates and new International Financial Reporting Standards that make products like universal life, with their long-term guaranteed, less attractive and profitable for insurance companies.
“[IFRS] put an incredible amount of pressure on insurers,” says Vincent.
“The ones that have come into force have resulted in more complexity and have obliged us to restate some figures in our results as liabilities and assets of the insured, but that is nothing compared to what is coming. The future accounting standards applicable to life insurance contracts will result in an enormous amount of uncertainty for insurers. It is expected that they will come into force in 2018. This is quite soon.”
Still, they are moving forward with their plans for the future by automating as many functions as possible, but Vincent assures that such automation will not alter the client experience.
“My best feedback, I get it from advisors who like to call us because we treat them like human beings. This has to be the case across all business lines, including group insurance, and for all parties: the advisor, the insured, the employer… The client experience, this is something everyone goes through.”
Part of the reason Assumption Life is able to keep the client experience so personal for advisors who sell their products is their small size — something Vincent insists the larger players in the industry, like Manulife and Great-West Life, have a harder time replicating.
“I worked for the large players and what they are experiencing is an enormous pressure on operating costs and profitability. It is a pressure that is forcing them to cut corners in order to provide certain services,” he said.
Vincent promises that Assumption Life will not go that route. He insists that if there is something that the insurance provider can do differently, he will find a way to do it.
“Can we do it differently? We know we will be copied sooner or later,” he said.
“Many have imitated our simplified issue products because they saw they did not have a lot of business in this niche. So it will become crowded and we will have to find other areas. To set ourselves apart in our niche markets, we have to go over and above and offer a level of excellence that everyone recognizes. I can’t claim we are there yet!”
Assumption Life has made a huge splash in the simplified issue marketplace. Their flagship product, Golden Protection, has been closely replicated by two Canadian Life Insurance carriers. The product still has some key advantages, including an issue age of 95 or under. Most Simplified Issue carriers stop issuing coverage at 75 and 85. Their Insta-term plan is also a very good option for people who would have a hard time qualifying for traditional life insurance. Our president, Chantal Marr, points out that applicants who think they may be declined for traditional life insurance should first apply for a Simplified Issue policy. The reason is, if they are declined, it will limit their options going forward. Most simplified issue plans (Assumption Life’s included) have a question related to the insured being declined for a plan in the first two policy years, and if the insured answers yes, they will qualify for a deferred death benefit plan only, which means there will be a two-year waiting period on all non-accidental deaths.