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Life Insurance Companies

Mitch Ramsbotham

Financial Expert Updated on June 20, 2023

i Disclosure statement

Life insurance provides Australians with an opportunity to cover living costs and lost income in the case of unforeseen events. Regardless of the circumstances, the right insurance coverage can help provide peace of mind.

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There are numerous companies offering life insurance products with different rates, exclusions, and claims processes. Hence, some individuals may believe that getting a quote from one insurer is simply not enough.

To get the best life insurance that fits your needs, you must know what factors to consider and be prepared to compare the different policies on offer.

While many Australians view life insurance as only death cover, it’s important to recognise that there are four types of life insurance:

  1. Death Cover: provides a lump sum payment to your family/loved ones when the life insured dies
  2. Total and Permanent Disability Insurance (TPD): provides a lump sum benefit if you become disabled and unable to work again
  3. Trauma Insurance: a trauma insurance policy provides financial payment in the event you experience a serious illness or injury
  4. Income Protection Insurance: provides temporary replacement income in the event you are unable to work due to illness or injury

This article explains whether purchasing insurance directly from an insurer is beneficial compared with purchasing through a broker or other sales channels. We also discuss the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) role and list the insurance companies from which you can purchase life insurance in Australia.

What Are the Differences Between an Insurance Broker and a Life Insurance Company?

Given they all sell similar products, it is quite common to believe that both life insurance companies and insurance brokers are the same. However, these terms mean two completely different things.
  • Insurance companies: They create the insurance policy and perform the risk assessment for the applicant.
  • Insurance brokers: They distribute and sell insurance policies to customers as a financial adviser or insurance broker. This process can also be done online or via phone.

Some insurance companies also have insurance brokers. For example, a company can sell life insurance policies and do the underwriting for those policies simultaneously.

Underwriting is the process of assessing a business or individual to determine if they are eligible for insurance or have an acceptable risk level.

Is Buying Life Insurance Directly From the Company Better?

One advantage of purchasing life insurance products directly from a company is that approval rates tend to be much faster. You are not transacting through an agent or financial adviser, so sometimes fewer steps are involved.

However, you will still need to complete proper research regarding the company. You may also be limited by the options the company offers.

For example, one insurer may offer a life cover with a $1.5 million maximum insurance sum. Another company may provide up to $1 million only.

Additionally, some companies can offer life insurance policies bundled with total and permanent disability (TPD) and trauma cover. Other life insurance companies sell with trauma cover only. 

Different life insurance companies offer varying rates because each insurer will view and assess your risks and insurability differently from others. Each company also has its own unique underwriting procedures and processes.

Should you decide to purchase a life cover policy directly from an insurance company, you will need to research and compare other companies in the market and their products yourself.

If you need to consult individuals more seasoned with life insurance matters, you should obtain insurance from a financial adviser or insurance broker.

A qualified financial adviser can serve as a broker or agent that helps you find the insurance type that best fits your needs. These advisers search and compare various insurance products and present them to you so you can choose the product that best suits your needs and budget.

Securing insurance through advisers may be more costly than directly purchasing from an insurance company because these individuals offer their expertise and advice for your convenience.

Financial advisers provide professional financial advice to help you determine what life insurance policy type you need for your specific situation and budget.

By assessing your life stage and goals, financial advisers can recommend if you need more thorough insurance solutions for you and your immediate family members.

If you do not mind the added fee for the convenience and personalisation of getting professional advice, consult a financial adviser to receive a life insurance quote.

Alternatively, you may apply for life insurance through your super fund. While this method may be a convenient way to obtain insurance, it is important to note that your premiums for these policies are taken from your balance. This can adversely impact upon your retirement fund balance and future retirement plans.

Additionally, a life insurance policy through your super fund may not provide adequate life insurance coverage for you as these policies can be quite basic.

