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Big Read

May 2022 - Collated by Andy Couchman

Product Development Special Edition - Past, Present and Future

Product design and product reviews are two issues that affect us every single day, yet we seldom give them much thought – other than to praise or criticise where that’s due.

In this issue of Big Read, as guest editor, I wanted to get behind the processes and, working with the rest of the team at Protection Review, we asked a few of our key industry contacts for their contributions to the debate. I’m delighted with the results and hope you will be too.

Holloway Friendly’s founder George Holloway not only established the friendly society, but he also was the founder of what we now know as long term income protection. Holloway remains an IP specialist and, as a relatively small provider, has to do things differently. Martin Sincup’s insights on their product development process make fascinating reading.

Contrast that with the views of Jennifer Gilchrist of Royal London. Her company is one of the giants of the industry, so its perspective is different. It is also one of the more innovative insurers and covers more product types, so Jennifer’s insights again make fascinating reading. 

Reinsurance is an important partner to protection insurers in so many ways and Kuen Chik of Pacific Life Re explains how reinsurers support their clients. Reinsurance is an odd fish, inasmuch as its customers are the insurers, not the end customer. How does that affect their approach to product design?

Although insurers do deal direct with their customers, most protection business comes through intermediaries, so how involved are intermediaries in the process?

Added value benefits are a key element of pretty much every new or updated product or service these days (and quite right too!) and Jo Throp of Krysalis gives her angles on the issues for them.

Finally, we needed an adviser’s view and who better to give that than Alan Lakey. Best known to many as the guy behind CIExpert, he’s much more than that and his views should make us all sit up and take note.

Finally – I’ve added a couple of sections myself. So, we end this Big Read with a brief history of product reviews in our sector. Protection Review team members have played a key part in that for almost 30 years and we continue to provide what we hope and believe are valuable views about new and updated products.

 But first up is maybe an indulgence on my part – but bear with me. I came into this wonderful industry of ours more than 50 years ago and have been involved in product design for most of that time, and have enjoyed some successes too. So, you might expect rose-tinted glasses when it comes to how we used to design products.

Not so. Product design these days is much more complex and sophisticated, the care and attention to detail is better than ever and the regulator constantly hovers to keep us on the straight and narrow – and rightly so. Today’s buyers of protection get better value, better benefits and are better looked after than ever.

But nothing is ever perfect and that’s one reason why Protection Review continues to monitor, review and comment on what’s happening. You may not always agree with us, or may think we go too far or not far enough, but one essential element is debate and that’s something we’ve tried to encourage since Peter Le Beau and I set up Protection Review back in 2003. I hope you enjoy this latest edition of Big Read.


January 2022 - Collated by Roger Edwards

Reflections on the topics and issues raised at the 2021 Protection Review Conference

In December 2021 we were back at The Landmark London Hotel for our first in-person event since the start of the pandemic. We were humbled by the feedback you sent us about the quality of the day and the range of topics covered. For this edition of the Big Read we asked people who attended the conference to give us their reactions and reflections to the issues they heard about on the day. It's a fascinating collection of views and a reminder of the quality of the talks and panel debates we experienced at the conference.


August 2021 - Collated by Jo Miller

Hindsight - did protection market predictions from 10 years ago come true? Let's look at the reality

Back in 2011, Protection Review carried out some industry research asking colleagues for their predictions for the decade ahead. We asked for views on topics including the biggest influence on sales in the years ahead, whether we would still be requesting GPRs at the application stage, how people would choose to buy protection and the number of advisers we would see by the early 2020s. We repeated our research in 2012 and 2013 and here we ask a number of figures from across the protection industry for their thoughts on the predictions made ten years ago and how close the reality has been. Of course, none of us predicted a global pandemic in 2020 and the resulting fallout, but our predictions make for interesting reading with the benefit of hindsight.


April 2021 - Collated by Kevin Carr

How to advise on protection and health insurance – the top tips from the best advisers

We asked seven advisers to imagine they were training someone for the first time on how to advise on protection, including the three most important tips they have learned.

This is what they told us.


Q4 - December 2020 - Collated by Roger Edwards

If I could spend £3m on protection...

There’s a movement gathering in the protection industry again about getting together to create a generic campaign to promote protection to the public, whether that be TV advertising or some sort of social media campaign.

For this edition of the Big Read we thought it would be interesting to ask experts from across the industry to think about what they would do if someone gave them £3m to spend on a campaign. The articles make for fascinating reading and we'd love your feedback.


Q3 - September 2020 - Collated by Jo Miller

Voices from the next generation of protection talent

In this edition of The Big Read, Jo Miller catches up with some of those shortlisted for Protection Review’s Young Achiever Award in previous years to find out how their career has developed and gets their thoughts on the changes they have seen in the industry in recent years as well as developments they would like to see in the years ahead.


