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Engagement between client and adviser and value added services by Setul Mehta, Openwork

Setul Mehta, Head of Business Development & Adviser Services at The Openwork Partnership talks about the engagement between an adviser and their clients from the point of view of added-value services.

Following a thought-provoking session on consumer trust, where it was clear that at the heart of everything, it’s the engagement between the client and the person they are talking to within our industry that has the biggest impact on their lives, it’s easy to say it’s what the payout brings? Or what the policy costs but actually when it came down to it, for Stephanie King it was all about the value Lesley was providing at British Friendly. This was naturally echoed by the value Krysalis was going to bring for Guardian customers. Therefore, the session around value-added services was the standout for me (Tom, Emma & Phil, you were a close second).

I walked away from the session and the natural post-session discussion over lunch 100% certain that as an industry we are still in our infancy on how much value we are really adding to clients’ lives with VAS and that is not meant disparagingly to any part of the industry. I walked away wondering, how could a VAS be spoken about with the same conviction by a client as Laura was spoken about by Stephanie earlier in the day – that is the game changer I am hoping for.

Robert Sinclair talked about making access to NHS records as easy as Open Banking is, now imagine if you could do that and instantly you could align a VAS to something that is currently impacting a client? Simoney Kyriokou bought to home how VAS was not being positioned, they are very much seen as an ‘add on’ rather than an integral part of the solution. Richard Purcell and Kuen Chik cemented my view on this when they talked about how Virtual GPs were demonstrating a good use and providing a good experience making it a positive outcome for all and that is probably why clients see the value and probably think they have benefited more from it than the core policy itself (making Virtual GPs the first game-changer for the VAS industry).

The panel debate demonstrated the struggle behind this topic for me, would VAS be the battleground for insurers to compete in the future? The lack of consistent standardised annual statements? Clients not even knowing they have access to these services… at the end I was even wondering whether the next big complaint could be around clients paying for services separately even though they have it within their insurance policies (ok probably a step too far but the carbs from the Thai Green Curry and Rice had kicked in by now).

I might have made it sound all doom and gloom, the reality is we all know that is not the case and that’s why I used the word ‘infancy’, we all know as an industry we want to do more in this space, we also know clients who use the services have life-changing outcomes whether it’s the comfort of a parent knowing there child is ok after a quick Virtual GP catch up or the person who has managed to return to work after using  a CV skills writing service or rehabilitation service – that is the life-changing experience, the IMPACT and OUTCOME Value Added Services can bring for me and what we as an industry want to see on a mainstream basis.

So, what are the solutions here? Here are my top three:

All insurers to provide one-page annual statements outlining a policy update with the value-added services that are available to the client and more importantly details on how to access them – let’s not tell clients what they have, lets tell them what they have and how to access it?
Insurers, Service Providers and Networks to provide more case studies (written and visual) on how clients have used and benefited from various services to the adviser community.

Every adviser needs to remind the client they have the services on a regular basis (this doesn’t just have to be at a client's protection review).

These three I don’t believe are difficult and let's not beat ourselves up about it either as some of this does exist (and if you are reading this and have nailed any of it, please do share), but what I would love to see is how this all develops in 2022. And certainly, numbers two and three (which I think are easier to implement) become the ‘norm’ – that for me is how we can move from just being in the infancy to intermediate. The next stage then is to get much smarter with the data on how can evolve the services we have – but let’s leave that for another Big Read or Protection Review session in the future.

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