Life insurance industry rebuts need for greater reform

Some of the financial services industry's biggest players fronted the Parliamentary Joint Committee inquiry into life insurance on Friday.

Financial Services Council chief executive Sally Loane faced the panel first, telling the Committee that any further regulation imposed on the life insurance industry would be overkill.

"Life insurance is a highly regulated industry and under law, customers benefit from a range of protections including the duty of utmost good faith, strict disclosure and capital adequacy rules, and the financial adviser best interest duty," Loane said.

"The FSC strongly believes further regulation would be unnecessary. Self-regulation is an efficient way to bring about pro-consumer changes in the sector."

Loane also urged the Committee, chaired by Steve Irons, to enable life insurers to offer targeted rehabilitation payments to smooth recovery for sick or injured persons and an expedited return to work; legislative reform to help insurers bring older insurance portfolios in line with contemporary products for the benefit of the customer; and the removal of stamp duty on insurance to improve affordability for customers.

Loane concluded her appearance by taking the opportunity to reaffirm the FSC's support for the Life Insurance Framework, the professional standards legislation, and the industry's Code of Practice coming in to effect on 1 July.

Commonwealth Bank group executive, wealth management, Annabel Spring also appeared, using her opening statements to defend last year's CommInsure scandal and provide the Committee with a copy of the Deloitte report released last Tuesday.

"Now, we are not perfect and mistakes were identified. For those mistakes that were made, we apologise and we will make it right. Also, at our request, the Report suggested improvements to our claims processes which we are already implementing," Spring said.

"While these findings have reinforced our confidence in our business and in our people this is not a set and forget position - we will continue to implement the recommendations and continue to invest to ensure a better experience for all of our customers."

Spring also listed a number of broader industry reforms CBA believes should be prioritised for the benefit of the sector and consumers, including the implementation of standardised definitions; legal reform to facilitate the rationalisation of legacy products and reduce costs; and the allowance of insurers to provide rehabilitation support to claimants.

Also appearing for public hearings were representatives from MLC, BT Financial Group, AIA Australia and ANZ. In its submission to the Committee, MLC warned against further regulation of the industry, saying that it is already experiencing significant reform indirectly via its close connection to the superannuation industry.

"Given this substantial and active reform agenda, we suggest that it would be in the interests of both consumers and the industry for any further reform to life insurance policy and regulatory settings to be carefully evaluated for their alignment to and impact on reforms already underway," the submission said.

Likewise, in its submission, AIA Australia said: "While maintaining a commitment to further improvement, existing programs for reform should be fully implemented and assessed before further regulatory or legislative reforms are contemplated."

Read more: AIA AustraliaFridayFSCMLCParliamentary Joint CommitteeReportAnnabel SpringANZBT Financial GroupCBACode of PracticeCommInsureCommonwealth BankDeloitteFinancial Services CouncilLife Insurance FrameworkSally LoaneSteve IronsTuesday
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