Canadian life insurers innovating amid pressure, says EY

by Leo Almazora11 Dec 2019

Canada’s life insurance industry faces several challenges, but those aren’t stopping it from moving forward in the new decade.

In its latest insurance outlook focused on Canada’s insurance space, EY noted the continuing difficulties represented by regulatory pressures, InsurTech disruption, increasingly demanding customers, and rising operating and claims costs.

Slowing premiums were another issue. Citing Swiss Re Sigma, the report said that from 2013 to 2018, the compound annual growth rate in gross written premiums experienced by the life sector was just 5.1% from a Canadian-dollar basis, and 0.4% from a US-dollar basis.

“In spite, or because, of all of these factors, insurers in Canada continue to innovate and adapt,” the report’s authors said.

One notable trend in life insurance is a shift from product-centricity to customer-centricity. As consumers come to expect greater choice, personalization, simplicity, and ease from their interactions, insurers and brokers are using technology to enhance front-office applications, as well as automating sales and marketing processes.

The need to engage consumers better is clear as 40% of Canadians have no life insurance, while 30% have no health insurance, the report said.

“Greater adoption of cloud computing, connected smart devices, new protocols and easy-to-scale platforms are driven by the need for agility,” the report said, emphasizing the importance of reducing costs and automating processes given shortfalls and talent as well as an aging Canadian workforce.

Canadian insurers have also been pursuing growth through acquisitions of stable firms that align with or complement their existing competencies. Larger life insurance companies, the report added, are streamlining their businesses in an effort to “remain agile enough to pivot and adjust to a changing landscape.”

The dynamic of acquisitions in the industry has also been slowly morphing into one of consolidation. From 2013 to 2018, the number of transactions completed among brokers and agents grew by approximately 140% to reach 626. The number of buyers completing acquisitions, on the other hand, sank to 142 in 2018, compared to 177 in 2017 and 153 in 2016, the report said.

“Insurers across the country are faced with shifting regulations and changes to financial reporting standards,” EY said, highlighting the announcement of IFRS 17 as well as an increased focus on data protection. “While insurers prepare to redesign their financial reporting frameworks to meet IFRS 17, insurers must also embed data privacy in all systems, operations and processes.”