If you would like a free life and family insurance check-up, My Money Sorted’s Partners can provide you with a review of your situation. Our Insurance Specialist Partners can give you information about:

  • what life insurance you’ve got in place
  • whether you may need more or less insurance to cover you and your family
  • how much you’re paying and if you could be paying less
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Comparing Life Insurance Options

It’s important to compare life insurance benefits and costs. When looking for the right life insurance that covers your needs, consider asking the following questions:
  • Can you continue paying your household expenses without a regular income? For how long?
  • What does your current life insurance cost? Could you be paying less for your monthly life insurance premium?
  • If you become disabled permanently, how will your family pay your living expenses and debts like mortgage or credit cards? If you live alone, who will take care of you?
  • Can your loved ones sustain their quality of life or standard of living when you pass away?
  • Can your family afford to accomplish your future goals after your death?
  • Can you continue paying your policy’s ongoing premiums?
  • Can you afford to spend any long-term costs for rehabilitation if you are severely injured or diagnosed with a serious illness?

Another critical consideration when deciding on the life insurance type and cover amount is your current life stage.

Life Stages

Life stages reflect both your current and future circumstances, including your financial situation, and are generally categorised as follows:
  • Young and single: Individuals may opt for life insurance or income protection insurance at this life stage to protect themselves from future financial issues when the insured dies or is diagnosed with a severe illness, or if you would have to take time off work for an extended period. The right cover can help protect an active lifestyle.
  • Young couples: Getting married or staying at home with a partner may introduce new expenses, such as a loan application to purchase a new home. Couples without children may prioritise wealth-building and pursuing career goals at this life stage. It’s important to have the right life insurance solutions in place to protect your partner and children financially.
  • Young families: Individuals in this life stage often prioritise rent or mortgage payments, childcare costs, and school fees. But life insurance can bring peace of mind that you can still pay these important living expenses no matter what happens. Couples with existing life insurance policies may consider increasing their benefit amount to cover the added living costs.
  • Maturing families: In addition to managing debts, living costs, and children’s expenses, you should also consider setting aside money for retirement. When choosing the right life insurance, keep in mind that the benefit amount you apply for should be enough to help both you and your dependants lead a comfortable lifestyle – both now and in retirement
  • Seniors, retirees and empty nesters: At this stage, you should consider retirement fund preservation to ensure that you have enough to maintain your desired lifestyle. You may not have income to necessarily protect so you may not need as comprehensive of a life insurance cover – or at all. However, if you still have a mortgage or debts, it’s important to consider carefully before cancelling your policies. A life insurance policy can help minimise your family’s financial burdens when you become sick, get injured, or pass away.

Important Information to Check Before Buying Life Insurance

Insurers are required by law to include a relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) along with every insurance product. When deciding to purchase life insurance, review its PDS for information, such as:
  • Details the insurer requires from you
  • The inclusions and exclusions under the policy
  • Information on premiums, such as how premium rates change
  • How to make claims and the process of how they pay claims
  • The waiting period when making claims
  • How to file complaints regarding decisions on insurance claims

For example, if you buy life insurance with trauma cover, your policy’s PDS usually lists what critical illnesses are covered. It is important to be vigilant when reading the PDS, as some insurers do not cover certain diseases and illnesses.

Life Insurance Types

There are a number of different insurance types currently on the market in Australia. The following are the different types of life insurance you can purchase:
  • Death cover: Pays a fixed sum of money upon your death. The death benefit is given to the dependants you nominate as beneficiaries.
  • Income protection: Replaces your income when you cannot work because of injury or illness.
  • Total and Permanent Disability Insurance (TPD): Provides a lump sum benefit if you become permanently and totally disabled. You can use this benefit to help with rehabilitation and other living costs.
  • Trauma Insurance: Provides financial payment in the event you experience a critical illness or serious injury.

There are some other insurances that are sometimes considered life insurance and that provide similar benefits

  • Consumer Credit Insurance (CCI): that can be used to pay for your mortgage repayments if you lose your job, are sick, injured or if you die. Keep in mind: A high number of CCI claims are denied or withdrawn. An ASIC review of CCI showed that:
    • Only 11 cents was paid for every $1 paid in premiums for CCI sold with credit cards.
    • Only 19 cents was paid for every $1 paid in premiums across all CCI products.
  • Accidental death and injury: This provides a lump sum when you are injured or pass away from an accident. Some insurers have an exhaustive list of exclusions in their accidental death and injury policies, such as death from drug use, alcohol abuse, hazardous activities, and self-harm. If your cause of death falls under any of those exclusions, the insurer can choose not to pay out the full policy amount to your beneficiaries.
  • Funeral insurance: This cover pays out a lump sum that can help your family cover funeral fees and related expenses upon your death. This insurance type helps reduce your family’s out-of-pocket funeral costs.

