Steve Casey, Marketing Director, Square Health comments on the topics covered at the Protection Review Conference 2021.
In the second week of December, The Protection Review ended the plethora of life and health conferences, seminars and award ceremonies. These had to be shoe-horned in between the various COVID guidelines issued by the Government as attempts to keep people safe and well here in the UK.
Trending 19th on Twitter for the day, the conference promised much in terms of the future direction and ideas needed to promote the industry, protect the rights of consumers and building their trust.
Did the conference deliver? Upon reflection, I think that it did. Sure, there was a certain degree of Deja Vue with comments starting with “What the industry should do is" scattered across the room, but the debate and insight was excellent.
Annual benefits statements, claims case studies and the question “Why don’t mortgage brokers sell more protection products” raised their annual heads. But there was in my view more than a few nuggets that I would like to highlight.
Value add or support services
Some excellent research undertaken by Pacific Life Re highlighted consumer perceptions of the inclusion of value-added (or support) services.
Digital healthcare was always going to emerge within the UK and COVID has simply seen an acceleration of this delivery option across the board.
As a keen promoter of these services, I am proud in what we are seeing in finally being able to bring to life a product that not only has intrinsic value should the worst happen but allows us to engage with the customer from Day One.
We are in the early days of this evolution, and I do not think that we will have an “arms race” along the lines of what we saw with critical illness products. This is because I think that these support services will be used to support the underlying strategy that providers wish to adopt.
Whilst some will want to offer services that are more reactive in nature, i.e., something has to have happened, others will want to offer support services that could potentially head off issues that may in time lead to a claim – the utilisation of support services leading to better health outcomes and potentially cheaper premiums triangle.
What was clear to me was that there does seem to be some confusion as to what the framework is around these support services are and how they are regulated. More work needs to be undertaken here to provide the customer and adviser with better understanding of how they are delivered.
The direction of travel the FCA are taking with the Consumer Duty consultation will have a material impact within the industry. It will hold the senior management acceptable for their actions around the consumer. If they are not at the heart of what they do, or the relevant information is not provided they will feel the full force of the regulator. This is good news as the high jump bar is being raised again but, would it not have been nice if we had undertaken this ourselves rather than await the Regulator to look out their stick from the cupboard?
“The confident relationship with the unknown” or trust as it is better known as was a key component of the morning. What I think is clear is that despite (many) conferences, claims statistics, case studies and an increase in TV advertising, the dial has barely moved in our favour.
The consumer does not differentiate protection from general insurance products, banking products or financial services in general. In their mind it is all associated with “things financial” and a scandal in one sector such as PPI has an impact across the board.
Where the dial can and is moving in the right direction in my view is the relationship between the consumer and the adviser. A mortgage broker I see regularly when we watch Cheltenham Town has had clients for over 25 years and now has their children as clients.
The Trustpilot scores issued by many advisers are excellent and some of the customer testimonials are superb. It's just a shame that during the debate the role of the adviser in being the link man between the customer and the provider was not recognised for what it is.
Advised vs non-advised
The advised vs. non-advised debate will continue to rumble but I think sometimes misses a few key points. Clearly, there are good and bad firms in both sectors. Some of the lead generation practices have been at best shoddy and at worst downright misleading.
As an individual who regularly received unsolicited calls (and sorry to those who receive the multitude of emails I send giving them the details), this has to be stamped out.
More importantly, the information given has to be appropriate, timely and inform the consumer of their obligations and their protections should something go wrong.
Time was against us in the afternoon and the debate barely scratched the service looking at loading premiums. That was a shame as this just requires a simple tweak to outlaw this practice. Again, I think that the FCA consultation will prove to be the final nail in the coffin as I have never seen any evidence in all my time within financial services that demonstrates a better customer outcome from loaded premiums.
What is clear is that for a (relatively) simple product, there is a great deal of complexity all interlinked. Perhaps if we could change the “should do” comment to “will do” or “pledge to” over the next twelve months we will go a long way in breaking down the issues and do what we do best, protect the consumer.