In 2008, consumers and investors alike experienced unprecedented volatility and loss of confidence in most sectors of the American financial system. Illusions driving business decisions came face to face with the realities of economics.
Insurers were not immune to the economic environment, especially those who invested in the “wrong” instruments or priced their products using “normal” market scenarios. Still, many, if not most, are faring reasonably well in this environment–because they have adhered to the basics of the business.
What are these basics? From one perspective, insurance basics provide protection against the financial effects of unforeseen events, or other events with a serious financial consequence. They are either mortality or morbidity driven.
Insurers have moved through periods of time during which investment performance, especially in conjunction with favorable tax treatment, was the primary driver. At other times, insurers have focused on assuring that a benefit would be provided, and in contracts with an investment element, they chose not to focus on the high yield, but rather on the absence of volatility. (“You can sleep at night”…)
In the future, it is likely that many insurers will place a much greater emphasis on such protection-oriented offerings. Guarantees will be of utmost importance.
What’s available today? And what is likely to be available in the not too distant future?
For starters, term insurance (i.e., a high protection coverage) coupled with return of premium (ROP) coverage looks like a pretty good bet.
The premium for such insurance will increase modestly over that available in past years, due to the impact of a new nonforfeiture regulation that becomes fully effective in 2010, but which will have some impact already in 2009. However, the product does combine low-cost term insurance with an attractive ROP feature.