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With millions of infections and hundreds-of-thousands of American lives lost from COVID-19, vast numbers of people are paying greater attention to the thought of their own mortality and what would happen to their loved ones if they should pass away. While the increased awareness is hopefully spurring people to protect themselves and one another by isolating and wearing masks, it’s also leading Americans to investigate and purchase life and retirement products in surging numbers.

The pandemic has forced life insurance organizations to take a good, hard look at their digital capabilities. COVID-19 dramatically increased consumer demand for life and retirement products. In fact, according to research from Life Happens, 67 percent of Americans say the pandemic has been a wake-up call for them to examine their finances – and to look into life insurance.

If you look from a pure market perspective, many more people started to face the realities and began thinking about both their mortality and long term income needs. According to Jennifer Fitzgerald, Policygenius CEO, in a report from McKinsey & Company, her firm’s research indicated the highest levels of consumer search traffic ever for life insurance specifically, with search volumes in the first few months of 2020 up to 50 percent higher. Conversion rates also remain strong

Consumer awareness of the need for these products has been elevated, resulting in an increased need for them to purchase these products. According to research from LIMRA , prior to the pandemic, more than half of adult Americans reported owning a life insurance policy, a drop of 9 percentage points from 2010. But the LIMRA research also projected the intent to purchase life insurance will be at an all-time high in the following 12 months.

Online insurance marketplace AccuQuote has seen life policy sales grow about 30 percent due to the pandemic. The firm’s founder and CEO, Byron Udell, attributes the activity to the sort of “panic buying” that happened after the 9/11 attacks. “I better get it now because I might get COVID and be at risk,” he said.

At SE2, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in new business application volumes and overall premium dollars across our clients. Our highest-volume months ever were May through August. Insurers, in some cases, have oversold and exceeded their goals and target premiums for the year, particularly for annuities.

The need for social distancing and limiting in-person interactions has made it essential for insurers to have digital interaction and sales process capabilities. But unfortunately, many insurance companies didn’t have a way to meet the increasing demand coupled with the need to sell policies remotely, and they missed out on that opportunity. As a result, many carriers have reported slower revenue numbers and others have announced employee layoffs. Digitallycapable insurance companies, however, are selling more policies and gaining market share.

Having the right capabilities is key
The pandemic has made it essential for large legacy insurers to come up with a solid strategy around platform modernization, platform simplification, simplification of their business architecture and being able to engage with consumers on their preferred channels. These must include an array of options, including potentially a direct model, and their existing distribution model, which can be through their captive or independent distributors or insurance marketing organizations (IMOs). All these distribution models are both valid and necessary. But insurers can’t ignore the direct model any longer. Direct is not always a replacement for other distribution channels but can be an extension with its own operating models and products.