The Insurance Outlook for T&T
January 13th, 2024
By Sheldon Waithe
Increased use of technology and the enactment of new legislation are expected to significantly impact the insurance industry over the next five years.
What are the key trends shaping the future of T&T’s insurance industry?
The industry is being shaped mainly by information technology (IT). After the pandemic, insurance companies recognised that their IT platforms needed to be more accessible to facilitate a hybrid working environment. From a customer service standpoint, the industry has a lot of catching up to do. If you compare it to Europe or the USA, there are lots of self-service options available online, but that is not the case in Trinidad and Tobago.
On the health insurance side, however, it’s much better; most companies now offer self-service options via an online portal. Clients can submit claims and queries using a single interface. Some are more advanced than others. Unfortunately, processing time lags still exist. In the next five years, I expect that companies will invest more in their IT platforms, increasing the availability of self-service options and thus improving customer service.
The new Insurance Act (2018) is also framing the industry. It sets out professional requirements for insurance practitioners; for example, completion of 12 CPD (Continuing Professional Development) hours every year is recommended. The Act places a strong emphasis on upgrading the skillsets of staff and the need to educate policyholders. As we improve our standards and enlighten customers, processing claims will become easier and faster because customers will be more knowledgeable about the policies they purchased. It’s all focused on the customer.
Have interest and inflation rates impacted the insurance industry?
Yes, it has affected the value of claims; they are higher now because of higher replacement costs. For example, replacement costs of properties have increased because inflation has risen, resulting in higher sum-insured (maximum payout) and higher premiums. Claim values have also increased, so insurers have had to adjust their rates. Some companies may now require a valuation for property insurance to obtain an accurate value for cover and ensure that it is not being under-insured.
Has the industry been quick to adjust to changes?
Absolutely, you cannot operate at a loss; if premiums cannot cover the claims costs, you must adjust. Similarly, the re-insurers must adjust
Are there more tailored products on the market? Are usage and telematics-based insurance products available locally?
We are not seeing tailored products on the market or increased use of online quote generators and chatbots. On-demand healthcare insurance does not exist in T&T; in terms of telematics, I know one company that tried it using driving measurement technology, but I don’t know how that worked out.
Given that these have been successfully introduced in foreign markets, will they eventually find a place here?
Yes, but this hinges on the technology required to drive and manage these products. Many local insurance companies are seeking to ramp up their technology, which benefits both the company and the consumer. Once they get that right, they will be able to introduce these improvements.
Is growing awareness of personal risk and uncertainty over the availability of socially funded benefits (e.g. NIS) present new opportunities for the industry?
Our society is not inclined to focus on social benefits until they reach a pensionable age when they need it. However, I’m seeing a greater demand for health insurance coverage compared to the last ten years. It has become an integral part of the remuneration package offered by employers.
Are there any other challenges for the insurance industry?
Talent sourcing and retention of qualified technical insurance professionals are issues. Currently, companies are raiding each other’s staff. Employees learn on the job, but that takes time; this method does not work for the recruitment of senior positions.