For a long time now, the group insurance industry has been focussed on the purchasing of policies. The announcement of a new contract invariably trumpets a new, much higher, automatic acceptance level. Pride is taken in a more simplified underwriting process, which allows members to go on-line and apply for extra units of cover in seconds.

What’s usually missing in all this hub-bub is claims. Yet as Damien Mu, the chief distribution officer for AIA Australia says, the process of assessing and paying a member’s claim is the “moment of truth” for a super fund and its group insurer. The claims side of the group insurance equation has been getting more attention of late. Super funds are realising the importance of this contact point with members, and are taking ownership of it. The most spectacular example has been HOSTPLUS, which insourced its call centre from administrator Superpartners in 2008, and recently added another industry-first by takings its insurance claims’ management team in-house. AustralianSuper is adding to the momentum, moving to have its administrator (also Superpartners) take control of assessment for income protection claims, with the underlying insurer (Tower) playing more of a portfolio monitoring role.

There is a good argument to say that as much attention, if not more, should be paid to streamlining and improving the claims process as is currently given to the application process. Last month, AIA Australia and Investment Magazine convened a roundtable to discuss just how that should be done. The conversation ran the gamut, from the crucial importance of finding claims managers who could combine technical knowledge with a personable and compassionate approach, to ways that the industry could provide faster turnarounds on ‘straightforward’ claims, particularly when it came to death claims and some income-protection claims. Present at the discussion were: 1. Michael Bailey, journalist, Investment Magazine 2. Peter Blight, executive manager of superannuation services, Health Super, which self-administers and takes full responsibility for group insurance claims management 3. Kelly Cantwell, executive manager of administration, HOSTPLUS, where she is overseeing the re-engineering of the fund’s claims management process 4. Colin Cassidy, insurance manager of HOSTPLUS, where the veteran has direct responsibility for the insurance and claims management teams.

He also knows about the consequences of a claim going wrong, because he is a parttime panellist on the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal 5. Arleen Hatton, senior manager of quality & development underwriting & claims strategic solutions, CommInsure. She is responsible for training, development, quality reviews and process re-engineering across the insurer’s wholesale and retail products 6. Peter Lewis, head of retirement products at Aon Consulting, which includes responsibility for the Aon Master Trust and its associated group insurance offering 7. Peter McGarry, national manager of insurance at Superpartners, whose team of 170 people includes about 60 per cent dedicated to claims assessment and management 8. Damien Mu, chief distribution & marketing officer, AIA Australia, where he oversees product management and pricing within the group and individual life insurance channels

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