Page starts new chapter with ClearView

Page starts new chapter with ClearView

In 2012, the fledging Australian outpost of global insurance giant AIA snatched AMP’s Chief Underwriter to help drive the company’s retail expansion. For the next five years, Warren Page was AIA Australia’s face of underwriting in New South Wales and the ACT, managing a team of 11 underwriters, negotiating with reinsurers and liaising with financial advisers.

It was a role Page relished. He has worked hard to transform the outdated perception of underwriters as rigid technicians who sit in their offices surrounded by administration and operations personnel, isolated from the rest of the industry. 

Unlike traditional underwriters, Page prides himself on getting out and about, visiting practices, speaking at professional development days and building relationships with advisers. 

He describes his unique approach to underwriting as a combination of “technical and practical”. He believes his ability to see things from an adviser’s perspective, as opposed to sticking purely to the technical rules, is a key strength. 

“My philosophy and approach is to cover as many customers as possible, as efficiently as possible; ensure the accurate assessment of risk and sustainable premiums; and partner with advisers to manage expectations and explain decisions,” Page said.

“The need for personal insurance advice backed by quality, sustainable products is enormous, and financial advisers and insurers need to partner together to meet clients’ needs. Clear and open communication between both parties ensures that advisers feel like their clients have been given an open hearing and fair deal.”

The 30-year veteran of Australia’s life insurance industry is passionate about helping advisers run more efficient, productive practices and part of that is ensuring well-thought out and consistent underwriting standards. Flexibility is also important given the individual nature of personal life insurance.

“In retail life insurance, everyone has to go through the underwriting process which can be clunky at times so underwriters need to assure advisers that our processes are structured and fair, and designed to deliver an optimal outcome for all parties,” he said.

Unlike group insurance inside super which automatically gives fund members a small level of cover, retail products offer comprehensive cover which is why individual risk must be accurately assessed, he said. 

Without underwriting, premiums would skyrocket or products would come with a plethora of inbuilt exclusion clauses.

Page is a big supporter of the mechanics of retail life insurance which he believes leads to optimal outcomes for policyholders. This is vastly different to group life insurance and health insurance where there’s typically no underwriting so the healthy subsidise the unhealthy.

Private health insurance is based on a system of community rating which means that everyone pays the same premium for their health insurance and health funds are prevented from differentiating between members based on health status, age or claims history.  

“In retail life, each individual must pay an appropriate premium for the risk they represent to protect the interests of all parties. If we are too loose and generous then premiums will inevitably increase and the life company will make a loss,” Page said.

“I was attracted to ClearView’s vision and strategy to have one sustainable product line with one sustainable price. 

“As a relative newcomer, ClearView isn’t weighed down and held back by a large, poor performing legacy book. Being free of historical mispricing is an enormous advantage.”  

For Page, who officially joins ClearView later this month, the biggest challenge for underwriters is understanding mental health and ensuring sufferers are treated fairly.

He remembers a time when mental health was a taboo topic. If a customer did disclose having a mental health condition like anxiety or depression on an application for life insurance, that application was outright declined. Today, he estimates one in four applications disclose some form of mental health. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions about how underwriters treat mental health but we continue to assess cases thoroughly and provide cover where we can.” 

“I approach mental health like I do any other medical condition, for example, back pain, and the vast majority of the time, we’re able to provide some level of cover whether it’s at standard rates or exclusions apply. We have planned processes in place but given there is limited data relating to mental health, the industry faces ongoing challenges around how to support their decisions.”

Chris Blaxland-Walker is General Manager, Distribution at ClearView.