James Carey, MetLife’s Chief Group Insurance Officer, outlines his vision for the future of sustainable pricing, partner offerings and consumer fairness.

How MetLife is supporting its partners

We have put an emphasis on product design and making sure our services and offerings are driven by facts. We’ve invested in a customer-research capability, which we’ve found is valued by partners who don’t always have the time and resources to do this themselves.

By taking a proactive approach and engaging in the conversation on industry issues and trends, we’ve been able to keep our partners across developments to enable informed and quick decisions.

The importance of sustainable pricing in the industry

If you value your product, you don’t want prices whipsawing up and down significantly. This undermines confidence in the products and invites questions from customers about their value, particularly during periods of economic downturn.

Giving customers certainty and stability in their premiums is a very important component in rebuilding trust, which is something that has been damaged following many failings in this industry. We’ve continued our flexible approach with partners on product design, to ensure we find creative and relevant solutions that address the needs of our customers.

How MetLife is optimising its partner offerings

The corporate market can be highly transactional. Outside the tender and renewal process there can be limited interactions between the insurer and the broker, and even less so with the employer.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve tried to change this cycle with some partners by implementing a Holistic Account Planning model that aims to document key activities, new business opportunities and client renewals throughout the calendar year. We’ve had some great feedback and are seeking to expand this annual process with more partners this year.

At a scheme level, we’re seeking to engage with both the broker and, where appropriate, the employer around the claims experience more often and outside the normal rate-guarantee cycle. This not only provides insight and sets expectations for possible future changes in pricing, it provides an opportunity to engage in other areas where either the broker or insurer can add value. This includes early intervention, financial education or health and wellbeing initiatives such as MetLife’s 360Health.

The leading insurers and brokers in the market understand that value goes beyond a low price, with employers and their employees seeking more from their benefits programs. For example, in our recent Employee Benefits Trends Study, less than half of employees surveyed claim to completely understand the various benefits available to them and how they work. The research also revealed that employees are most concerned about their financial and mental health, yet nearly half feel unsupported by their employer with regards to initiatives to support their financial wellness, and around one in three with regards to mental wellness.

Since our last survey 12 months ago, we’ve also observed a shift in employer needs. The No.1 topic for brokers and consultants is ‘advising on employee wellbeing strategies’ (up from No.8 in 2019), while ‘recommending cost savings alternatives’ ranked No.7 (down from No.1). With employees not understanding what is available to them, it is not surprising to see that ‘providing insights on employee needs/desires for benefits’ moved up to No. 3 from No.11.  

To me, this shows a shift in employer attitudes. It's a real opportunity for MetLife and our partners to change the conversation with those companies so they are better at managing risk amongst their workforce and not focusing solely on having the cheapest product in the market.

Our vision for the industry

In five years, I’d like to see the industry having recovered a lot of lost ground, particularly around consumer trust and customers perceiving tangible value from the products they buy.

I’d also like to see consumers have more confidence in us when it comes to the claims process and have the reassurance that an insurer will payout in their time of need. We want them to feel they will be treated fairly and believed about the severity of their condition, and that their experience will be compassionate and as efficient as possible. Those are fundamental shifts that need to occur in this market.