Are your insurance solutions in tune with new consumer needs?

By Bernhard Klein Wassink

EY Global Insurance Customer and Growth Offering Leader

Experienced financial services professional. Digital strategy enthusiast.

9 minute read 16 Feb 2021

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  • Key insights: EY Global Insurance Consumer Survey (pdf)

EY’s Global Insurance Consumer Survey reveals how insurers can support the needs of those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In brief
  • Insurers must evolve to meet changing consumer behaviors and priorities caused by the pandemic.
  • The greatest opportunity for insurers lies with those most financially impacted.
  • Pervasive and contentious social issues call for insurers to engage, collaborate and lead the development of new solutions.

In late 2020, EY Insurance conducted a global survey of 2,700 consumers and 1,200 small business owners to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their lives. Our survey of consumers focused specifically on their needs for personal lines and life and retirement insurance products.

To better understand the concerns and product preferences of our survey respondents, we grouped these individuals into three segments: most financially impacted, moderately financially impacted and least financially impacted. Across all segments, there are clear opportunities based on consumers’ shifting priorities:

  1. Consumers are seeking to restore their financial well-being and security, with more than half of respondents saying they plan to save more as a result of COVID-19.
  2. Those who experienced the greatest financial distress from the pandemic intend to minimize future financial risk and uncertainty.
  3. The most impacted consumers are socially active and place a high value on social responsibility in their insurance purchasing decisions.

Our survey results confirm what we’ve heard from senior insurance executives across the industry during the crisis: this is a moment of opportunity for the industry to increase its relevancy and live its purpose by playing a critical role in the recovery of consumers and the wider economy.

To play such a role, insurers will need to develop innovative products that align to consumers’ evolving needs and provide tangible value.

Paper boat made of folded money on a bed of leaves
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Chapter 1

How the pandemic has impacted insurance consumers

A certain segment has suffered the greatest financial impact.

Our survey methodology allowed us to identify the extent to which the pandemic has affected the financial state of respondents in each country. As exemplified in the chart below that displays data from our life insurance findings, there is a sizable difference in impact between those most financially impacted and those least financially impacted. For instance, 54% of the most impacted experienced a loss of a regular work schedule to a great degree and 56% lost income to a great degree. Among the least impacted respondents, those figures were 0%.

While the most impacted consumers are typically younger (70% are under the age of 45) and less affluent than overall respondents, they are not exclusively from these sociodemographic groups. For example, in the US, 56% of the most impacted respondents held at least one college degree and 40% earned over $100,000 in annual income.

The survey also explored respondents’ concerns for the future and their appetite for insurance products. The most and least impacted reported similar concerns and insurance needs, suggesting a widespread feeling of vulnerability and anxiety in a world already defined by geopolitical tensions, growing inequality and threats from climate change.

Mother working in office at home with daughter
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Chapter 2

How the pandemic is shifting preferences on protection

How consumer priorities, behaviors and insurance needs have changed.

Finding financial well-being through cost-effective alternatives

Looking at life insurance and retirement, the top concerns can be directly linked to the health and financial impacts of the pandemic: fear of losing a loved one is by far the greatest concern, followed by financial well-being. In seeking financial security, consumers are most interested in products that cover loss of income, credit card bills and other existing financial commitments.

Global Insurance Consumer Survey


of respondents are interested in a product that pays three months of income in the event of a job loss.

Given the heightened financial anxiety and focus on financial well-being, consumers are seeking cost-effective insurance alternatives, such as policies with lower premiums. They also express willingness to provide personal data or wear a fitness tracker in exchange for a discount or customized monthly rates.

More time at home creates new risks

From the perspective of personal lines, behavioral change brought about by the pandemic is reflected clearly in the results. For instance, cyber fraud as a result of increased time online was the respondents’ top concern, followed by paying for insurance for a car that’s being driven less. Consumers are also more interested in usage-based insurance and home-protection products.

Global Insurance Consumer Survey


of respondents interested in usage-based car insurance.

Given that remote working is expected to continue for many employees, insurers should develop products suited to the “new normal,” such as home-protection and usage-based policies.

Young woman enjoying rainy day with her dog
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Chapter 3

What to know about those most impacted

An opportunity to engage, educate and offer protection solutions to those in need.

Those who have experienced the greatest financial impact are inclined to plan for future financial uncertainty: they are more likely than respondents overall to develop an emergency plan, speak with a financial advisor, increase contributions to pension and retirement accounts and purchase new forms of insurance.

