Insurance Article, The Insurance Times 2022, The Insurance Times April 2022

WOMEN INSURANCE – NEGLECTED & DISOWNED

The mission of any governmenthas been to end poverty and promote shared prosperity. The journey out of poverty is not easy, but personal or natural disasters can be major setbacks. That’s why access to insurance serviceshas an essential role in poverty eradication.

The penetration of insurance, measured by premiums to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is just 2.9% in emerging markets(markets that have some characteristics of a developed market, but does not fully meet its standards),as against over 7% in the US and over 9% in the UK. This suggests strong growth potential in countries where GDP per capita isup to $5,000.

Women are key to increasing penetration of insurance,as they have less financial protection than men. It is estimated that by 2030, the global market for insurance for women could reach $1.45–1.7bn. In emerging markets, the potential growth is exponential. It is estimated that the market could grow to between $570 and $890bn.

Insurance industryhas not adopted a strategic approach towards increasing women’s adoption of insurance. This could be due to particular circumstances faced by women. Insurance provided by employers is not tailored to the needs of women. In developed and emerging marketsa significant proportion of women are engaged in part-time or unpaid work. In a report by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) even in the UK, 42% of women work part-time, compared with 13%of men. In emerging markets, more women are in the informal sector, with no ‘employer’ in the traditional sense. Since most insured have policies through their employers, women’s access to insurance is almost zero.

Women have different needs, especially in health insurance. These, in emerging markets, are not met by standard policies. Obvious example is cover for pregnancy. In addition, women tend to retire early but live longer than men. Women have no or smaller pensionsto help sustain their lifestyle and address health challenges.

Despite the business opportunity, the challenges may seem insurmountable. However, there are practical solutions that insurers can take to the open market by addressing women’s needs. Companies need to make sure they have accurate data about the gender of their customers–not just overall, but also by product. To make progress in marketing to women,insurers must establish a clear baseline, KPIs and incentives related to growing their female customer base. Example: Increase in women policyholders or growth in the number of active female agents.

Another issue is the need for insurers to be solution-oriented. Current insurance products are designed with men’s needs in mind. They fall short of women’s expectations to mitigate riskand prepare for the future. This requires a good understanding of women’s financial and health concerns and equipping them with tools. And hence, women often look to advisors to help them address such challenges.

Insurers also must call on women as influencers to increase their knowledge and use of insurance, while enhancing the market’s trust level. Partnerships with other stakeholders – governments, schools, hospitals, non-profits, churches and temples—can help educate women consumers.

In South Africa, 1stfor Women (Telesure group) is a brand focused on the needs of women customers. Products include life, health, motor, buildings and home contents. Women like some features, like handbag coverage (part of home-contents policy) and tailor-made women’s health coverage.

Assupol, another South African insurer has a majority-female clientele @ 58 %. For new business the percentage is 65% in some years. Assupol attributes its success to two factors: products that address the different life stages of women, and high proportion of women in client-facing roles, such as sales and client service. The company deploys mobile offices to townships and villages, making it easier for women who cannot leave their families for meetings with insurance representatives.

In Brazil, Porto Seguro has added concierge services to its motor policy, Auto Mulher, aimed at women. Services include 24-hour vehicle or home assistance, access to drivers who can pick up children from school or drive people to the hospital, pick-up and delivery of cars for repairand discounts on such items as car-safety seats. These innovations reflectresearch in insurance.

In India, Tata AIG developed the Wellsurance Woman Policy, covering critical illnesses, including breast cancer, along with other benefits. The policy offers a health helpline and discounts for health and wellness services and cosmetic reconstruction surgery after an accident. They also offer a family policy which among other features covers children’s education in the event of death or total disability.

These examples show that few insurers are placing attention on women customers. To be successful, companies that market to women must fully integrate gender into their strategies and have a deliberate woman -centric business plans. Regulatorscan provide stimulus, if focused on gender issues. Governments and the private sector must understand the need to make insurance more women-inclusive. Finally, the industry can grow and flourish by promoting gender diversity within insurance companies and their intermediaries – at management and working levels. By taking such steps, targeting and serving the women’s market becomes second nature.

The research paper “Mainstreaming Gender and Targeting Women in Inclusive Insurance: Perspectives and Emerging Lessons” published in April 2017 by the Sector Initiative Systems of Social Protection and Sector Programme Global Initiative for Access to Insurance (GIZ GmbH in Germany) suggests that even women from low- and middle-income classes are prepared to spend 15% of their monthly income on insurance. It means women are more risk-aware than men.

If Increasing penetration of insurance for women is successful, there are important secondary benefits:

  1. Women’s participation in the economy will increase.
  2. Children whose parents are insured could continue education despite disasters or accidents.
  3. More employment opportunities for women in the insurance industry.

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