Emma Thomson: Existing clients are being overlooked

When I made our colleagues aware Legal & General had introduced e-signatures and e-GPRs (medical reports from doctors) there was genuine joy. Such improvements to the new business process is just what is needed.

New business processes are regularly tweaked and improved, yet, unfortunately, existing business is the opposite. Processes are clunky and system development stays in the IT queue for years, while new business projects get pushed up the priority list. But this cannot go on.

If our industry does not do more to service our existing clients better, it could lead to tighter regulations and other unintended and perhaps unwelcome consequences. So let’s get on the front foot. Insurers need to provide information about policies in force, from premium misses to claims to name changes. Many of us already regularly communicate with our existing clients but we could be far more effective if we had much better information from insurers. Issuing annual statements would really help but insurers should go beyond that and develop real time systems and even apps that clients and intermediaries can plug into at any time to get information on policies.

I am also baffled that some insurers do not inform us every time there is a claim. I am not expecting to be told the full medical details but I do expect to at least know if my client has died. Or is seriously ill. We placed the business with you – surely the least you can do is let us know immediately when there is a claim.

As with many adviser firms, we provide support and guidance though the claims process. We also offer Red Arc’s services to our clients but if we do not know there is a claim, we cannot give them access to its excellent nurses. We can also make a bereaved family aware if there is another policy they might not be aware of. I often hear comments about some intermediaries not being interested in managing claims. That may be the case but help those of us who care for our clients, rather than have a process based on those who do not.

Helping bereaved families access money quickly is also an area that needs more focus. Across the board, take up of trusts is pretty dire. We make our clients aware of the importance of trusts: we have a specialist team to help and we send out hundreds of forms every month. However, very few are returned and I know we are not alone. The process is too complex and cumbersome for most consumers. It is a paper process but increasingly consumers are transacting online or by phone. We need better options. Master trusts, online trusts and payments in advance of probate are alternatives that need to be investigated. Some insurers are making payments in advance of probate but awareness of this, even within their own organisations, is low. We can improve this situation, there just needs to be proper appetite and investment.

For too long organisations have focused on attracting clients through the front door while not paying attention to those wandering out the back. Looking after existing clients must start to take priority. It is time for change.

Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at LifeSearch