2019 saw really positive growth in the protection market especially in Income Protection, but what will 2020 hold in store for the industry? We asked a number of leading protection specialists, if they had a new year’s wish what would they like to see happen? The wishes varied greatly, so let’s see what some of the industry’s best brains are hoping for in 2020.
Tom Bagrie – CEO of LifeSearch and a founder member of the PDG
On January 21st 2020 the Protection Signposting service is launched in the houses of Parliament. Developed by the Access to Insurance movement and hosted by BIBA it was designed with help from the PDG and offers every insurer and distributor a chance to pass customers you can’t help to protection specialists who probably can. Those who an insurer declines can often get cover elsewhere and this service will allow insurers to offer those they can’t help more than a flat ‘no’. A brilliant idea, and one I’d like to see extend to those distributors who don’t like to take on complex cases or to do Income Protection, but who want to serve their customers brilliantly.
Of course direct commercial relationships with firms like mine can serve this purpose and provide non-compete safeguards, but for those who want a simple route to help consumers, rather than to take responsibility for the work needed to do that, signposting is the way forward. My hope for 2020 is that it takes off and becomes a good and widespread industry habit. It would do so much good for all our reputations; it would help grow the market and above all it would let us all serve more customers better.
And the other thing I’d like to see is insurers being ever more careful as to who they let be their agents. The number of dodgy dealers who mass cold-call using illegally acquired data sets and then churn Level Term into Decreasing, or perfectly good CIC policies into Life and TIB policies, while pretending they are the same things is a shame on our whole market.
Kathryn Knowles – Managing Director of Cura
My wish for New Year is that insurers make even bigger strides to support people with mental health to access insurance. There is a lot of work being done, but there are some key things that could be changed to truly support people better. The wording of insurance applications around anxiety and depression are confusing and need to addressed.
Questions like ‘When did you last feel anxious?’ are incredibly hard to answer. For me, it was this morning when I needed to sort three young kids at school, my husband has just had his leg in a boot and our electric gates tripped and I couldn’t get the car out of the drive. I felt stressed, I have a history of anxiety, so does that mean I need to say that my last symptoms are today? But wouldn’t anyone that was in this situation feel stressed, is it anxiety, or just life?
Another thing that I struggle with in the questions ‘Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?’ It is very hard to classify what a suicidal thought is. I had a friend that died in a tragic accident when he was 9, his mother never recovered. She bravely carried on living for her other children, and then when they reached an age of independence, she committed suicide in the same manner that her son had died. Like her I have three young children, they are my world, I remembered her one day and I could not help but wonder if I would do the same thing. For a few days I played the scenario in my head, Would I be able to cope if one of my children died? Would I ultimately find it too much?
Lucy Brown – Head of Protection at London & Country
In 2020 it would be great to see more focus on customer experience as opposed to just on the products themselves. A provider could have the best possible product but if throughout the application journey customers lose faith in cumbersome processing there is a risk that they end up without any cover at all.
Equally, a customer could take a seemingly comprehensive product and be let down at the point of making a claim, not only if the claim is unsuccessful but also through poor communication and a lack of support. At L&C, we’re always surprised at the variation in claims journeys from provider to provider and whilst there are some who have the customer at the forefront of what they do, they sometimes seem to be in the minority.
Improved flexibility and engagement would also improve relationships between providers, advisers and our customers and hopefully lead to higher take-up of protection with greater persistency. It would be fantastic if by the end of 2020, providers had reviewed the journey customers follow from start to finish to help refocus their efforts on improving the experience and ensuring the best possible outcome. And of course to have all providers signed up to the PDG Claims Charter so that we can be sure they are achieving the expected minimum benchmark.
Charlotte Nixon – Proposition Director – Mortgage Network at Quilter Financial Planning
Moving into 2020, my hope for the protection industry is that we can support the need for quality advice through innovation in technology. I feel protection is still one of the product lines that hasn’t moved forward with the technology advances we have seen in other areas. Personally I feel we should be focusing more on the underwriting process, there needs to be a more efficient way through the use of other data sources and technology, to provide a better customer journey. It still baffles me that this process can still take weeks or even months to complete?
Ensuring advisers and clients have information and underwriting decisions much earlier in the sales process in key.
There needs to be more of a partnership between providers, technology suppliers and advisers on how we can modernise the current protection ‘buying’ experience for customer. Why does it need to be so lengthy? Without developments in this space, there will always be another barrier for why protection is not recommend to clients.
Setul Mehta – Openwork Head of Sales Operations (Mortgage & Wealth Channel) at Openwork
Looking ahead to 2020, I would like to see the re-introduction and resurgence of the protection review. Compared to mortgage or wealth advice, protection often takes a back seat and yet it is just as important.
We all know how crucial having the right level of protection cover in place can be, and it’s only through regular reviews that you can be sure a client’s lifestyle and needs are being properly met. I would love to see advisers ensure that all their clients have the right level of income protection, legacy protection, family protection or mortgage protection in place, to support them through changing times. There is a protection gap and it is vital we all take steps to re-emphasise the importance of protection to our existing clients as well as new ones.
Claire Ginnelly – Managing Director at Premier Choice Group
In 2020 I would like to see a concerted effort from the industry to raise the awareness of protection products and the importance of having them in place. There is a need to reach a wider audience and make protection insurance more accessible for all. One of the biggest stumbling blocks we come up against is advisers not wanting to discuss these products due to the perceived complex and long drawn out process. Advisors have a big role to play in helping clients understand the products and get access to them. It would be great if this market could really start to grow in 2020 and the massive potential out there to protect more people be realised.
Jeff Woods – Campaigns & Proposition Director at Sesame Bankhall Group
My one wish would be to find a way to get advisers to think first about protecting income, which continues to be the poor relation in comparison to life cover and therefore massively undersold. This imbalance is historical and cultural, which is why it’s so frustrating, because it’s so clearly out of step with how people live and work today. At a time when State benefits are diminishing, income protection should be much higher up the list of priorities for many more people. The simple reality is that the only way that people can be sure of looking after themselves financially in the event of incapacity is by having the right cover in place. Advisers have the opportunity to be at the forefront of helping to solve this society problem, but it all comes down to having the protection conversation with customers in the first place.
Anne Fairs – Protection Product and Technical Specialist – Tilney Financial Planning Ltd
I think 2020 will see continuing innovation with the launch of further protection products designed for specific target markets. People need realistic examples with which they can strongly identify and align themselves, to encourage that initial engagement with protection plans. Policies now need to have inherent flexibilities built into the products so that these can adapt and change along with the insured, as they progress through their life milestones.
We have already started to see more flexible and targeted plans come to market, and I would expect more to follow during 2020. Whilst I do not want to see an overly complex range of solutions and resulting confusion, this divergence can only aid the added value of obtaining advice from a specialist with an in depth knowledge and overview of the market.
Insurers also need to do much more to raise awareness of the positive benefits of protection and the reasons why everyone should assess their personal situation and take appropriate action. It is almost five years since the Seven Families initiative and we are overdue another awareness campaign. Whilst practitioners are well aware of the claims statistics readily available from suppliers, there is still much work to do here to promote public confidence in this area.
My concern for the coming year is the chasing of increasingly higher statistics around the on boarding of clients via straight-through processing and automatic underwriting. I do worry about the hardening of underwriting outcomes and lack of dialogue around non-standard lives and the inevitable path we are heading down, towards bespoke and personalised terms. This may alienate those individuals who most need to engage with the protection market and secure an insured solution.
We will revisit this wishes at the end of the year to see how many have come true but for the time being, we wish all of our readers a very happy and prosperous new year.