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Protection heroes of 2017

There were plenty of positive news stories and initiatives to praise

We ended 2017 on a positive note, with both Iress and Equifax Touchstone announcing protection sales are up. But let’s do away with the cold reference of sales. What this really means is we are protecting more clients and their families, which is very good news indeed.

In addition to this growth, we saw many other positive changes throughout the year. Here is a round-up of some that stood out.

Increasing awareness of the need for protection is vital to help more people take out insurance. Advertising campaigns such as those from Vitality, Royal London and Beagle Street, together with some excellent features on protection by some consumer and trade journalists all deserve praise.

The key to protection: Be simpler, more human and braver

This year, insurers have focused on more meaningful improvements. Good news, as – let’s face it – certain past initiatives were more about stealing market share than growing the market or increasing claims. We have been particularly impressed by Royal London and The Exeter helping clients with diabetes and high BMIs get cover more easily, and expect this trend to expand.

Other launches that focused on simplification, such as Aviva’s Living Costs IP and AIG’s Instant Life, will appeal to greater numbers of advisers and consumers.

Making cover more useful and better value for money helps attract consumers and keep them. British Friendly launched Mutual Benefits, making policyholders feel valued by offering an extensive range of practical rewards and benefits. LV= and Legal & General also launched initiatives to support policyholders and their families better. Helplines, virtual GP services, rewards – they all help to make what we sell more valuable to clients.

We have got insurers looking at improving existing business communications with both clients and intermediaries to improve retention rates and ensure cover remains suitable. Welcome news but long overdue, and we hope work progresses quickly.

Is protection compatible with the new look advice profession?

There was a real worry critical illness cover would become less valuable when the Association of British Insurers proposed removing all Stage 1 cancers from its model cancer definition. This would have made it much harder for clients to re-broke cover as circumstances changed, as new plans would have offered less coverage. Thankfully, the ABI backed down, restricting the amendment to Stage 1 thyroid cancer instead. Very good news.

Our industry’s focus should be all about the claim and many insurers have improved their approaches in this area. Holloway Friendly has made it possible for claims to be approved in as little as four hours, which is fantastic.

Our own Funeral Payment Pledge campaign, which seeks to ensure families can pay for a funeral when probate prevents claims being paid, has seen success, with insurers including Aviva, LV= and AIG signing up.

More focus on claims is still needed, though, with better promotion of claims stories, products that expand coverage, hassle free claims journeys and no awkward terms and conditions to catch claimants out. We must make it simpler to claim.

So lots of positives to build on in 2018. We wish you all a very successful year.

Emma Thomson is chairperson of the Protection Distributor’s Group

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