A.I.C in conjunction with Apia Finance Company and with technical advice from the United Nations Development Fund and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme developed the funeral cover designed to reach all Samoans.
It is a simple insurance product: pay an annual premium on a policy of your choice (between T$10,000, $20,000 and $30,000) and know your family won’t have to beg, borrow or steal to pay for your funeral, or that of your parents or grandparents.
That’s the pitch made by A.I.C chief executive Lutuiloa Vaiula Sailaoa Solomona to the business community, who listened closely to the details on a product as yet untested nationally in Samoa.
Of particular interest to the private sector is the proposal for group funeral cover. A.I.C will customise premiums based on staff numbers and ages for employers to pay on their employees’ behalf, and can even choose to pay higher or lower premiums for staff at different levels of the company.
Project Manager, Saulelia Rosemary Tone, said in their consultations, businesses owners had shared their eagerness to take up a group cover as a reward to long-serving staff, and to incentivise staff to stay on in the company for longer periods of time.
Rosie Vaai, owner of Vaimoana Seaside Lodge in Savai’i was enthusiastic about taking up cover for her staff.
“The idea of having our staff insured, it’s a way we can give back to them – I love the idea, and I am actually thinking of going in tomorrow to sign up,” she said.
Ms. Vaai said as well as getting her business involved, she wants to encourage her family to sign up for funeral insurance too.
“I have many childless older relatives, so it would be good to invest now for them to make it easier on us later. I’m going to bring this up at our next family meeting.”
Samoa Commercial Bank’s Legal Manager, Edelma Niumata, said this product is really needed in Samoa.
“Considering how much money is spent on funerals, the premiums look really affordable. This would be a great benefit to my employees,” she said.
Stefan Szegedi, his parents Stefan and Christa Szegedi own and manage Treasure Box. They all agreed funeral cover would be a great addition to their business.
“Funerals certainly are a big burden to our employees,” said the younger Mr Szegedi.
“Our employees ask us for advances on their salaries to help pay for funerals, and their families suffer their reduced paycheques as they pay it off,” said Mr Szegedi.
With few exceptions, any Samoan citizen over the age of 18 can apply for a policy and nominate two people to claim the benefit after their death.
Papali’i Grant Percival, owner of Natural Foods International, raised a valid point.
“It’s a great idea for those who can afford it,” he said. “Salaries are just so low here, and after A.C.C. and S.N.P.F. payments come out of your paycheque not everyone will be prepared to give more.”
As a private insurance product, the claimed benefit is not taxable, but A.I.C is still in negotiations with the Central Bank of Samoa over whether employee group cover would be taxed, and will be address as demand is shown for the idea.
Some businesses owners liked the group cover concept and personal funeral cover for themselves and their families too, like Samoa International Finance Authority (S.I.F.A.) Registration Manager, Heinrich Siemsen, who said he’s most likely going to register for it.
“I hope this funeral cover will encourage people to spend what they have and not more,” said John Roache, an Accountant at Roache and Associates.
“People have to change their mentality around spending on big funerals and I hope people will say, when that day comes there is exactly the funeral cover to spend, and not much more,” said Mr. Roache.
The idea that children can begin paying premiums for their parent’s funerals was appealing to June Vaisagote.
“It’s an easy way to pay for something that is otherwise expensive,” she said. “Looking at the premiums, it’s affordable for my age group (18-40) but definitely more expensive for seniors.
Rolling out a radical new product won’t be without its challenges.
Leota Tima Leavai, Principal solicitor of Leavai Law Firm said one issue will be overcoming local superstitions around discussing death.
“Some of our people might worry that if they talk about taking cover then someone will die, but we have to change that thinking. Remember, we are Christian too, and God wouldn’t do that,” she said.
Leota is also the lawyer for A.I.C. More information: call into Apia Insurance Company, AIC House Tufuipoa for a FAQ booklet or to register, email email@example.com, or call 601547.