Nib plans NZ insurance test

ROB STOCK
Last updated 14:40 25/08/2014

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Australian health insurer nib is going to use its New Zealand business to test a new international health-insurance policy.

Nib Holdings New Zealand operations contributed NZ$8 million, or more than 10 per cent of the group's operating profit of A$72.3 million (NZ$79.9m) for the year to June 30.

The New Zealand operations are the rebranded Tower medical-insurance business bought in November 2012.

Since then, nib has begun selling health policies direct to consumers over the internet and telephone, especially budget policies aimed at the young promoted by television adverts fronted by rugby league player Benji Marshall.

Group chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon said policies covering health treatment no matter where a policyholder was were the way of the future.

Rob Hennin, chief executive of nib's New Zealand business, confirmed the new policy would be launched here next month.

"The world is becoming a smaller place, whether it is for work, or travel for work or pleasure. People are wanting products that look after them not just in their home country, but wherever they are in the world," Hennin said.

The policy would be offered as an optional extra, he said.

If successful, the policies could be offered in Australia.

It's not the only innovation on the way from nib, which bought the Tower business as part of a long-term strategy to challenge Southern Cross' domination of the New Zealand health-insurance market.

Hennin said nib had plans to re-enter the group health market, offering health insurance through workplace schemes. It was also going to introduce nib Options, which is already operating in Australia and allows policyholders to seek medical treatment overseas.

Also likely were products like pet insurance, which rivals some Southern Cross already offer, and also life policies from an alliance with New Zealand-owned Fidelity Life.

"Since acquiring the business, we have spent a lot of time and effort transitioning and rebranding the business," Hennin said.

"Overall, the results have been very positive with more than 10,500 policyholder sales during the period, of which 40 per cent have been direct to consumer."

He said 57 per cent of sales were to customers in nib's target market of under 40 years and more than half joined online.

Fitzgibbon told analysts he was pleased to see positive growth in policyholder numbers, which followed four years of decline in policyholder numbers.

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