Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss where a party agrees to compensate another party in the event of loss, damage, or injury; in exchange for a fee. In other words, insurance is a risk transfer mechanism where you transfer your risk to the insurance company to get coverage for any financial loss you may face due to unforeseen events. The emotional and psychological loss can never be compensated, but at least the financial loss can be compensated with insurance.
Smart Investor spoke to Fabrice Benard, CEO of Generali Insurance Malaysia Berhad and Country Head of Generali Entities in Malaysia to learn more about the current insurance landscape in Malaysia.
Smart Investor: Has the pandemic impacted the insurance industry? What’s the penetration rate for Malaysians?
Fabrice Benard: Definitely, the pandemic has impacted most economic sectors, with very few exceptions. But I would say there is an advantage in such adversity. It has presented new, emerging protection needs, and accelerated innovation, transformation and sustainability practices within the industry.
We also noticed a shifting landscape of insurance awareness during and post pandemic – where many Malaysians are becoming more informed, health conscious and aware of the importance of insurance protection. This has given us an opportunity to protect what matters, address the protection gap and actively reach out to a wider range of customers and communities.
SI: With high inflation, people have less disposable income and might have less to spend on insurance. How can they cope? And is there any help coming from the insurance industry?
FB: As a lifetime partner to our customers, part of our commitment is to bridge the protection gap and extend our protection far beyond our existing customer base. Financial inclusion is important to us, and we want to engage and educate the communities as much as possible and ensure that everyone can receive the protection they need. For example, providing instalment payment plans via our partner banks for selected products to ensure that our products remain affordable.
Besides that, it is also essential to create a value-added service ecosystem to address customer needs. This is deployed via our strong distribution network, strategic partnerships and other type of services: information, prevention, protection, assistance. We also continuously find ways to be more inclusive, yet innovative and personalised in our product offerings to target different customer segments.
- We launched SmartTraveller Enhanced ― the first-in-market travel insurance in Malaysia with pandemic illness coverage up to RM350,000 in view of increasing travel protection needs due to reopening of borders.
- Launched SmartMedi Outpatient ― the 1st standalone outpatient medical insurance in Malaysia that offers standalone outpatient coverage for General Practitioner / Simulated Patient clinic visits which does not require hospitalization. It is a complementary product to the In-patient coverage.
- Launched Multi Medic – the 1st modular Individual Medical insurance that allows consumers to build the coverage to suit their life stages and financial needs.
- The Multi Biz Protector Enhanced – a customisable and comprehensive insurance plan designed for owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to cover their key business risks. It is a comprehensive product where most of the risk exposures are covered in this ‘one stop’ package. Customised to their needs, business owners can select their preferred protection needs.
SI: Post-Covid or Long Covid symptoms are considered chronic diseases that insurance might not cover; why is that so?
FB: Post-Covid or long Covid symptoms are common exclusions in the insurance industry. Usually, when it comes to health or medical claims, there needs to be objective medical proof to support the claim. It goes without saying that health insurance only covers conditions where medical attention is absolutely necessary. Long Covid symptoms usually develop after the original Covid infection has cleared, and they can be tricky to measure or assess, especially when it comes to the treatment duration and standards of care.
But beyond claim coverage, we are committed to extend our best support to our customers struggling with long-term Covid symptoms. It is important for us to provide our customers with the care they need, while ensuring our panel medical partners implement appropriate clinical guidelines and practices.
SI: Company insurance only covers you until the age of 60. Is there any insurance for those approaching retirement age and those with disease
FB: While company insurance typically covers up to 60, it is recommended to have a complementary individual comprehensive insurance plan that can keep you protected up to a higher age limit. For example, our comprehensive critical illness plan – CritiCover, do cover up to age 100 with protection against 194 critical illnesses and any future unknown illnesses. This plan will help to ease your financial burden while allowing you to focus on your recovery. Besides that, we also have various other products such as the SmartPA Enhanced and other Individual Health Plans such as SmartCare Optimum Plus that provides coverage up to age 100.
For individuals with health conditions, insurance companies may still offer insurance plans that have additional restrictions or exclusions for certain pre-existing conditions. The type of plans, coverage and premium offering may differs depending on the person’s health status.
SI: Any medical insurance for pregnant ladies and babies? Is it necessary to take such a policy?
FB: Complications such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension etc. may be contracted by pregnant or postpartum ladies, and such diseases may lead to unexpected medical expenses. Having an insurance plan is recommended to ensure you receive the necessary care and support on your recovery.
Though most individual insurance plan do not cover the cost of delivery or normal hospitalisation bill, there are several critical illness insurance plans that cover pregnancy complications.
Aside from the importance of a pregnant lady being insurance protected, having medical insurance for your child is equally important too. Children, especially infants, are susceptible to illnesses and accidents. Medical Insurance can provide peace of mind and security to the parent, knowing that their child will have access to the necessary medical attention when they need it most. For as young as 15 days old, your child can be covered under our comprehensive medical insurance plan – OneMedic Elite, which covers hospitalisation bills incurred should your child requires medical treatment.
SI: Education is getting more expensive. Is education insurance important?
FB: An education savings insurance plan is a type of insurance policy that provides a combination of insurance protection and savings elements, specially designed to help families to save aside for the future cost of education. Such plans allow you to save aside over a period of time, and such savings will be further invested to grow over time and, at the same time, provide regular bonuses to your insurance savings fund. You can access your savings fund to pay for your children’s education expenses. The amount required to set aside for such an insurance plan depends on your target education fund.
Such insurance plan also provide a lump sum payment to the beneficiaries in the event the insured person’s death, disability or diagnosed with critical illness, where such event may prevent your children from completing or paying for your children’s education. This will allow you to focus on their education goals without having to worry about the financial consequences of life’s unexpected events.
To help you to achieve your desired education for your child, our insurance savings plan – Wealth Saver, is designed to help you diversify your savings and achieve your financial goals. With just a short-term commitment of only 4 years, you can enjoy a guaranteed annual income of up to 18% of the sum insured. You will continue to be payable to you or your loved ones in the event of death or Total and Permanent Disability (TPD).
SI: What’s the reason people are not buying insurance? And what can be done to increase awareness of the importance of having insurance?
FB: Many think that insurance is expensive and an unnecessary expense. There are also some who merely see insurance as an investment rather than a form of protection. But insurance works on the principle of risk transfer and pooling – the whole intrinsic idea of insurance is to protect against uncertainties and unexpected risks.
Increasing awareness of this takes a collective effort from all insurers. While continuous educational campaigns are important, we are also looking at providing better insurance experiences as a whole by transforming our role beyond just selling products to providing more value-added, personalised services. Our guiding principle is to make the entire purchase, service, claims, assistance, and renewal effortless and care while ensuring that our customers receive personalised, phygital advice with a human touch for complex matters. We believe this will help bring a better experience and create more avenues for new protection.