RACV: Looking after its people, members and the community through COVID-19 and beyond

11 November 2021

Victorians have never spent more time in their homes than they have over the last 18 months. As a result, many of us have begun viewing our living spaces differently and renovations and home content upgrades have boomed across Melbourne. This week, RACV shares valuable learnings and insights gained through the pandemic, including the importance of ensuring you are protected with the right insurance, property trends and market impacts, home security, and more.

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Welcome to another edition of Fast Five - our fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most influential and exciting business leaders five simple questions to unveil the challenges, successes, and behind-the-scenes operations of Australia’s leading institutions.  

“For most people home has traditionally been the place you return to, where you feel safe and free to be yourself. That’s of course been challenged through the pandemic on numerous levels, some of which we expect to be long-term trends.”  

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking to Nicole Brasz, RACV Executive General Manager – Home and Energy, on how the organisation has innovated and navigated the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, while upholding RACV’s ethos of doing the right thing by its people, members and the community. 

Nicole shares her insights on property trends, the pandemic’s role in creating a large appetite for improving and upgrading our homes, the importance of re-evaluating your level of insurance, and the increase in home security enquiries as further restrictions are lifted and Victorians begin spending more time out of the house.   

#1: With so many challenges presented by COVID-19, how has RACV dealt with pandemic-related matters?  

The RACV ethos is to always try to do the right thing by our people, our members and the community. In regards to our people, during COVID-19, we’ve put their safety and wellbeing first and endeavoured to keep them employed and productive. For example, when our retail stores were closed due to lockdowns we provided retraining and an opportunity to work from home in our call centre.

For our members, we worked quickly to create a hardship policy to assist those in financial need with their insurance and emergency assist products. For our communities, we repurposed our resort kitchens and emergency roadside assist vehicles to deliver pre-made food to those in need. We also contributed to the important work of Lifeline by funding an overnight text service which wasn’t available before RACV’s funding.

Being local, we understand what members are going through and what’s happening in Victoria. We continue to monitor and review our products to make sure they are meeting our member’s needs. Our existing policies offer our members peace of mind for their home and belongings, and should they need to claim we offer friendly and local support, 24/7.

#2: Has RACV identified any property trends during the course of COVID-19?

The most immediate and visible impact of COVID-19 on the property market has been on residential house sales, which have suffered from six lockdowns, curtailing the ability to show homes and attend auctions. Construction has also been affected. We are however beginning to see residential bounce back as the market begins to open, with prices rising at unexpected rates.

The more notable or longer-term impact will come from a reduction in migration to Victoria, which has been the hardest hit of all the states with a net loss of approximately 5,000 people to other states in Australia in the March 2021 quarter alone. We’ve also seen migration from metropolitan Melbourne to regional and a decrease in international migration into Victoria – in the 2020 financial year there were 24,100 less people arriving from overseas into Victoria than the year prior. This all results in a net loss in dwellings for Victoria that will likely continue in the mid to long-term.

#3: As the head of the RACV Home division, how has COVID-19 impacted how Victorians view their homes?

Something we’re very aware of at RACV Home is the importance of going local with trusted brands. For most people home has traditionally been the place you return to, where you feel safe and free to be yourself. That’s of course been challenged through the pandemic on numerous levels, some of which we expect to be long-term trends.

For example, for many people our home is now our place of work and we need to think through how to delineate between living and working – both physically and mentally. Demand for home offices has climbed and now adds economic value to your property.

There’s also been an appetite to improve your home given how much time you spend there.  That might mean fixing things or adding solar panels – as witnessed through our RACV Trades and RACV Solar businesses - or doing renovations. In terms of consumption, the shift to digital will remain as we continue to make online purchases and seek home entertainment through streaming.

#4: What are some of the biggest learnings for Victorians in terms of their home and contents insurance as a result of the pandemic?

Victorians have never spent more time in their homes and local areas than they have over the last 18 months. Not only did homemade sourdough take off in lockdowns, so did renovation and home content upgrades across Melbourne, including home offices, theatres and gyms.

It is really important that when upgrades are made to your home, building and/or the contents within it, that you revaluate your insurance to make sure you still have adequate cover of your home and contents. ASIC estimates that up to 80 per cent of homeowners are underinsured.

#5: Have you seen an increase in home security insurance uptake as Victorians emerge from lockdown?

It’s early days but we expect an uptick in home security enquiries as people spend more time out of the house, just like we’ve seen each time Victoria has emerged from lockdown. Interest in RACV security products jumped 40 per cent in November 2020 compared to the monthly average of July to October 2020, and we expect a similar increase as more restrictions are eased. 

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