The term direct insurance has at least three different uses.
The first use case refers to a type of employer-sponsored employee life insurance policy used in Germany.
The most widely used definition for direct insurance, however, describes insurance companies which (much like direct banks) sell policies to customers directly.
Direct insurers operate without branch offices or customer-facing representatives and consultants.
Today, direct insurance companies operate primarily via the Internet. Communications are carried out primarily via apps, online portals, email, conventional mail or telephone.
Direct insurers not only present their policies online, they also let you apply for policies online. This can be beneficial to applicants. For one thing, you can save yourself a trip to a branch office or a visit from an insurance broker.
But potential time savings are only one factor. Another important difference is that insurance consultants and representatives often try to sell you additional insurance coverage and services which you may not really need. Applying for the insurance of your choice directly helps to prevent your being targetted by salespeople.
Because direct insurers save on the cost of consultation and running expenses, their insurance policies are often cheaper than those offered by conventional insurance providers.
In Switzerland, most direct insurers are spin-offs of large insurance companies which also have conventional insurance operations. This allows insurers to appeal to people who prefer to apply online, and those who prefer to apply for insurance in person.