Some companies also offer terminal illness insurance so policyholders can make a claim if they are diagnosed with an incurable illness that may lead to death. Check the PDS to determine whether your chosen insurer provides this benefit.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

When deciding the insurance amount and level of cover you need, you should also consider the following factors:
  • Your life stage
  • The amount of savings you have
  • Your estimated income
  • Your financial obligations
  • The number of dependents
  • The amount in your super fund
  • The assets you own

Some of the largest life insurance companies have life insurance calculators that allow you to calculate your potential premiums and payouts online simply by visiting their website.

Alternatively, if you want a free Insurance Check-Up, My Money Sorted’s Insurance Partner can provide you with cost-saving opportunities and help give you peace of mind that you have the best insurance policy for you.

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Factors Affecting Life Insurance Costs

Getting personalised life insurance quotes can be useful, so that the policy you are purchasing is tailored to your needs and personal circumstances. However, costs may vary depending on several factors, like:
  • Age: Younger people usually pay less for life insurance than older people, who may have higher health risks and require higher premiums.
  • Profession: Individuals with high-risk jobs, such as occupations involving mining, construction, or military service, usually have high premium rates.
  • Cover amount: Higher benefit amounts require more expensive monthly premiums.
  • Overall health: People with pre-existing medical conditions must pay more than healthier individuals. When purchasing a policy, applicants with such illnesses must share this information with the insurer. Failure to disclose these details can result in unwanted issues when claiming a benefit.
  • Smoking: Non-smokers typically have lower health risks than smokers and pay relatively lower life insurance premiums.

Who Is Authorised to Regulate Life Insurance Companies?

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is mandated to regulate life insurance companies registered under Australia’s Life Insurance Act.

As a regulator, APRA is responsible for managing leading life insurers and ensuring that these companies always meet their financial obligations.

APRA is an independent body that supervises superannuation, banking, and insurance institutions. It also promotes a stable financial system in Australia.

Aside from regulating and monitoring life insurance companies including Australia’s top life insurance companies, APRA regulates private health insurance, superannuation, deposit-taking, and general insurance industries.

How Many Life Insurance Companies Operate in Australia?

As of June 2021, APRA regulates 27 life insurance companies in accordance with the Life Insurance Act.

Under the register of general insurance institutions, 79 insurers are authorised by APRA as of January 2022 to conduct new or renewal insurance business in Australia.

These insurers include:

  • life insurance providers
  • private health insurance companies
  • superannuation funds that offer life insurance
  • various other financial corporations.

Australian Life Insurance Companies

When determining which life insurance company is the best in Australia, other factors to consider include market share, claims acceptance rates, and customer service quality.

The number one company in terms of market share may not offer the financial products you need.

Even if you consider choosing an insurer from Australia’s largest top 5, the list is subject to change over time.

One company may be leading based on market share, while another may be a better choice in terms of claims acceptance rate. Your preferences and experiences can also influence your choice of insurer.

In general, the best life insurance company is the one that best suits your needs and budget. You can compare available options by reviewing the products offered by two or more insurance providers. 

Your circumstances and reasons for getting life insurance may differ from other individuals. Look for a cover that provides the following benefits:

  • Peace of mind: Buying life cover can help you be more at ease knowing that your loved ones have an opportunity to maintain their quality of life, no matter the circumstances. But if you are underinsured, you won’t have peace of mind that you and your family will be okay.
  • Sufficient replacement of lost income: Life insurance can help pay for your living costs if you cannot work because of an injury or illness.
  • Sufficient overage of living costs and debts: A well-thought-out life policy can help ensure that your money is sufficient to cover loans, mortgages, school fees, and other significant expenses.
  • Allow you to pay for potential medical expenses: Insurance can help cover your medical bills as you recover from an illness or injury. Review the inclusion and exclusions fo your policy to ensure you can spend the money on recovering.

