Bolstered by a cash injection from its new Japanese owners Nippon Life, MLC Life Insurance is courting industry super funds in a bid to win more group insurance mandates.

MLC Life is the fourth largest life insurance provider in Australia, but only ranks as the sixth largest provider in the group insurance sector.

Within MLC Life group insurance represents roughly 30 per cent of the business, with the total value of group insurance premiums in force worth around $530 million.

MLC Life’s chief customer officer group insurance Suzanne Smith, who has headed up the business unit since November 2015, sees plenty of room to grow market share by wining business from superannuation managers.

She issued a statement on Tuesday detailing the insurer’s plans to “renew its focus” on the industry super fund market.

“We want to increase the size of the group portfolio … especially given it is where most Australians get their life insurance coverage,” Smith told Investment Magazine.

Focus on return to work programs

Stablemate MLC Super is MLC Life’s biggest group insurance client. MLC Life’s biggest external group insurance client is Queensland-based industry fund Energy Super.

In September, Energy Super appointed MLC Life its group salary continuance provider. The $6 billion fund already had its group death cover and total permanent disability (TPD) coverage with MLC.

Smith said MLC Life appointed 15 new claims assessors in Queensland as part of its efforts to win the expanded deal with Energy Super.

MLC Life is particularly keen to do business with industry super funds that believe in taking a proactive approach to supporting return-to-work programs for injured workers, rather than paying out TPD or extended salary continuance claims, Smith said.

“Paying out claims for someone who could return to work is not good for anyone; not for the individual, and not for the pool of group policyholders,” Smith said.

Other recent client wins include the Rio Tinto and Alcoa staff super trusts.

Smith said her aggressive growth strategy for the division had been bolstered by the recent partnership between National Australia Bank (NAB) and Japan’s Nippon Life Insurance.

Investment post Nippon deal

In 2015 NAB sold 80 per cent of its wealth management and life insurance division, which includes MLC and MLC Life, to Nippon for $2.4 billion.

“The Nippon tie-up is great for our business; it brings investment in systems, technology, data analytics, and our people,” Smith said.

Since the merger MLC Life has expanded its team of pricing actuaries, insurance product experts, and relationship managers, Smith said.

She also highlighted a number of recent senior appointments that are expected to help the life insurer win business from industry super funds.

Michael Shagrin, formerly at TAL, now leads MLC’s industry super relationship management team. Other former TAL staffers on the team include senior relationship manager Sean Potter, and senior manager transformation Matt Lang.

Pricing manager Jenny Liu brings experience with the industry fund sector from her time at Metlife.

Strategic product manager Megan Clements, formerly at AMP, was also tipped to “play a key role in evolving MLC Life Insurance’s industry fund strategy”.

In other changes within the team Joe Thompson’s role has been expanded to include both sales and relationship management activities, while Stephen Sefton has been promoted to head of product and strategy.

“With this expanded team in place, we are in a very strong position to deepen our existing partnerships with our customers and expand our industry fund portfolio,” Smith said.

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