Unilife: Life cover out of Africa

Added 6th July 2016

International life insurer Unilife has its roots firmly planted in Africa, but managing director Stephen Conway has his sights set on entering Europe as well as the changing face of the life market.

Unilife: Life cover out of Africa

Where does Unilife operate?

We sell throughout Africa, the Far East and we have just received authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK for a subsidiary to market our policies in Europe. 

Africa is where we started doing business. We have got about 54,000 clients there that we insure on life and medical policies. In Asia, we work with intermediaries in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

All of our direct policies are issued by Guardrisk Life International of Mauritius, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MMI Holdings in South Africa.

Why are you interested in Europe?

There is an opportunity to sell to foreign nationals and mobile expats who have assets in other parts of Europe and who may have a need to insure mortgage risks or potential long-term tax liabilities. The nature of our business fits that market very well.

Our target customer is basically someone who has relocated outside of their home country. We are happy to insure a Danish person living in Kenya, or a Kenyan living in France. We have designed our terms and conditions to be flexible specifically for that purpose.

We do not restrict a client’s cover if they are out of a country. We will insure them no matter where they are going to be in the world. It is a niche that some of the major insurers are not very interested in.

What products does Unilife offer?

We offer a basic product that is term life, so if someone dies it pays out a sum assured. But the really interesting product that we have created is Term 100 (T100). I first came across it in Bermuda about five years ago when talking to a US actuary.

Having worked with unit-linked, whole-of-life policies for many years, I have seen the disappointment that surrounds them because they do not do what they say they will.

A unit-linked policy has two elements – investment and life assurance. The problem with that is you are adding risk to your insurance and adding cost to your investment. I thought that there has to be a better solution and saw T100 as a great opportunity.

Our T100 policy has two very important elements: it has a guaranteed premium that will not change as long as the client keep paying, and a guaranteed sum assured. This means we offer intermediaries certainty over the product that they are selling to their customers.

It took me about four years to put the pieces together before we could launch it in Africa, which we did a year and a half ago. We started rolling it out in Asia at the beginning of this year and plan to have it live in Europe by August. Europe is quite complicated because you have to offer gender neutral rates.

Who is buying T100?

In some countries, people use this policy for wealth creation and family protection over the long term. If the policyholder does not want to keep paying the premiums, there is no reason why the family – having signed all the relevant forms – could not take over the payments. It is helping build up an asset for the family.

We have one version of T100 where if the policyholder dies before age 100, we pay out. If they reach age 100, and the sum assured is, say £1m, we actually pay the million out to them.

Inside the International Adviser - July 2016 Issue

International Adviser - July 2016

The July issue of International Adviser magazine is now available to read online. View your digital edition by clicking on the link below, or download the free International Adviser App through your app store.


Inside the latest edition:

  • Why gold is back in favour as a defensive strategy in uncertain markets
  • How the acquisition of FPI is adding value to Aviva’s Asia operations
  • International life company Unilife’s move to target expats in Europe
  • Tips on how to work with lawyers on succession planning

International Adviser is available in the iTunes App StoreGoogle Play and on Kindle Fire. To see how you can access your digital magazine click here

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About Author

Kirsten Hastings

Senior Reporter

Kirsten is a senior reporter for International Adviser, covering global news stories about the financial services industry. She joined Last Word Media in October 2015 after two years working as a reporter covering the staffing and recruitment industry. Kirsten has a Masters in Financial Journalism from the University of Stirling. 


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