Here are the APRA-regulated life insurance companies in Australia as of June 2021:

  • AIA Australia Limited (or AIA Group Limited)
  • Allianz Australia Life Insurance Limited
  • AMP Life Limited
  • Asteron Life & Superannuation Limited
  • Challenger Life Company Limited
  • ClearView Life Assurance Limited
  • Combined Life Insurance Company of Australia Ltd.
  • General Reinsurance Life Australia Ltd.
  • Hallmark Life Insurance Company Ltd.
  • Hannover Life Re of Australasia Ltd.
  • HCF Life Insurance Company Pty. Ltd.
  • Integrity Life Australia Limited
  • Macquarie Life Limited
  • MetLife Insurance Limited
  • MLC Limited (or MLC Life Insurance)
  • Munich Reinsurance Company of Australasia Limited
  • OnePath Life Limited
  • Pacific Life Re (Australia) Pty Limited
  • QInsure Limited
  • RGA Reinsurance Company of Australia Limited
  • RLNM Limited
  • SCOR Global Life Australia Pty Limited
  • St. Andrew’s Life Insurance Pty Ltd.
  • Swiss Re Life & Health Australia Limited
  • TAL Dai-ichi Life Australia Pty Limited (or TAL Life Limited, provider of Suncorp Life Insurance)
  • Westpac Life Insurance Services Limited
  • Zurich Australia Limited

Additionally, APRA regulates friendly societies, which are described as non-profit companies providing financial benefits to their members. These benefits include funeral cover, hospital insurance, sickness cover, and retirement benefit.

The following friendly societies are registered under APRA as of November 2020:

  • Australian Friendly Society Ltd
  • Centuria Life Limited
  • Foresters Financial Limited
  • Futurity Investment Group Limited
  • Generation Life Limited
  • IOOF Ltd
  • KeyInvest Ltd
  • Lifeplan Australia Friendly Society Limited
  • NobleOak Life Limited
  • Over Fifty Guardian Friendly Society Limited
  • Sureplan Friendly Society Ltd

Applicants who have difficulty deciding which company to purchase life insurance from may benefit from undertaking their own independent research or engaging the services of a financial adviser for a comparison.

You may need to obtain quotations from three or more companies to make a more informed decision.

Consider choosing a life insurance provider or broker that has the following:

  • A financial services guide (FSG): A guide containing detailed information about the company or entity providing financial advice.
  • Target market determination (TMD): A document describing whom a specific product is suited for based on the potential client’s needs and financial situation. Some insurers use the life stages as a basis for the TMD.
  • Excellent customer service: An essential part of deciding on an insurer is that the quality of service should go beyond a customer’s expectations.

Aside from being registered and authorised by APRA, legally operating providers should have an Australian Business Number (ABN) and an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL).

An AFSL authorises an entity to conduct a financial services business, including offering financial products and settling claims.

Still not sure where to start, or want help securing the right insurance faster? 

That’s okay!

Many people may be unaware of this…but just like you, 41% of Aussies intend to get financial advice rather than going it alone, according to an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report.

You can reach out to My Money Sorted to guide you for free before you seek professional advice from an insurance expert!

When you book a call with My Money Sorted , you’ll:

✓ get a better understanding of your money matters

✓ have an idea of your money goals

✓ be matched with the right insurance expert who can help simplify your search for an insurance policy that fits your needs

My Money Sorted is your stress-free pathway to getting ahead with your money. Here’s what your journey will look like:

Step 1: Start off with a quick money matters session with My Money Sorted

Step 2: Get matched with a Insurance Expert that’s right for your money situation

Step 3: Take the first step towards getting the protection you need with a clear and sound roadmap prepared by an Insurance Expert

It’s that easy!

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References

  1. Welcome to APRA

https://www.apra.gov.au/

  1. Registers of Life Insurance Companies and Friendly Societies

https://www.apra.gov.au/registers-of-life-insurance-companies-and-friendly-societies

  1. Register of General Insurance

https://www.apra.gov.au/register-of-general-insurance

  1. Registration of a Friendly Society – Australian Government

https://ablis.business.gov.au/service/ag/registration-of-a-friendly-society/292

  1. Financial Services Guide (FSG)

https://moneysmart.gov.au/glossary/financial-services-guide-fsg

  1. AFS Licensees

https://asic.gov.au/for-finance-professionals/afs-licensees/

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