Insurers listening to consumers’ online desires

With consumers increasingly demanding online options insurers have been forced to act. But how will it effect advisors?

Insurers listening to consumers’ online desires
Ask and you shall receive.

As generations comfortable with technology become the dominant money holders in society they’re increasingly demanding that everything from clothing to life insurance be available online.

“There’s pressure for self service,” said Nazir Valani, KPMG’s senior actuary for Life and Pensions. “I think there is already some pressure (on advisors) and it will continue because younger people like to go online and want to do all their shopping online.”

Already, insurers have noticed the trend and are slowly starting to provide information, resources and in some cases the ability to buy a policy online.

“For a lot of Canadians that are under 45 their preferences for doing research and finding out more about insurance is probably going to be online,” said Steve Carter, senior vice president for product management and development at BMO Insurance. “So we’re actually investing a fair amount of money in building our websites and providing more information about our insurance programs on our websites.”

For a lot of consumers a thought will pop into their head and they’ll just head to their computer or their smartphone to look for information.

“A lot of the online insurance activity is search engine advertising where basically it’s the client that’s shopping for the insurance online and they’re thinking, ‘Where do I find term life insurance?’ So they’ll go online. They’ll Google term life insurance and get a whole number of sites you can go onto and research insurance. So things are changing. That’s definitely a growing segment or a growing channel,” said Carter.

It’s led companies like BMO to offer needs analysis tools, self-help education to help consumers learn more about the different kinds of insurance that’s available.

“What we’re trying to do is provide the tools and the education and promoting awareness through to the public,” said Carter. “But at the same time certainly we have connections with independent advisors that are out there basically meeting people and engaging people and making the same progress in terms of selling insurance.”

While insurance is increasingly being offered online, Valani doesn’t see the role of the advisor going anywhere. “There’s more use of the internet in trying to purchase insurance, but this insurance has to be pretty simple,” he said. “Advisors will need to be involved because insurance is sold not bought as it is complicated. So there will continue to be pressure. But advisors are needed because the more complex [policies] need an advisor.”