Quality Analyser – The advisers’ and clients’ friend…

The protection planning world has changed. All plans are no longer the same; not that they ever were, but they were at least similar!  After years of advisers seeking different products and manufacturers tweaking products to increase their market share, we are now left with a vast array of protection products with a plethora of bolt-on benefits, value added benefits, options to buy back, simplified products, complex products, upgraded products, joint but independent cover, funeral expenses and so on. Without decent tech, I would argue it’s virtually impossible to navigate this market unless you have a memory the size of an elephant and can absorb the daily changes made in the market. So, if like me you have run out of memory, your only option is to employ technology to assist you in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, from the regulator’s perspective, we need to recommend ‘suitable’ products, but why would we only recommend ‘suitable’ products? If we were buying these plans for our own use, we would do the research and buy the plan that offers us the most benefit, or is more likely to pay out. I’m sure the majority of firms want to do this for their clients too.

There is a potential downside when using comparison tools, in that the tail could end up wagging the dog; providers will upgrade products simply to climb the tech firm’s product rankings. But why is that such a bad thing? Last year we started using the Quality Analyser research software from FTRC, the firm behind Protection Guru. This enables us to assess all term protection products from a consumer perspective. It enables us to look at the likelihood of each individual policy paying out based on medical incidence rates, and uniquely the expert professional assessment of a panel of independent medical practitioners, who not only review each policy wording but also update this view every six months based on the latest changes to medical practice.  In our view what a client really wants to know is will the policy I am buying pay-out, basically will it do what it says on the tin and, if so, how well? 

As a firm, we can assess the quality of critical Illness plans using a person’s gender, age, term of the plan, sum assured and whether or not they have any children. We can also manipulate the research at firm level to provide a bespoke template, this allows us to determine the areas we want to research and the percentage weight that should be applied for that area.  This results in us being able to produce useable, quality, client-facing documentation, providing robust support for product recommendations and allowing us to illustrate how and why it’s the best for our client.

I’ve noticed a lot of press recently around “value added benefits” (“VABs”) and the good news stories they’ve produced, particularly around mental health issues, second opinion services, global doctors and increasingly, 24-hour GP services.  These are all valuable benefits and I don’t think it’s right that they are ignored as a plan “frill”, or window dressing.  Our clients are informed about the VABs and can prioritise or decline using VABs as part of the selection process. FTRC’s Quality Analyser allows us to research VAB options with relative ease.

Over a six-month period, we measured how having this extra information impacted client’s decisions. In well over 90% of critical illness cases, clients are walking away with a product that is not the cheapest, but has been thoroughly researched to match the client’s priorities, including budget and quality of the plan. Often, we recommend a good middle-of-the-road product that offers an ideal combination of quality and cost, clients often feel that Quality + Price = Value!   We have enjoyed a 20% uplift in protection premiums since we began using Quality Analyser.  Whilst this is obviously good for our bottom line, more importantly, it demonstrates that our advisers do not take the least line of resistance but rather, provide a quality led service to our clients.

As a firm, we want our clients to have the best possible outcomes, particularly in the event of a claim. We never want to be the adviser that has to tell the client they can’t make a claim for some reason or other.  Neither do we want cover lapsing; in my experience, this only happens when clients don’t understand the value of what they have, or there is a genuine reason to rearrange.

If technology drives better customer outcomes and we can provide a well-researched, bespoke plan for our clients, everyone’s a winner, in the words of Aldo Gucci, “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”.

The standard version of FTRC’s protection Quality Analyser software can be accessed free of charge by adviser members of The Personal Finance Society from www.qualityanalyser.com.

Firms wishing to use the template version referred to in Charly’s article, which allows a large advice firm or network to take a consistent approach to protection across their entire business, should speak with Adam Higgs or Ian McKenna on (020) 3740 0000.