Navigating COVID-19: wind down new business, focus on staff

Navigating COVID-19: wind down new business, focus on staff | Insurance Business New Zealand

Navigating COVID-19: wind down new business, focus on staff

Insurers have had to react very quickly to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and they’ve had to respond to concerns from both their customers, and their staff. Insurers have been approaching different issues in various ways, and one insurer says it kicked certain measures into gear immediately once the scale of the disruption became clear.

Partners Life founder Naomi Ballantyne says that existing customers took immediate priority, and her first steps were to introduce measures to protect them from increased risk as much as possible - even if this meant a reduced opportunity for new business.

“Our first priority as soon as we realised that this virus was going to have a major impact was to focus on existing customers,” Ballantyne explained.

“We thought about how we would protect them against new customers coming on board in an environment where those new customers would bring higher risk - and that’s not so much about medicine, but about the fact that your proof of income would no longer be any kind of proxy for what your income is likely to be in the future.”

“We actually started to restrict access to products fairly early on to protect our existing customers and try to balance still being open for new business, because we knew advisers would have customers who were worried, and who would still want to buy,” she continued.

“We had to think about what we could let them buy, and how we could give them comfort that once we’re post-COVID, those restrictions could be reviewed and potentially removed.”

Ballantyne says staff were the company’s other major concern, and it was able to get them out of the office and working from home within just one day. She says Partners Life has tried to be as reassuring as possible when it comes to job security, something which is crucial for employee performance during tough times.

“This was certainly a test of our BCP and recovery plans, and we’re pleased to see that it’s working,” Ballantyne said.

“It’s about how you can give staff comfort when they can see what’s happening, and may experience their own families losing jobs. Their lives have changed forever in terms of how they work, so how do we provide them with some certainty?”

“We’ve had to talk about things like hire freezes, salary freezes, putting bonuses on hold, etc. so we could hold onto their jobs and get through this process,” she added.

“We’ve tried to give as much comfort as possible that they’re OK, so that they can continue to be effective within their jobs.”