“We certainly don’t see any slowdown [in travel] at the moment.”
Those were the words of Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) chief executive Jo McCauley (pictured) when she sat down with Insurance Business to talk about the insurer’s improved Working Overseas policy. Available for over two decades now, the product is currently enjoying a spike in demand.
Highlighting the differences of the offering from its original form, McCauley said: “We upgraded some of the benefits and made them also a bit clearer. One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve increased the emergency dental benefit limit. This is a product that customers are using for an extended period overseas, so we recognised it would be beneficial if we increased the emergency dental cover.
“We’ve also made it much clearer that customers can take a holiday in addition to working overseas as long as they tell us where they’re going. We’ve also made it much clearer that there’s automatic cover for skiing and snowboarding, because that was one of the questions that we would see frequently coming in. We do see a lot of our customers actually using this policy to go off and work as a ski instructor overseas.”
According to the CEO, most Working Overseas policyholders are travelling to Australia or the UK, with a few opting for the US and Canada.
“We did a bit of a refresh of the policy, as we have been refreshing all of our policies over the last couple of years,” added McCauley. “And we also launched the product into Australia. We have a business [there operating] under scti.com.au. We recreated the same product and launched it into Australia at the same time.”
SCTI indicated that, based on the current numbers and those prior to the pandemic, the demand for the product is growing.
“We get the feedback in terms of sales of the policy, and we’ve certainly seen a lift in sales,” McCauley told Insurance Business. “The lift is reflecting the change in consumer behaviour. People are really starting to think about working overseas.”
According to recent research by SCTI, 46% of workers in NZ would consider living and working remotely overseas to extend a trip or holiday. Meanwhile, in terms of Working Overseas policy sales, the insurer posted 32% growth when comparing the March 2019 to March 2020 period with the March 2022 to March 2023 span.
“We are seeing a real uplift in people intending to work overseas,” noted McCauley.
“We do tend to find that the customers that use this product are principally a little younger than our usual demographic, and they’re largely Kiwis in their 20s off to do their OE (overseas experience) in the UK. But it’s not exclusively designed for that demographic, so there’s nothing to stop you in your mid-40s going off to France for four or five months to work.”
Naturally, increased demand means the need for ample teams to address queries and more.
McCauley told Insurance Business: “We do receive a high level of calls into our sales and service centre. And we always encourage customers to give us a call if they’ve got any questions about the policy. We’ve seen a real uplift in calls following the pandemic, just as consumers have probably a heightened anxiety about what could go wrong when they travel.
“So, we are observing we’re receiving more calls, and customers are spending longer on the phone with our customer service representatives, asking those questions to get the assurance they need. The challenge for us has been building the team back following COVID so rapidly, and so we’ve been continually recruiting now for the last 18 months. It’s a huge focus for us, particularly in our operational team, which is our sales and service team and our claims team.”
The abovementioned challenge, however, is something that SCTI welcomes.
“We’re just hugely excited to see travel come back to the level that it has,” McCauley said. “It’s been faster than we anticipated, but that’s a great problem to have for us as a business. So, we’re just hugely excited about what the future holds, because we certainly don’t see any slowdown at the moment.”
What do you think about this travel insurance story? Share your thoughts in the comments below.