Last month marked a significant step-change for the insurance sector. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA, who lead the Access To Insurance Working Groups Signposting Workstream), the Cii, trade bodies, advisers, charities and others came together in the Houses of Parliament to launch BIBA’s 2020 Manifesto and a new signposting agreement with an objective I feel extremely passionate about: where we can, granting better access to protection insurance for the many, not the few.

For the industry it’s an indefinite catalyst for change, but for the 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, it is potentially life-changing.

So what is it we want to change? In terms of the hierarchy of access asks, our first is that all wealth, pension and mortgage advisers, plus general insurance brokers, engage with the personal, business and workplace protection needs of their clients. We do recognise that due to lack wealth management and protection platforms being disconnected, this is not always possible due to the nature of some business models, so our second ask is that firms collaborate and put a relationship in place with specialist financial protection advisory firms. Should this not be viable, our third ask is that they use the new BIBA signposting service at https://insurance.biba.org.uk/find-insurance

Barriers until now

For a long enough time, as insurers, we haven’t been shy to the fact that researching the ins and outs of critical illness cover, income protection and life insurance can be a challenge for any customer. As our population ages, and the numbers of those with long-term medical conditions or disabilities rise, there is a risk that this could become a minefield.

“Will a mental health condition hinder my insurance claim?”, “Should I declare all of my pre-existing conditions?” and “Can I afford to fork out?” – These are just a handful of the questions I’ve been met with when speaking to customers.

And it’s no surprise. There is a huge volume of information out there and understandably, it can be overwhelming to sift through to obtain the right guidance. Each customer has unique requirements and a ‘one size fits all’ policy simply won’t do in the majority of customer cases, let alone for those with specialist requirements. The same difficulties are faced by micro businesses and SMEs seeking access to the business and/or group protection advice and solutions that they require.

That is exactly why there was such a great need to secure collective commitment from the industry and the 26 signatories to make a change.

Protection in 2020 and beyond

Since 2018, I’ve been working as the DWP and now Cabinet Office industry disability champion, collaborating with members of the Access to Insurance Working Group that I chair. It’s our mission to help improve the customer journey for individuals and small businesses struggling to find personal or group protection insurance that is the best fit.

With this new commitment, there will more stringent vetting in place to match customers with a provider who not only has appetite to assist those with pre-existing medical conditions, but has specialist knowledge of how to best advise them.

What’s more, firms large and small will signpost customers that they cannot help because of their medical condition or disability towards a firm that can. In doing so, improving outcomes for customers.

Education is key, and a central resource of educational materials for individuals, employers and charities will encourage consistency of expectations and standards for all.

In implementing all of this, we hope to improve trust and transparency between provider and customer, plus aid the industry in better meeting needs. It’s our priority to act in the customers’ best interest against the requirements of IDD, SMCR and FCA Final GI as well as Pure Protection Guidance for distributors.

What’s next?

Real change will require participation from everyone plus the success of this signposting will partly rely on customers coming forward to be more open about pre-existing medical conditions and any specific support they require. This is the only way they can obtain cover that truly fits their requirements.

For industry colleagues, one of the biggest changes will come from knowledge sharing with others in the industry to maintain their commitment to best practice and our Cii led Access To Insurance Professionalism Workstream are going to support this with;

  • Equality Act and insurance – what you need to know as a senior manager or certified person material
  • An Access To Insurance webinar
  • “ How To “ bite size items on for example, how to recognise need, how to initiate ad discussion, how to signpost

This further supported by our Access To Insurance Underwriting Workstream who are working on an underwriting best practice guide for insurers and advisers, this development is led by adviser firms sharing their experience of working with providers across the market.

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