New insurance offering aims to make policies easy to understand – and save money.

From the Tasman tempest and Edgecumbe floods to the Port Hills fires, events in 2017 are firming New Zealand's position as one of the world's most vulnerable countries to natural disasters.

Kiwis need to be better prepared.

That's the position of the co-founder and CEO of innovative online marketplace RateBroker, Matt Grant, who says such events highlight the increasingly unpredictable nature of the world we live in.

Despite this, he says, it often takes a catastrophic event for people to consider adequately protecting themselves from the fallout.


"It often takes a tragic event for people to think about things like insurance but obviously at that point - in the aftermath - it's too late," says Grant.

"With all these natural disasters, it's a wake-up call that we need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios. Anyone with a mortgage, for example, needs to have insurances to protect themselves and their loved ones if something goes wrong. It can be devastating for people to only think about these things once they've happened."

Alongside the rising incidence of natural disasters are rising insurance costs, making consumers increasingly aware not only of the need to be adequately insured, but to get the best deals.

RateBroker is a one-stop shop where people can source instant indicative offers for the likes of insurance, mortgages and vehicle finance, and Grant says the Auckland-based firm is seeing insurance leads and conversions currently doubling month on month .

The start-up (launched in February last year) currently offers consumers the opportunity to browse deals on life, health income and mortgage protection insurance from a range of providers. Plans are also in the pipeline for similar offerings for home, contents and car insurance products.

"I think we're seeing such strong demand because people don't want to shop around the traditional ways; they don't have the time to deal with a massive amount of different companies and remember multiple log-ins for their websites," Grant explains.

"They want to go to one website where they can get everything sorted under one roof - life and health insurance, mortgage, car finance and soon their power, broadband and mobile plans."

Also driving growth at the company is a growing consumer desire for greater transparency and information on the products they're purchasing. It's a factor particularly important when purchasing insurance, Grant says, because consumers need to be aware of exactly what they're covered for and what they're not.

"Unlike some of the traditional means of accessing insurance, we're offering an unbiased service. Rather than pushing consumers towards one or two products, the automated dashboard gives them a number of options and then it's entirely up to them which one they want to apply for," he explains.

"The dashboard provides a lot of information up front - such as whether you can get money towards funeral costs, for example. We give you all that information on day one."

They are insights backed up by the findings of the 2017 Insurance Barometer Study, which tracks the financial perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of consumers in the US, with an emphasis on life insurance.

The study asked consumers to rate the importance of various factors when purchasing life insurance; the top ranking factor (at 83 per cent) was having an 'easy to understand' product. 'The ability to chat with a person' ranked second, at 66 per cent, and a 'faster sign-up process' was very or extremely important to 51 per cent of those surveyed.

A RateBroker customer, who wished to be known only as Anita, says she previously used an insurance broker to recommend her life, health and income protection insurances. However when her broker suggested she review and change providers every three years, she became frustrated trying to understand if the new policies she was being offered were like for like and wondered if she was getting the best rates available for her needs.

She turned to the online service to see if it would streamline the process. Over an annual period she's also managed to save $960 on her insurance bill: "Basically it puts the consumer in the position of being the chooser."

As a mother with young children, she says she's made purchasing insurance a financial priority to ensure her family is protected. But she acknowledges many don't.

"I feel annoyed I had been paying too much for my cover for all those years - I could have done so much more with that money. Hopefully options like this will make purchasing insurance more do-able, and people will be able to get the cover they need."

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