At Protection Review we’ve always believed that innovation is such an important part of developing better solutions, not just for customers, but for advisers too.
Since we started in 2003, we’ve seen many innovations, as insurers look to develop not just better products, but also better processes and other elements of their proposition. It’s something we’ve always encouraged.
Our popular product reviews (which trace their roots back to 1994) highlight good ideas and practice as well as good products, but a while back we decided to do more. So, to further encourage good innovation, we introduced the Protection Review iMark.
This prestigious award only goes to those products or services with a very significant level of innovation for the benefit of customers or advisers. So, even though every new product has some level of innovation, it takes a particularly good idea to earn an iMark.
Our most recent iMark has gone to the Royal London Underwrite Later option (click here for the review). So, what made that idea different enough to earn an iMark?
Underwrite Later, like so many good ideas, is essentially very simple. It recognises that on business protection (and RLP) applications, delays are both common and damaging, and this was made worse due to the pandemic. At the extreme, if a firm can’t get say keyperson cover on risk quickly it might jeopardise a business loan. It might even jeopardise the business.
The Protection Review team has a lot of practical experience in product design, so we knew the problem was neither unique nor new. However, the solution was.
Provided certain criteria are met, clients can now go on risk immediately. Then, provided it takes less than six months to get the medical and other evidence necessary, the client firm knows it has cover in place and with no temporary cover restrictions or exclusions. It offers peace of mind and helps ensure clients stay engaged. Royal London estimates 93% of business and RLP life cover applications could now start immediately – up from 49% of applications previously.
Underwrite Later won’t solve every potential problem. But, a bit like the coronavirus vaccines that are now being rolled out, it could make a very significant difference. It’s simple, well thought through, and even covers peripheral but important issues such as commission, which have been thought about and solutions developed.
We asked Jennifer Gilchrist, protection specialist at Royal London if she agreed innovation was important. “Yes, innovation plays a pivotal role in all of the work we do. We are always looking at new options and features, new methods for accessing information and improving existing processes. And 2020 was really no different, other than there was much more focus around medical underwriting processes.
“The COVID pandemic did mean we experienced delays in collecting medical evidence, as we endeavoured to put the needs of the NHS first. Carrying out virtual medicals and utilising more customer provided information were some of the ways we adapted. Using these experiences led us to consider an alternative option and Underwrite Later for life cover under Business Protection and Relevant Life Plans (RLP) is where we ended up.
“We carried out robust research with advisers, where we pitched two different ideas to speed up onboarding of clients’ protection cover. Their feedback told us that different aspects of each idea were important, so we decided to go with a blended approach, aiming to cover as many of the advisers and client wants and needs.”
One test of a good idea is whether it has development potential too. Could Underwrite Later be extended – say to critical illness insurance? “Very much so. We are obviously keen to prove this option really does make a difference to advisers and their clients, so will be watching closely to see its impact and to tweak the proposition where appropriate to make sure it is working for optimum effect. We are already actively considering how and when we could roll this out further - perhaps to personal life cover and then further onto other covers like critical illness and income protection.”
We know as product marketeers that getting any idea from concept to market is fraught with obstacles. One potential one is reinsurance – so what’s the secret of getting reinsurers onboard? “We had the usual checks and balances to do but really it was relatively straightforward. We were very practical in our approach to the proposition concept and speaking to reinsurers early on helped us to bring this to market in a relatively short period of time.”
Our reviews also now include an averaged rating from our panels of advisers and here’s what some of our panel thought:
“It’s a BRILLIANT idea. Business protection clients usually take out more extensive policies and as a result, nurse screenings and GPRs are extremely common. During the best of times this additional underwriting is cumbersome, let alone smack in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic. Allowing the cover to start immediately and then going for evidence is GAME CHANGING in every sense of the phrase.”
“It introduces a significant process change for underwriting business protection and is a real positive for customers and advisers alike. It will hopefully act as a catalyst for those yet to incorporate business protection into their advice offering and pave the way for a similar approach to be taken in the future across the underwriting of all applications. This should subsequently lead to a higher conversion of customers seeing their application through to on risk and getting the protection they so very much need.”
"Royal London is to be commended for trying something truly different and innovative, that ultimately in the long run could trigger a market-wide rethink on how protection insurance is underwritten and the ease of the application process.
Perhaps for all insurers there are three lessons in getting such innovations to market:
1. Test the idea(s) out. For most protection insurers that will mean talking to advisers. It’s an area we may be able to help with too.
2. Anticipate potential obstacles and involve stakeholders early.
3. Be prepared to adapt and change before launch and listen and adapt post-launch.
Well done to the Jennifer and the Royal London team for winning our latest iMark!
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