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Emma Thomson: Change is afoot

We have got some big players entering and re-entering the market, bringing new ideas, products, investment and competition.

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Change. It can bring so many emotions, challenges and opportunities. I am writing this in the week that could have significantly changed our lives; when Scotland decided to remain part of the UK. I am proud of my Scottish roots and love Scotland, so am sincerely proud that we will still have a future as one nation.

Change is certainly afoot in the protection world. We are often criticised for not adapting, changing, evolving, and to an extent some of that criticism (much of it self-criticism), is fair. Radical thinking and pushing the boundaries is not exactly our strength. It is hard to go out on a limb with challenges including regulation, profitability and consumer apathy. However, people and firms are trying to push boundaries and the next year should prove to be a pretty exciting time.

We have got some big players entering and indeed re-entering the market, bringing new ideas, products, investment and competition. New blood is welcome so long as it helps to grow our market, rather than just steal market share by offering cheaper premiums. We also have the launch of the all-new Royal London next year; Friends Life successfully merged three brands so I have high hopes for what Royal London will achieve.

One insurer is on the verge of launching a multi-million pound TV advertising campaign which is fantastic news. Whilst I sincerely hope their efforts will be rewarded with more business for them, there will undoubtedly be benefits for the rest of us too as it will help raise the profile of protection.

Increasing consumer awareness is key, and the Seven Families initiative aims to do just that. This certainly demonstrates industry innovation. Getting nearly every insurer and reinsurer to financially support this and work together is an outstanding achievement and one I hope will result in many more consumers understanding the risks of relying on the state.

We have the innovative UnderwriteMe team working hard to revamp how our market processes. I hope they will succeed; intermediaries need more efficient ways of getting their customers covered faster and at the best terms possible. Whether you support their particular approach or not, it is clear insurers and portals agree current methods need improving, so change will happen.

So there is indeed lots of change coming in a variety of ways and to varying degrees. And of course there will be many more product enhancements along the way too.

The change I am really hoping for though concerns our market’s approach to existing customers. Products are improving to help more people claim; let’s do much more to help loyal customers benefit from these changes, rather than just making them available for new applicants. Both intermediaries and insurers can also do much more to keep their existing customers engaged so valuable cover is not cancelled. That would be real change I would love to see and I hope we can all get a bit radical to achieve just that.

Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at LifeSearch

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