Demographic shift will drag on life insurers’ profits: says new report

The Conference Board of Canada report shows wholesale change already in process for life and health providers

Demographic shift will drag on life insurers’ profits: says new report
Canada’s aging population will weigh heavily on the growth prospects for the life insurance industry, according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada.

In addition, the study showed that the industry’s digital evolution could mean sales agents being replaced by automated versions. 

Data from The Conference Board of Canada shows that combined revenue for life and health providers increased to $85 billion in the first three quarters of 2016, adjusted for seasonality. This was offset by costs of $89 billion, however, leaving the industry in the red after recording a profit of $6.3 billion in 2015. 

Michael Burt, director, Industrial Trends at The Conference Board of Canada identifies how the next decade is set to transform the life and health space. 

“When you look at the fact that one out of five Canadians will be over the age of 65 in the next 5–10 years, that’s a large chunk of the population, so it is leading to a real change in the products the life and health industry are providing,” he says. 

When it comes to the life space, customers will increasingly use these type of products for when they are still alive, believes Burt.   

“Things like term life will become less important, but annuities and other financial payments outside of death will become more important,” he says. “Life insurance will become more of an investment vehicle for people.” 

For health insurance meanwhile, the industry will need to provide more options for Canada’s growing ranks of retirees. 

“Health providers will move away from group programs towards more individual-focused programs. They are better suited to people that are no longer employed,” he adds. 

Another major focus of the report was how technology was changing employment trends for life and health providers. Consumers in 2017 expect easier access to products and increasingly this is negating the need for a sales professional. In contrast, the need for specialists in data analytics continues to grow.  

“We are looking at HR trends and we are seeing things like writing policies are increasingly becoming automated,” he says. “There is growing demand for data analytics-type services. That is one of the key challenges for the industry, hiring the talent they need.” 

The difficulty in finding these workers comes from the fact that life and health insurers are far from the only industry currently on the lookout. It means people that possess those skills have plenty of choice, but things aren’t looking so rosy for those on the sales side. 

“They are competing with other industries that are also going through this transition, so that’s a key challenge – getting those skills and applying them to your business model,” says Burt. “You are also seeing things like customer service potentially moving away from a broker model to an automated agent.” 

Related stories:
Taxing health and dental plans may cost Canadians at least $1,000 more per year
Seniors’ transportation needs critical to healthy living, says report