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Kathryn Knowles: The importance of stories in protection

At the beginning of last year, I took a very scary step. I publicly spoke about my mental health issues and other conditions to highlight how difficult it is to get insurance when you are “quirky”.

I worried I would be judged and that people would think less of me for having such issues. Colleagues across the industry knew nothing about my health beforehand; they just knew me as Kathryn.

But something clicked. My story made a lot of people pay attention. Here I was, someone they knew, that was working with them, running a business, raising a family, doing pretty well at life.

They heard my story and understood I have protection needs just like anyone else – and also that my health really isn’t that bad; I just have quite a few disclosures.

And it is not just me. Indeed, there have been a number of other people within the industry to step forward with their own stories of late. In our profession, statistics and technical jargon are thrown about all the time.  But it is these stories that stand out. I am not suggesting everyone declares their health to the world, but using your own experiences can be a fantastic way to build empathy into client relationships. Whether you chat about football, your kids driving you insane, your mum that has diabetes, or how you can’t wait for a bottle of prosecco with the girls at the weekend, it all adds to showing your human side.

The key is to be reactive to your client needs and to use your own stories to complement theirs; to build a rapport. That said, make sure your stories do not become a game of one-upmanship and no way should you make any up.

People want to see and feel like they know the person taking care of them, and sharing a story can make you more human.

Write a blog, chat about yourself and what you do on a voice recorder, or sit with your mobile on selfie mode and ramble to the camera. Find what feels right for you and what will translate well to your clients.

Client stories are powerful too, with the potential to change the results of an underwriting decision.

Let me give you an example. One of our clients had bipolar disorder and a history of suicide attempts.

The computer most definitely said no. But the suicide attempts had happened many years ago, before the diagnosis of bipolar.

Once they had been diagnosed and effectively medicated, they were fine. We explained the client’s story and were able to get them the protection they needed.

Claims statistics within our industry are phenomenal, but it is real stories of how claims have truly helped people in times of need that make our world shine. Here, the Seven Families initiative stands out.

We need to fight fire with fire. For every negative industry claims article, we need a positive one that sticks in people’s minds. It is stories – not statistics – that are passed down through generations.

Kathryn Knowles is managing director of Cura Financial Services

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