This morning Vitality announced major changes to their product range. There is no doubt that the Vitality product range is complicated and takes time to understand, but as they say in the old lager advert their products “refreshes the parts others don’t reach.”
At last year’s LIMRA life insurance conference Brandon Carter, President and CEO of USAA (https://www.usaa.com/), the US armed forces insurer, famous for exceptional customer service and technology innovation, called out one insurance company as managing the outstanding achievement of being in touch with the customers 1,000 times a year, when most insurers struggle to achieve it once. He was talking about Vitality (well to be truly accurate Vitality’s parent Discovery, but effectively the same thing).
The level of customer contact achieved through Vitality’s health and other programs should not be discounted, this is a huge factor in building loyalty. Quite simply, customers who use the additional benefits Vitality offer day in day out, are far less likely to let plans lapse. That said, from an adviser perspective over the last decade their contracts have become more and more complicated.
Today sees a substantial effort by Vitality to rationalise the range and make it easier to understand while at the same time not removing any significant customer benefits or the very wide scope of cover.
Three previous products Vitality Life Plan, Vitality Life Essentials Plan and Vitality Mortgage Plan are combined into a single new Personal Protection Plan. The core benefits and covers available under this new plan are:
- Term Life Cover and Whole of Life Cover
- Serious Illness Cover
- Income Protection Cover
Automatic Benefits – included in all core covers under PPP are:
- Immediate Cover on Life Cover
- Free Cover during mortgage completion on Life and Serious Illness Cover
- Guaranteed Insurability Options (unchanged from previous VitalityLife plan)
Further benefits can be selected at additional charge they are:
- Child Serious Illness Cover
- Family Income Cover
- Waiver of Premium on Incapacity
- Later Life Options: Dementia Frail Care Cover and Dementia Frail Care Cover plus+, with or without Funeral Cover
- Serious Illness Cover Booster (an option on the new Serious Illness Cover and Serious Illness Cover Plus).
- The ability to claim on serious illness without losing your life cover benefit, known as Protected Life Cover and the ability to top cover up after a claim known as Protected Life and Serious Illness Cover
- Lifestyle Care Cover (an option on Whole of Life only)
- Premium Optimiser (an option on Whole of Life only)
- Serious Illness Cover Protector
Some covers and benefits available under the previous Vitality Life Plan and Vitality Life Essentials Plan will not be offered in the new contracts, these are:
- Education Cover
- Disability Cover
- Waiver of Premium on Death
- Waiver of Premium on Serious Illness
- Interest Rate Optimiser on Whole of Life
- Standalone Vitality Plus
- Optional Serious Illness Cover for Children
To be fair, these are extra things Vitality covered over and above normal contracts, so we do not see this as a negative when comparing them against the wider marketplace. The only exception to this might be the Optional Serious Illness Cover for Children, however under the new plan advisers will have the choice of either including or excluding Children’s cover. Where Children’s cover is included the plan will cover all of the conditions available previously under the core and optional serious illness for children.
The overall Serious Illness Cover is available in two forms now to be known as Serious Illness Cover and Serious Illness Cover Plus. Standard Serious Illness cover aligns with the previous primary cover and will pay on five categories of severity from 100% down to 15%. Serious Illness Cover Plus aligns with what was comprehensive cover and pays down to 10% and 5% on very limited levels of illness.
Mortgage Serious Illness Cover is an option available for plans to cover a mortgage. This option essentially aligns the amount Vitality will pay for a range of serious illnesses with what would be paid under traditional critical illness plans.
Children’s cover now must be taken as an option. There are both standard and plus Children’s serious illness covers (covering the same conditions as what was previously primary and comprehensive cover respectively). If an adult has taken standard adult cover, they can add standard children’s cover, or plus if they have taken the wider adult cover.
The Optimiser, which introduces a range of upfront discounts was previously available as both a Wellness Optimiser, based on both the individual’s Vitality status and wellness status or the Vitality Optimiser just based on their Vitality status. This is now replaced by a single Optimiser which provides an up-front discount based on a range of features with ongoing discounts depending on the individual’s ability to attain and maintain Vitality status.
Previously Vitality had both their Essential and Vitality Life Plan which could be on a primary or comprehensive basis. The Essentials plan disappears entirely, and the new Personal Protection Plan can be either standard or plus. In this respect Vitaly are now far closer to other insurers who increasingly have both quality and economy products.
Another positive change is the extension of the Vitality Rewards scheme to all new life policyholders, with the introduction of a Vitality Select range of benefits, including a 50% discount at Caffe Nero and 10% at Expedia based on the level of engagement with the plan. Customers paying for the extra Optimiser benefit can get increased discounts at Expedia, up to 25%, and another of other benefits including up to a 40% discount at Waitrose where the client has a life and health policy. They have also reintroduced the Apple Watch incentive. Personally, I did not realise this had been removed although the timing is excellent given Apple’s announcement yesterday of the new Apple watch with a blood oxygen tracker and other fitness features.
Also, Vitality have produced a great Children’s Critical Illness case study which we have now added to our Critical Illness Videos page, you can find a link to this below.
Overall, the rationalisation of Vitality’s products is a very welcome step. I hope this is the beginning of a longer process not just a one off. Vitality do have a great deal to offer consumers with some excellent cover and very valuable other benefits, but they need to make it really simple for everyone to understand so consumers will appreciate the full value of what they are getting.