Q2 - June 2020 - Collated by Kevin Carr

Where are they now?

In this edition of our quarterly Big Read series, we talk to seven people who helped shape today’s protection industry as we know it.


Q1 - March 2020 - Collated by Roger Edwards

Protection insights from leading financial adviser firms

In this edition of the Big Read, Roger Edwards interviews some of the leading protection financial adviser firms about their views on the market, where it's going and some of the issues we need to concentrate on.


Q4 - December 2019 - Collated by Peter Le Beau

Retrospection and non-contestability

In this edition of the Big Read, Peter Le Beau has put together a series of articles debating critical illness retrospection and the subject of non-contestability. Both topics are frequently covered at industry events and often cause heated conversations in the pub afterwards.

With critical illness products constantly evolving, whether existing customers should have access to new conditions and definitions is a tricky pricing issue. And even though we pay protection claims into the high 90 percents, those we don turn down for non-disclosure continue to attract media attention. Would a non-contestability clause, as used in the US, work here in the UK.

Please read Peter's introduction article first and then choose to read the others in any order you like.


Q3 - September 2019 - Collated by Jo Miller

Protection Advertising

Advertising protection presents several challenges: products, and therefore customer journeys, can be complex and ultimately any campaigns for protection products ask people to confront truths that they would rather not think about.  Small wonder then that examples of advertising in the protection industry are not easily found and only the 7Families campaign has attempted to get the industry to collaborate to highlight the benefits of protection.

At the Protection Review conference in July, Ian Henderson shared what he saw as the potential for an industry-wide advertising campaign. Acknowledging the need to build trust with potential customers, Ian felt that any such campaign would need to appeal to people on an emotional level and that ultimately the best chance of success lay in establishing a bottom-up movement using technology which would be customers would share with those they trusted.  The result of any future campaigns should be to drive action, build connections and make it easy for the audience to interact.

The 7Families campaign proved that any industry-wide campaign requires a great deal of support and goodwill, so we wondered what those from across the industry felt about advertising, their thoughts on how consumers respond to different campaigns, the potential of social media and whether another industry-wide campaign is on the cards.


Q2 - June 2019 - Collated by Kevin Carr

Claims Statistics

There was a time when the protection market was under fire from all corners for declining claims. We can remember headlines in the national press like ‘This sick cover is a joke’ appearing 2-3 times a month with more on prime time TV as well.

While declined claims may never disappear completely, these days they are fewer and farther between and so is the press coverage. A key reason why the press softened their criticism over the years was the open and honest publication of paid and declined claims stats by the industry. Some insurers published some stats as far back as the 90s (and perhaps beyond) but the real change came when LifeSearch began challenging insurers to publish the numbers in the early 00s. Now, just about every protection insurer publishes their data – albeit in different ways and at different times.

There are views that this should continue, views that we should shout much louder than we do, views that we should stop and/or completely change the narrative. Here, we’ve asked nine people for their opinions on Where next for claims stats? We’ve tried to get a good range of different opinions and we’ve already had a few ideas on how to move forward!


Q1 - March 2019 - Collated by Roger Edwards

Digital Marketing and Protection

Digital marketing communications is engaging with customers using digital technology rather than traditional paper-based mailshots and advertising hoardings. Mobile technology means marketing initiatives, once only available to those with massive budgets, are now available to companies of all sizes.

In this edition of the Big Read, we look at how product providers and advisers can use digital marketing to better engage their customers and grow their businesses at the same time.

A Big Read containing only written articles on the subject of digital marketing would seem a little strange given digital is also about video, audio and apps. Hence this Big Read is also a Big Watch or even a Big Listen. 

For those of you who do prefer to read, however, we have included a transcript of the videos where relevant.


Q4 - November 2018 - Collated by Jo Miller

Women in Protection

With a month to go before Protection Review 2018 the team ran through the agenda to confirm final arrangements for the day. As we did, we made an observation about our speaker line utp and how it made the event stand out from any others that had recently taken place or were scheduled for the near future; 50% of our speakers were women!  Every year this had been something we had tried to achieve but it had presented a number of challenges but it was clear looking at the agenda that things were to be different at the 2018 event. Not through any predetermined plan but by merit alone, the theme continued into the evening with at least half of our awards being won by women.

On the day, the audience and feedback we received suggested that the parity between male and female speakers was noticed, and appreciated by the audience. Did it make a difference to how discussions played out on the day? That’s almost impossible for us to measure and for us to know for certain but one thing was undeniable: it made a point.

