Other parts of this series:
In response to COVID-19, insurance companies made short-term and long-term changes that impacted the community, customers, agents/partners and employees. In our previous blog, we outlined our data-driven approach to identifying initiatives and talked about each category at a high-level. This time, we will dive deeper into how insurers supported their communities and customers. Let’s get started.
Insurers supported their communities during COVID-19
In addition to keeping operations going, one of the first things insurers did was announce aid to their communities. New York Life and Cigna raised over $100 million for frontline healthcare workers through their Brave Heart Fund. Insurers like John Hancock, Chubb and many others partnered with governments and non-profits to provide food, face masks and other essentials to frontline workers.
Other insurers went even further. MassMutual provided free term life insurance to frontline healthcare workers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, while MetLife offered 250 free hotel rooms to healthcare workers fighting against the pandemic.
Takeaway: Like most companies, insurers wanted to contribute positively to the communities where their employees and customers live and work. Through aid and other community-related actions over the past year, many insurers were able to support those in need while strengthening existing community relationships.
Insurers offered financial relief and launched new products for customers
A major theme in the way insurance companies responded to COVID-19 is by making immediate, tactical decisions in the short-term and then launching more long-term, structural initiatives. Customers were front and center of many initiatives launched by insurers over the past year.
Overall, short-term announcements were focused on financial relief for customers, though which customers got relief depended on the type of insurer. P&C insurers focused their financial relief primarily on auto customers due to a drop in driving. Many announced reduced premiums and offered policy credits for auto insurance, including Allstate, Farmers, Geico and Liberty Mutual. Others paused canceling policies because of non-payment, like Geico, Allstate, and MetLife. Farmers offered flexible payment plans.
On the other side, Life insurers focused on their retirement customers. Metlife extended the due dates for premiums, and Aflac offered flexible payment options. Transamerica similarly extended grace periods while also adding a new option to submit documents safely online.
Of course, retail customers aren’t the only customers. Commercial customers saw similar short-term initiatives:
- State Farm lowered business owner policy rates by an average of 7 percent, resulting in $54 million in savings. Similarly, State Farm in Illinois expanded its partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to offer low-interest COVID-19 loans for businesses and non-profits.
- Chubb announced a Small Business Support Program to lower the financial burden on its small business clients by offering an automatic 25 percent reduction in the exposures used to calculate their premiums as well as a 15 percent reduction in premiums for their commercial auto insurance. They also offered to purchase $1 million in gift cards from small businesses to give to healthcare workers and other first responders.
- Farmers offered a 20 percent monthly credit on their Business Owners Policies, lowering premiums for business customers in the restaurant, office, retail and service sectors.
- Both Principal Financial Group and Lincoln Financial Group announced fee waivers for participant-paid distribution and loan origination fees.
- Transamerica announced a Student Loan Repayment Program through employers to help workers pay back student loans.
Technology was at the heart of customer-related long-term initiatives. And like the short-term initiatives, P&C and Life insurers responded differently, depending on the needs of the segment.
- P&C Technology: Many P&C insurers used technology to offer contactless claims during the pandemic. Farmers is an example of using photos, videos and virtual inspections to keep customers safe while also speeding up and improving the claims experience. Likewise, Allstate leveraged their Virtual Assist capability for auto claims, which allows a body shop to create an initial estimate and get approval on supplemental coverage as they repair a vehicle.
- Life Technology: Lincoln Financial Group conducted a survey where half of retirement savers said they are more concerned about future market volatility than they were before the pandemic. In direct response to this, Lincoln launched a new retirement solution with in-plan guaranteed income. Related to retirement, Transamerica launched a low-cost variable annuity product to help its customers with financial security. Finally, John Hancock launched two digital tools for financial professionals in the wake of COVID-19: an Onboarding Resource Center and a Plan Manager.
- Health Technology: We would be remiss not to mention the major focus of physical and mental health initiatives launched during COVID-19. For example, Prudential launched NeuroFlow, a behavioral health and care management tool to improve the mental health of its disability claimants.
Partnerships were a crucial strategy to move at a faster pace and do things insurers couldn’t do on their own. Aetna worked with MAP Health Management to expand telehealth support services and Progressive launched Flo Chatbot using Microsoft’s Azure AI capabilities. John Hancock and Amazon teamed up to help customers make connections between their fitness, sleep and other lifestyle habits, while TIAA partnered with Notarize.com to develop an online notary service.
Again, commercial customers can’t be forgotten. There were three major focuses for insurers in the commercial space.
- New Technology-Driven Offerings: Liberty Mutual leveraged technology that allows commercial customers to use streaming video and images to remotely adjust property claims. Nationwide partnered with Samsara to use video telematics and AI to help commercial trucking customers protect and manage their fleet. Transamerica launched a new retirement plan initiative for small businesses to offer personalized, fee-waived investment advice. And Liberty Mutual partnered with CoreLogic to launch a cloud-based, next-generation property estimation platform for faster claims processing.
- New Employee Benefit Opportunities: Insurers stepped up to help businesses protect and support their employees. MetLife expanded its relationship with PlanSource to offer a contemporary, end-to-end employee benefits experience. Liberty Mutual collaborated with Magellan Healthcare to launch an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for its mid-size construction customers. Along the same lines, Liberty Mutual also launched an app that uses artificial intelligence to protect workers and bottom lines from overexertion injuries.
- Partnerships: We’ve already referenced a myriad of partnerships insurers made to support their commercial customers: Nationwide with Samsara and Liberty Mutual with CoreLogic and Magellan Healthcare. MetLife also partnered with 10 startups to develop financial wellness and engagement solutions.
Takeaway: It’s not surprising that most initiatives launched by insurers during COVID-19 were customer-driven. Within this category, however, is a wide array of different technologies, platforms, financial support and partnerships. This indicates that, while the overall goals of insurers around supporting their customers and tailoring products and offerings to meet their needs are the same, each insurer is forging their own path. The long-term initiatives, specifically, will help insurers move into the post-pandemic world more resilient and digitally driven than ever before. It’s also particularly of note that so many of these initiatives would not have been possible without partnerships, especially the commercial customer initiatives.
Overall, insurers made significant changes to support their communities and customers during COVID-19. These changes have drastically changed the way insurers interact with their customers—and vice versa. COVID-19 has ushered in a new world for the insurance industry, one that is flexible, digital and personalized.
In our final blog post of this series, we will do a similar deep dive into the ways insurance companies moved to support their agents/partners and employees and what that means for the future.
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