Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Downward Spiral Continues

There isn’t a week that goes by where an Irish based Life & Pension company complains about the perilous state of their market. They are all in a ‘race to the bottom’ as they struggle with profitability and retention of business.

The Life & Pension market has nosedived about 60% since its peak in 2007. There is no way that anything like this number of regulated entities have exited the market since then. (I’m awaiting a reply from the regulator on the percentage increase/decrease since 2007.) So, where is their income coming from if there’s less ‘new’ business to go around? How can they all survive a decrease like 60%?

The dogs in the street know that there is a problem but no one seems to be doing anything about it, except complain. The only conclusion that I can come to is that the Life & Pension companies don’t think it’s their responsibility to change anything. If fact, there may be a mindset within the industry that is waiting for the regulator to ‘do something’.

The thing is, it’s not the regulator’s problem. The Life & Pension companies have created the problem themselves and it would not make sense for the regulator to intervene as, on the face of it, the consumer is benefiting from reductions in life insurance rates and enhanced allocation rates for pension/investment business.

As far as I am aware, Life & Pension companies have to submit annual figures on how many policies 'replace an existing contract, in whole or part', so the regulator should know what they’re looking at.

It may be that the Life & Pension companies want the regulator to say ‘your business model is doomed and you have to change it’. Of course, this would suit the companies as they could then ‘blame’ the regulator for insisting on change and save face with their broker/advisor market.

In the meantime, those who rewrite life insurance every few years will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of rate changes (again) in December due to new gender equality legislation. ‘New’ policies means ‘new’ income. The downward spiral continues.