In fact the feedback we received on this one issue alone got us to thinking about how important it is for the industry to now recognise the need to be representative in all that we do. Not just in what we do but in who does it and the way it is done.  And so it is that we bring to you the Big Read collection of articles looking at the theme of fair representation in protection and how we achieve what is best for the customer. Below you will find articles from Steph Hydon from iPipeline and Rose St Louis from Zurich and the Women in Protection Group who talk about how it is in the industry’s best interest to drive equality in the industry and how a workforce that includes more women will ultimately lead to products that appeal to female customers. Kathryn Knowles talks about her experience of being female in financial services and encourages the industry to lead the way. AIG’s Sue Helmont says it is time for the industry to break down stereotypes and allow everyone to reach their full potential.  Melissa Collet from the CII discusses the new qualification launched to enable anyone in the industry to learn the fundamentals of protection. Finally, Christine Husbands from Red Arc challenges us to consider equality in the industry in terms of later life, arguing that bringing together later life financial advisers and added value services could have a really positive impact on our customers.

The argument for equality both within the industry but also in how we design and market our products is a strong one and it is hard to think why we as an industry wouldn’t listen. After all, it has to be in the best interests of the customer and that should be top of everyone’s agenda.


Q2 - June 2018 - Collated by Peter Le Beau

Critical Illness Cover and Added Value Services

Boring....or vital?

Despite my slow fade into retirement I still occasionally meet senior figures from the industry and to my delight they occasionally recognise me and throw me a scrap or two given my lowly status as a pensioner! Retiring from the industry is on one level very easy but on the other almost impossible. Certainly, I never want to retire emotionally from the industry.

You can withdraw from the industry but issues still follow you around and invite your input. Recently I had dinner with some senior industry figures, one of whom who to my surprise, described the protection industry as boring. He was being flippant and deliberately perpetuating the cliche so often put forward by those without an intimate knowledge of what we do. My point is that while I can see what might incline someone to hold that view it’s not one that I’ve ever held. The reason is that what we look after is so important and so precious to people that it is hard to view it in a disembodied way as just another financial transaction.

I think protection people lack confidence in the value of our product and this discourages us from taking a more robust line in defending what we provide. I make no apologies for spending my life working in an industry that helps so many people. My faith was augmented by my experience running the Seven Families project. What we did there was to remind people how much income protection helped people with major health challenges—and not just in a financial sense. Critical illness can also fundamentally change the financial and emotional perspective of sick people

Life insurance can’t bring relief to people in their own lifetime but speak to anyone recently bereaved as you help them to pay off their mortgage or provide financial security for their family and see if they think that is boring! I think it’s high time we stopped being so defensive about what we do and citing real examples of lives either changed or hugely facilitated by the help we provide. The left- brain introvert personality ( if that’s the right word!) that we project has served us so poorly. It’s led to misguided decisions and an inability to take a proactive approach to describe what we provide. 

It’s time that stopped. If it doesn’t we will never change the public perception of what we do.


Q1 - March 2018 - Collated by Kevin Carr

What's driving growth in protection?

The UK protection market is booming.

Or at least, according to most sources, it is growing nicely. And about time too.

What is driving the growth?

Could it be technology, portals, comparison sites, consumer confidence (or lack of), claims stats, Seven Families, Martin Lewis, new products, more partnerships, cheaper rates, better underwriting, mortgage advisers, networks, Brexit, Peter Le Beau’s retirement… or perhaps all of the above?

To find out what what’s really going on we asked a range of industry experts including Aviva, Alan Lakey, iPipeline, UnderwriteMe, OPAL, Gen Re and Zurich for the low down on what’s really driving the recent market growth, whether it is sustainable, and how we can make it last.


Q4 - October 2017 - Collated by Roger Edwards

At the Protection Review Conference in July 2017, several themes emerged from the speeches and panel debates. As an industry, we need to "Be simpler, more human and braver". It's all very well saying that but what does it mean? 

In the latest Big Read, Roger Edwards collects together some thoughts on how we can be all those things.


More human:



Q2 - June 2017 - Collated by Jo Miller

In the latest Big Read Jo Miller asks whether we have an appetite to do things differently in the protection market. She considers the product development process, the feedback from the recent Adviser Round Table, genetics and lessons from global giant, Amazon. Jo says in her summary article, "Protection insurance isn't immune to a fundamental re- engineering, in fact, I'm saying that's exactly what it needs. That's not because it isn't a wonderful thing, it's because not enough people realise it's a wonderful thing."


Q1 - February 2017 - Collated by Peter Le Beau

In the latest Big Read Peter Le Beau looks at trends and predictions for the protection market and underwriting in 2017.


Q4 - November 2016 - Collated by Kevin Carr

For the November Big Read, Kevin Carr shines a spotlight on customer engagement.


Q3 - August 2016 - Collated by Roger Edwards

We've revamped our Big Read pages. No more PDFs so it's easy to read these great articles on mobile devices. And you'll find a video to watch in Scottish Widows article on mortgage protection.

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