Despite this group’s heightened focus on financial planning, since the onset of the pandemic, the majority (60%) of this demographic said that they have not been contacted by their insurance provider. A majority (63%) also said they do not completely understand the extent of their life insurance coverage.

Distinct needs of those most financially impacted graphic

Insurers that proactively connect with this demographic, communicate the value of insurance and offer protection solutions at a time of need can help this segment recover while forming the foundation for long-term customer relationships.

By proactively connecting with the most financially impacted consumers, communicating the value of insurance and providing protection solutions in a time of need, insurers can help this group recover, while forming the foundation for long-term customer relationships.

Why social responsibility and justice matter

The most impacted consumers are both highly concerned about social justice causes and place a greater value on an insurance firm’s social responsibility efforts in their purchasing decisions.

More than half of the most impacted respondents reported that a firm’s commitment to social responsibility (racial injustice, environmentalism, income equality, police brutality and employee relations) to be very important in their decision to purchase insurance. In addition, the most impacted were twice as likely (61%) to donate money, time or supplies to a racial justice organization since March of 2020 than respondents overall (31%).

Corporate activity around social purpose is becoming increasingly important to brand reputation and customer retention — and insurers need to think differently about what they are doing in this space.

Insurers have an opportunity to engage a socially active, energized audience by amplifying their corporate social responsibility efforts, including policies and investments to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. Within executive ranks, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainability-related initiatives and a focus on long-term value creation are important to demonstrating the vital purpose of the industry.

Insurers need to think differently about how they demonstrate their purpose. They have a unique opportunity to reach an energized audience by amplifying and better communicating their corporate social responsibility efforts.
Fayaz Jaffer
EY Americas Insurance Product Innovation Leader
Man's hands behind a loom weaving carpet
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Chapter 4

Strategic and operational implications for insurers

A client-centric product innovation strategy is needed to position for future growth.

To meet consumers’ evolving concerns and needs, insurers must reimagine their offerings and overall value proposition for both existing and prospective customers. Satisfying this market demand starts with a product innovation strategy built around unique solutions that create differentiation in the market.

However, many executives express concern over the ability to achieve such a strategy. In our December 2020 poll of nearly 100 global C-suite insurance executives conducted during a virtual event, product development was predicted to face the greatest challenge in adapting to change.

Product innovation graphic

Developing leading solutions requires an integrated approach that applies innovation discipline to highly regulated products. It also requires the ability to leverage external ecosystems and collaborate with others outside of the industry. Finally, insurers need an adequate technology architecture and supporting platforms.

But everything relies on first identifying the customer and their unmet needs. EY Insurance can help you understand what our survey findings mean to your company’s product strategy and how you can use these insights to strengthen existing customer relationships and develop new ones.

While COVID-19 vaccinations may help address our physical health concerns, the financial distress the pandemic has caused many consumers will be felt for years to come. As consumers’ concerns and needs change, insurers have a responsibility to live their purpose of providing protection to all.

Developing products around new customer behaviors and priorities, and reaching new demographics in need, will help the industry maintain its relevance and play the role it needs to in the recovery.

To learn more about the survey and what it means for your insurance business, please reach out to the author of this piece, Bernhard Klein Wassink.

  • Methodology

    In late 2020, EY Global Insurance and EY QUEST surveyed over 2,700 consumers and 1,200 small business owners throughout North America and Europe. The objective was to gather insights about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their lives and insurance needs.

    To better understand their concerns and preferences, we grouped our population of survey respondents into three segments based on the degree to which they were financially impacted: upper third (most financially impacted), middle third and lowest third (least financially impacted).

    Financial impact was measured by a composite scaled score made from seven sub-questions about matters related to financial security, lost wages and reduced employment hours. There is a sizeable difference between the mean amount of impact reported between the most and least impacted groups.

How can insurance protect the small businesses that need it most?

EY’s Global Insurance Small Business Owner Survey reveals how insurers can innovate to support the needs of those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more


The financial distress the pandemic has caused will be felt by many consumers for years to come. Insurers have a clear role to play in developing new protection solutions to help restore the financial well-being of those in need.

About this article

By Bernhard Klein Wassink

EY Global Insurance Customer and Growth Offering Leader

Experienced financial services professional. Digital strategy enthusiast.