Vitality recently sponsored the Protection Review Awards 2019. VitalityLife supported the Best Protection Intermediary of the Year category while VitalityHealth sponsored the Health Insurance Adviser of the Year award. Here we interview the two winning firms, Future Proof and Assured Futures, with 5 key questions about the market right now.
1. As winners at Protection Review in July, what is it about your business that sets you apart and why do you think you won this year?
Assured Futures: Whilst we cater for both business and personal customers, our heart and history are embedded in the individual market where we have forged our reputation. There are many good firms out there doing great work and we will all believe we are looking after our customers and delivering a personable service. We have the largest panel of health and life insurers in the UK and we are dedicated to excellent advice and great customer outcomes, and do not shield ourselves from responsibilities via so called non-advice broking. We place wellness for both our team and customers at the very top of our priorities, and pride ourselves on our professional appearance, conduct and style. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with a little bit of old school values and we are equally committed to professional qualifications.
Future Proof: We focus on maintaining the quality of our advice and superb customer service. It starts with our interview process, choosing the perfect ‘Future Proof candidate’. We choose to grow our company from outside the industry and seek those who have relevant skills. Bringing fresh blood to financial services brings different opinions and ideas that reflect our clientele and help to evolve our business. We have developed a three-month bespoke training programme, established in-house for upskilling before our trainees even get to speak to clients. Our mantra of “Treat every client like you would your own family” is at the heart of everything we do.
2. What are your views on the current health and protection markets in terms of new developments, products and trends?
Assured Futures: Health insurance sales continue to stagnate despite the NHS remaining under intolerable pressure. Perhaps Brexit has taken focus away from this very important issue. Innovation is key and must continue to evolve with such initiatives as private 'facetime' GPs being provided as part of the PMI product – wouldn't it be great to supply such a service with every individual policy rather than just a handful, or the biggest corporate schemes.
Future Proof: Mental health is an important subject in the protection market, and it is important to talk openly and acknowledge the challenges clients face when trying to get cover. As mental health communication evolves and becomes mainstream, more people feel comfortable to get help. Insurers need and as an industry, it would be good to begin making changes now. Proactive and ground-breaking action needs to be made to move the discussion along to the next stage. There is a lot of talk about simplifying Critical Illness policies, which is most welcome. What would be beneficial would be an industrywide standard and a level playing field.
3. Protection sales are rising across the industry, what are the main reasons for this in your opinion?
Assured Futures: They are, but still too slowly. Insurers must improve processes so that advisers can focus on advice and not be bogged down by the application processes. Only through better efficiency in writing business, leading to lasting profitability, will enable brokers to protect more people. Equally we must drive down the cost of acquisition. The individual market is plagued by non-regulated lead generation sites selling leads to the highest bidder fuelled by a daft commission system. Medical insurance is a complex product, which needs advice, and we need to drive out non advice and dodgy distributors and put the customer truly at the heart of what we do.
Future Proof: We believe that media coverage about income protection has started to have a positive effect and now more advisers actively engage in the conversation. Another reason may be that during austerity, company benefits have been stripped back meaning that individuals are having to seek out alternatives for death in service benefits. There are also more touchpoints available these days. Online portals, where clients can quote and apply in a non-advised capacity for example. Whilst we believe that some cover is better than none, we are concerned about whether these policies are the most suitable for a client’s complex needs when sold without advice. There is a big difference between the volume of policies sold and whether they are fit for purpose.
4. What advice would you give to new advisers entering the protection market?
Assured Futures: Be Proud. We must be proud of what we do, proud of protecting families and loved ones, proud of the choice we can provide and proud of the advice we give. Be professional, get qualified, strive be an expert in your field and protect both your customers and your insurers interests, as both are vital for a prosperous future.
Future Proof: Do your research. Make sure that you find the right culture fit for you. The ethos of a company is vitally important to ensure that it complements your personality. Ask to see the floor where you may be working to get a feel of the working environment. The right company will support how you work, train you well and grow your skills. Joining a company that does not finance qualifications or encourage you to thrive and push yourself is just work experience and will not help forge a career path. Look for one that offers you holistic training from quote to claim to make you the best you can be.
5. Do you think it’s important that protection plans evolve as your life changes, including the potential to pay multiple claims?
Assured Futures: For the health insurance industry multiple claims are a given. However, we must make 'community rating' more prevalent and minimise the effect of no claim’s bonuses on claimants’ future premiums. It is right that claimants pay a little more to reflect appropriate risks, but not to the extent of making increases unaffordable. One benefit the health market has over the life market is that policies are annual so much more easily adapted to peoples changing circumstances.
Future Proof: Absolutely, we have an ageing population and life changes are starting later, from buying a first home to getting married and having children and leaving one job that provides death in service to go to another with no life cover can be tricky. Partial payments have addressed multiple claims from a few insurers, and these are the way forward for when people suffer from unrelated critical illnesses.