Southern Cross Benefits Ltd announced this week that it has purchased Ellenco Pet Insurance. Although some may lament the loss of a ‘mom and pop’ operation that has operated for 22 years, I think the ownership transfer is a good thing for New Zealand dog (and other pet) owners. Why?
- Only 8% of dog owners in NZ currently have pet insurance (according to the NZ Companion Animal Council’s Companion Animals in NZ survey, July 2011)
- The Southern Cross Healthcare Group, of which Southern Cross Benefits Limited is one company, is the largest healthcare insurance provider in NZ
- Ellenco’s owners could not afford to put up the $3 million bond required by new legislation and its previous bond of only $500,000 was a potential risk to policy holders
- In my opinion, Southern Cross is a trusted brand in NZ and should encourage more pet owners to seriously consider the purchase of insurance
- Southern Cross has acknowledged that surveys of its clients have shown that there is interest in pet insurance – so an audience that hasn’t been reached so far by insurance providers is aware of the benefits of pet insurance - but hasn’t had the confidence yet to buy a policy
- Southern Cross Benefits Limited has an A+ (Strong) financial strength rating from Standard & Poor’s, is a Registered Financial Service Provider, and is a member of the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman’s Disputes Resolution Scheme
Insurance, like other business markets, matures over time. This is a huge step for NZ in its recognition of the importance of pets and the associated costs of their healthcare.
Another big step in the pet insurance market here was when The Warehouse started offering Petplan insurance, furthering the marketing of pet insurance generally through a very popular retail outlet.
In the words of Ian MacPherson, CEO of Southern Cross Healthcare Group, “Pet insurance is a natural extension for Southern Cross. Many New Zealanders count their pets as part of the family. However, currently very few owners have pet insurance, meaning they are exposed to what can be very high bills should their pet be affected by an unexpected illness or injury.”
It is important to note that the policies of all pet insurance providers in NZ have coverage of some sort for complementary therapies. Read my pet insurance fact sheet for more details.
Footnote: Credit must be given to the founders of Ellenco, Rodger Cox and Jenny Ellenbroek. Ellenco was the first firm to offer pet insurance in New Zealand, others have followed. Many policy holders have benefited from the coverage of their company’s policies. Alas, time has caught up with the small Christchurch-based operation.
The Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Act 2010 required insurers to put up higher bonds and the small firm could not afford this change. Policy holders are lucky that the owners negotiated with Southern Cross for the purchase of the firm’s policies. Until operations are transferred to Hamilton in 2013, there will be no change to Ellenco’s policy provisions.