New Zealand insurance companies need to focus on the individual needs of the community and think long term if they want to break a downwards trend in insurance, says the head of AIA New Zealand.
Wayne Besant joined the life insurer from the ANZ bank three years ago and says the industry is in need of a wake-up call amid insurance penetration rates that are now lower than they were 20 years ago.
"I think the industry needs to do more about future proofing - doing things differently. What we are doing at the moment isn't working," he said.
Besant believes a key part of the issue is the way insurance is sold. Most insurance is sold through financial advisers, many of whom are white middle-class males in their 50s.
He says that makes it a challenge to sell products to different parts of the community. "We've got to be relevant to different communities.
"You've got to have the right people, the right products, all of those things have to line up. One size fits all isn't working."
Besant is talking to iwi groups around the country, targeting a part of the community which has a low level of insurance.
The firm has brochures in Maori and Besant, a former Tuakau College head boy, also speaks Maori.
He says it's important to make insurance affordable and target people's needs.
Besant is also looking to the Pacific Island community and new migrants.
He regularly visits countries in Asia where AIA's parent company is expanding its operations.
Already some of the hard work has paid off with the New Zealand arm increasing its group insurance market share by 1.5 per cent to 10 per cent.
The New Zealand arm has also reduced its losses. In the year to November 30, 2011, it made a pre-tax loss of $7.8 million; last year that was cut to $4.8 million.
AIA New Zealand has 7 per cent of the life insurance market in New Zealand.