In-force group risk policies up 4% in 2021

How has Covid-19 impacted the group risk industry?New research has revealed that the number of in-force group risk policies increased by 4%, from 81,055 in 2020 to 84,369 in 2021.

According to reinsurance firm Swiss Re’s Group watch 2022 report, the number of people insured rose from 13.3 million by the end of 2020 to 14.1 million by the end of 2021, a 6% rise that is higher than the 1% growth of the previous year.

The number of in-force death benefit policies increased by 4% and insured death benefits rose by 6%. Within these numbers, membership of non-pension Excepted Group Life Policies increased by 42%, and registered Group Life Policy membership went up 0.9%.

Meanwhile, the amount of in-force long-term disability income policies increased by 4%, the number of people insured by 5%, in-force benefit amounts by 6% and premiums by 9%. In-force critical illness cover policies increased by 8% and in-force sums assured rose by 10%.

Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager, life and health UK and Ireland, at Swiss Re and joint-author of the report, said that the data shows more positive market performance with increased coverage across all three policy lines of death benefits, long-term disability income and critical illness, and that above all the findings reflected a mood of confidence and optimism.

He added: “The level of engagement with support services this year is particularly pleasing, especially the take-up and usage of employee assistance programmes. This goes to show that these products are no longer viewed merely as nice-to-have add-ons, but rather as core features within a much wider proposition which employees genuinely value.

“With just 84,369 policies in force at the end of 2021, it needs both the effort from our industry as well as government’s support to make product models more simple as businesses struggle against economic headwinds. Particularly given the complexity that the freezing of the Lifetime Allowance until 2026 adds for group life cover, we persist in calling for an exemption from entry, periodic and exit charges for trusts holding as a sole asset all pure protection policies including excepted group life and relevant life policies.”

Dan Crook, protection sales director at Canada Life, was particularly pleased to see a growing number of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) protecting their workforces with group risk policies, and providing employees with choice through flexible benefits.

He said: “Beyond the financial support through the payment of claims, our industry has offered increased access to value added benefits. These services have been well utilised and have therefore supported the physical, financial and mental wellbeing of many thousands of employees and their families. Our aligned goal is to grow this market and ensure more lives are covered throughout 2022 and the years ahead. Our industry matters and I’m grateful to all that support it.”