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COVID-19 consumer survey shows insurers’ role in tackling pandemic challenges

By the Swiss Re Institute

25 July 2022

We are pleased to share this latest guest blog from the Swiss Re Institute, part of ICMIF Supporting Member organisation Swiss Re. The article is shared here with ICMIF members with the kind permission of Swiss Re and the Swiss Re Institute.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been more than a health crisis. This has been a pandemic of insecurity. From the United States to Europe, from Asia Pacific to Latin America, people have been forced to question aspects of their lives they once took for granted as they feared for their health, dealt with tragedy and navigated lockdowns. The Swiss Re Institute’s new 2022 survey of global insurance consumers underscores this: 40% of policy holders expressed insecurity over their existing levels of coverage.

As Swiss Re’s “Global COVID-19 Consumer Survey 2022” illustrates, COVID-19 lifted people’s risk awareness. Excess mortality brought into sharp relief how society was vulnerable. Our survey underscores the role of insurance in reducing this vulnerability, as respondents indicated rising intentions to buy insurance or augment existing policies, to prepare for future challenges. This translates into opportunities to narrow the insurance protection gap.

This is the third time Swiss Re has sampled consumers’ views about health and insurance since the pandemic began in 2020. Our first two surveys focused on Asia Pacific. For this latest effort, we expanded its scope to include 12 additional countries, representing advanced and emerging markets, to gain a global understanding of the forces shaping people’s lives in unprecedented times.

Here, we offer five of the survey’s key takeaways covering not only worries over insurance coverage and the pandemic’s hit on mental health, but the migration to digital solutions and insights about people’s willingness to share personal data.

How much is enough? People worried about insufficient insurance may seek additional cover

During a pandemic that disrupted just about everything, it’s no wonder many fear their coverage may not be sufficient. This heightened risk awareness, which insurers often observe after catastrophes, is seen driving demand for life insurance in 2022 and beyond. Still, there’s a divide between geographies, our survey shows, as some 53% of respondents in emerging markets indicated they will buy insurance, compared with just 18% in advanced markets. Insurance buying intentions are also higher among younger populations, with one in three people aged 18-29 and 30-39 saying they would do so. For insurers, this represents an opportunity in countries with low insurance penetration and younger populations.

Mental health’s importance has surged as people re-assess priorities

The World Health Organization (WHO) documented the pandemic-driven rise in anxiety and depression, calling this a “wake-up call” for nations to focus on mental health. Similarly, Swiss Re’s survey highlights a growing role for insurers in helping improve customers’ mental resilience. One-third of respondents reported deteriorating mental health, and respondents in most markets cite a rising awareness of mental wellbeing, with the pandemic a catalyst for many to recognise this as central to quality of life. In emerging markets, 64% of people said they sought mental health support since the pandemic began. Swiss Re’s findings underscore a big role for insurers in helping improve consumers’ mental health, now and beyond the pandemic, including via digital tools.

The pandemic is accelerating the digital journey

The pandemic pivot from traditional working and shopping has been dramatic, as many people do their jobs from home, purchase online and turn to digital apps to help them manage busy lives. Some studies show these changes are likely here to stay, even as the pandemic wanes. Swiss Re’s 2022 consumer survey also shows a clear digital migration for insurance purchases to online platforms. Use of health & wellness (H&W) apps is high among those under 40, for mental health, weight control, nutrition and physical health. These are key elements of Swiss Re’s “Big Six” lifestyle factors, modifiable behaviours we’ve concluded can significantly boost health and wellbeing. There’s a caveat, however: Swiss Re has documented how insurers should consider developing user-friendly digital options, while being careful not to neglect off-line options for those who favour more human interaction.

The bottom line remains consumers’ top priority

Cost of insurance and consumers’ perceptions of getting good value-for-money remains the most important driver in purchasing decisions across all markets. This is no surprise, given the financial insecurity caused by the pandemic in many sectors of the economy. People are minding their wallets, especially now that global inflation has accelerated. This is also why Swiss Re is leveraging technology to provide cover for more types of risk across all income levels. Nonetheless, cost isn’t the only factor, as Swiss Re’s survey shows, creating opportunities for insurers to reach customers with online offers, additional services including health & wellness apps and by providing flexibility to mix and match policies.

Quid pro quo: Customers will share their data – in exchange for benefits

The evolution of insurance models depends on insurers’ ability to tap into new sources of data to improve decision-making, strengthen underwriting and offer novel products to customers. To accomplish this, Swiss Re recognises the primacy of building digital trust, so clients know their information is being deployed responsibly and to their benefit. Our 2022 COVID-19 consumer survey points to a give-and-take approach: Globally, two in three consumers are open to sharing personal data or health information in exchange for benefits, like personalized health advice, accelerating transactions or getting a discount. A key takeaway: younger people and higher earners are more willing to share, if we work with them to show them how they benefit.

View the original article from the Swiss Re Institute here (including graphs and additional data).

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