Many economists and researchers are warning business people that society has undergone so much change in recent years that longer term-planning is essential for companies. Planning for the future one to three years in advance is not enough, yet even large companies still do this, they lament. 

In various meetings with life insurance industry leaders, many have called on the Insurance Journal Publishing Group to help them prepare for the future. 

This is exactly what we are aiming to achieve on a regular basis through our industry conferences and Insurance Portals. Our goals to help you are: look far ahead to identify emerging trends and issues, with as many industry partners as possible. We want to broaden thinking and, at the same time, enrich it. 

We accomplished this at the P&C Day held March 30, 2022, an event which included 60 industry leaders from different segments and the collaboration of Mosaic, the Creativity and Innovation Hub of HEC Montréal. The objective? "To reflect together on the future of the industry through a series of exercises with potential user representations." What was the result? These leaders forecast that technology would continue to disrupt distribution and that the solution to continue growing was to invest heavily in customer experience, which is linked closely to employee experience. 

Eight months later, on November 30, 2022, the "chief disruptor" was born: ChatGPT. We even invited it to P&C Day 2023’s opening panel. Since then, it has been followed by about ten competitors. 

There’s more to come at P&C Day 2024, on March 28. 

Today, are ChatGPT and its artificial intelligence challengers enemies or allies? 

It depends on whether we master them or ignore them. In the latter case, it opens the door to danger. 

What about individual life insurance? 

"What will the industry look like in 2030?" people ask me. 

Since the spring of 2023, I have been questioning leaders across Canada on this same question. 

Many people share with me their analyses. But no one wants to openly share their thoughts. 

In our magazines, portals, and conferences, however, we have unveiled the future of individual life insurance by 2030, give or take a year. 

It may be overshadowed. 

Above all, remember the comment from the researchers earlier: beware of planning for one to three years only. Another comment is just as important. Beware of short-term trends. They are distorted by short-term thinking – the trees that hide the forest. 

In individual life insurance, at the dawn of 2024, the most significant long-term trend is the decline in the sales of insurance policies. 

Based on insurance policy sales statistics compiled by LIMRA, just over 700,000 life insurance policies were sold in Canada in 2010, while 12 years later, in 2022, the number of policies sold had dropped to about 600,000 contracts. 

The picture is even darker than at first glance when you take into account that the Canadian population increased significantly during this period. Thus, Statistics Canada reports that the Canadian population went from 34 million people in October 2010 to 39 million in October 2022. 

If insurance policy sales had followed Canadian population growth, we would have seen sales of more than 800,000 policies by 2022. Instead, we observe a drop of about 200,000 policies. This means fewer insured Canadians. 

Certainly, the premiums collected have increased. There are also more policies with high premiums. This reflects the increased performance of some advisors, inflation, and increases in insurer operating costs. However, in absolute terms, the number of policies and market penetration has decreased. 

Another concerning finding in individual life insurance over the past 30 years: three out of four life insurance advisors leave the profession before reaching their fifth year in the business. 

Are these two statistics related? Fewer policies sold because fewer advisors stay? Or do advisors quit because they don't have the support needed to sell enough policies? 

The floor is now yours! I'd like to hear your comments at [email protected] 

Over the years, in Quebec, the P&C insurance industry created the Coalition for the Promotion of Careers in Damage Insurance. Why? To attract, engage, and develop the talent the industry needs. More than 50 partners have joined forces to attract and train new talent.

In the field of individual life insurance, nothing like this exists. Over the past 10 years, I have brought the two segments closer together by provoking exploratory meetings to collaborate or share ways to create such a movement in individual life insurance. Nothing has come of it. Leaders of the P&C Coalition have reported to me that the willingness to cooperate is just not there in individual life insurance. 

So, what will happen in individual life insurance by the dawn of 2030? 

A few predictions have been shared with me by industry leaders, although they did not want to go on the record. I understand that no one wants to provoke turmoil. 

So here is a summary of their views: 

According to one leader, it will likely be necessary to return to the era of career agencies since the independence model of distribution has not generally allowed for recruiting and training advisors to stay in the industry. There are a few exceptions. 

According to others, a form of basic compensation will need to be developed, as was provided in some career agencies. After all, pointed out one person, banks do it. 

According to some executives, it is highly likely that insurers are currently exploring the sale of life insurance directly on the web through robot-advisors. 

Asked about this scenario, some leaders assert that it will create widespread discontent in the network, but it must also be acknowledged that the current situation requires massive change, considering policy sales and recruitment statistics. 

Another comment: selling insurance on the web will bring with it titanic problems for the industry. What does this mean? What is already being sold on the web, here and overseas, are simple products with very slim profit margins. The more insurers sell via the web to compensate for network weaknesses, the more they "shoot themselves in the foot" in terms of profitability. 

What will happen in individual life insurance in 2030? 

If the industry reevaluates its approach and collaborates to find new ways to get back on track, the path forward can be brighter. 

However, if the industry doesn't find new ways of moving forward, then the above scenarios will occur. It's a matter of time. 

An entrepreneur from outside the industry recently told me: "The industry must restore the image of life insurance because it is an essential component of all the significant decisions in our lives." 

We should listen to her. 

I would be happy to receive your comments at [email protected] 

Serge Therrien, President and Publisher of Insurance Journal Publishing Group