Downwards counterfactual analysis

Stress and scenario testing are important risk assessment tools.  They also provide useful ways to prepare in advance for adverse scenarios so that management doesn’t have to create everything from first principles when something similar occurs.

But trying to imagine scenarios, particularly very severe scenarios, isn’t straightforward. We don’t have many examples of very extreme events.

Some insurers will dream up scenarios from scratch. It’s also common to refer to prior events and run the current business through those dark days. The Global Financial Crisis is a favourite – how would our business manage under credit spread spikes, drying up of liquidity, equity fall markets, higher lapses, lower sales, higher retrenchment claims, higher individual and corporate defaults, switches of funds out of equities, early withdrawals and surrenders and increased call centre volumes?

Downwards counterfactual analysis is the: Continue reading “Downwards counterfactual analysis”

Alternatives to uncanny

This is a rant about people who are wrong on the internet.  Also, why Huffington Post is a platform for big bad wolves. And why the asymmetric information and importance of financial advice means it’s not okay. Maybe this is just part of Cunningham’s Law.

Clickbait headline? Check.

3 Smart Alternatives to Life Insurance

Numbered list (the second one will surprise you…)? Check

Also, another numbered article by the same author “5 Viable Uses For A Reverse Mortgage”. No, I’m deliberately not linking. Then, without irony, another article, “The Death Of Click Bait Is Finally Here”.

Okay, but back to the actual topic. The first sentence in the article:

The simplest alternatives to life insurance include investing money and or saving it. If you are able to set aside enough funds each year, you can very well never have to worry about holding a life insurance policy.

So, in other words, a smart alternative to life insurance is just not having insurance at all.

The other two “smart alternatives” are, actually, life insurance. So the sum total of smart alternatives offered are “no insurance” and “life insurance”.

Maybe it’s fitting that the author describes himself:

Lazar is pronounced in his uncanny but effective content…

uncanny: strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.  Check.

 

Move over cholera, here’s the Black Death

The Black Death, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, wiped out 30 to 50 percent of Europe’s population between 1347 and 1351

Now, South Africa has been placed on high alert for a potential plague infection.

Mortality rates are estimated anywhere between 30% and 100% without treatment. Many estimates are towards the top end of this range, 80% to 95%. Treatments are available (mostly antibiotics) and are generally effective. Mortality rate where adequate treatment is administered within 24 hours can be 11%.  (Either “just 11%” or “11%!” depending on whether you’re counting up from 0% or down from 95%.)

Spread of Black Death across Europe in 14th century
Spread of Black Death across Europe in 14th century

Plague in Madagascar

124 people have already been killed by the plague in Madagascar. But this is just a particularly bad year. Continue reading “Move over cholera, here’s the Black Death”

Credit Life Aside: banning sale of credit life alongside lending?

Some markets have banned sale of insurance alongside lending

Another way to deal with the problem of competition in credit life is to simply not permit the sale of insurance at the same time as the loan. This means that more providers will have an opportunity to make the sale since the lender doesn’t have the ability to slip the product in alongside the loan.

Some problems:

  • Overall this will increase acquisition costs as it is extremely cost efficient to distribute along with the loan granting process.
  • The lender is still in the best position to follow up with an outbound sales lead in the days or weeks after the loan has been granted (unless they are prohibited from selling at all, which is another option that can be considered)
  • Lenders may not be prepared to lend without the protection of credit life in place
  • The reality remains that for some lenders, for some loans and for some credit life policies, the product acts as a source of revenue rather than a risk mitigant. Without that extra revenue, the loan might not be viable due to risks and expenses of collecting the installments.

So this approach is not without its own troubles.

Credit Life regulations and reactions (3)

This is a short addition to parts 1 and 2.

The question as to whether the benefit payable under a credit life policy can or should include arrears payments.

The purpose of a credit life policy is to protect the policyholder, the lender, and the policyholder’s estate (not necessarily in that order) against death, disability or retrenchment. This is only effectively achieved if the entire amount owing under the credit agreement is paid off by the policy.

So as a starting point, it would make sense for arrears to be included. All the stakeholders in the arrangement want this.

Back to the legal stuff

What do the credit life regulations say? Continue reading “Credit Life regulations and reactions (3)”

Credit Life regulations and reactions (2)

In part 1 I discussed the implications of basing premiums on initial balance or declining balance for profitability and the threat of substitute policies.

In this post I want to discuss substitute policies again, talk about cover for self-employed persons and definitions of waiting periods.

What is a substitute policy

Substitute policies are one of the few drivers of real potential competition and therefore competitive markets for credit life in South Africa. That’s probably not the definition you were expecting but nevertheless it is true.

With some exceptions, credit life is not sold in a competitive or symmetrical environment and customers have little or no bargaining power.

 

A substitute policy is a policy from another insurer (not connected to the lender) that covers the same or similar benefits and legally must be accepted as a substitute for the cover required by the lender under the terms of the loan.

Historically, the rate of substitute policies was tiny. Often less than 1%. Lenders and their associated insurers weren’t exactly incentivised to make it an easy process. For smaller loans and therefore smaller policies, the incremental acquisition costs can be prohibitive.

Substitute policies are gaining momentum

I am aware of several players specifically targeting existing credit life customers and aiming to switch these customers to their own products.

This has been enabled through:

  • standardising of credit life policies
  • bulking of many different small credit life policies into a larger one that is more cost effective to acquire and administer
  • technology (digital / online especially but also call centres) that can moderate costs
  • the growing awareness of how profitable these policies often are for a standalone insurer, even at the various caps imposed.

Lenders may need to supplement revenue on high risk customers because interest rate caps apply, but the stand alone insurer is focussed on a reasonable underwriting result, not the level necessary to offset costs elsewhere.

What counts as a substitute policy / minimum prescribed benefits

A substitute policy simply needs to cover the minimum benefits from section 3 of the credit life regulations. This covers death, permanent disability, temporary disability and unemployment or loss of income.

These regulations can be difficult to interpret, but ultimately are clear: Continue reading “Credit Life regulations and reactions (2)”

Book Review: Loss Coverage – Why Insurance Works Betters with Some Adverse Selection

In his book, Loss Coverage: Why Insurance Works Better with Some Adverse Selection, Guy Thomas propose an interesting point that adverse selection may not be as harmful as many actuaries believe. They actually go further and suggest that, at least from a policy perspective, adverse selection may be a good thing.

This is particularly relevant given the ambition of some InsurTech players to hyper select risks or price on many more factors than are traditionally used in order to gain a competitive advantage.   Thomas doesn’t argue that it will be individual insurers’ interests to allow adverse selection, but if these companies are successful it may then have implications for policy makers.

Incidentally, there are some interesting reasons for insurers themselves (with commercial interests) to be wary of selecting too well, counterintuitive as that may seem, but more on that for another time. Continue reading “Book Review: Loss Coverage – Why Insurance Works Betters with Some Adverse Selection”