New year would not be the same without some resolutions.
I’m sure I am not alone in endeavouring to exercise more, be more adventurous, eat less cheese (yes, you can keep your chocolate, it’s cheese that’s my weakness) and all the other things we promise ourselves come 1 January. It got me thinking about what the protection industry’s new year’s resolutions should be.
The list will be long, but there are two that could make a big difference.
The first is to think more positively. Many of us are optimistic about the future, perhaps to varying degrees, but it is still fairly typical to hear gloomy predictions about our market remaining stagnant or shrinking.
It is true we have some real challenges to convince more consumers and even intermediaries to understand the benefit of protection products but that is no reason to be so pessimistic.
The mortgage market picking up is an obvious thing to be cheerful about, as it has given us all an opportunity. We also have proposition enhancements, better quoting processes on the horizon and this year should also see new marketing efforts too. So OK, we still need more, but they are encouraging steps. A positive mental attitude is needed, as my dad always used to say.
The second is to love our existing customers more. Our efforts should not be just about attracting new customers; we need to do more to keep the ones we already have.
Virtually all critical illness enhancements only benefit new applicants, meaning existing customers miss out unless they buy again. Where is the reward for loyalty?
Reinsurance treaties and pricing pose challenges to applying improvements retrospectively but what is stopping insurers from offering a simple switch over process to existing clients should they want it? It would give intermediaries a great reason to re-contact clients and should help insurers retain more business.
And given the recent welcome trend to assess more applicants on the own occupation basis, what about clients already on the books but stuck with old, inferior definitions?
It would not be fair for a teacher making an income protection claim as a result of a car accident to be assessed on work tasks, when new teacher applicants get ‘own occupation’, especially as the reasoning behind giving work tasks in the first place was because of the mental health risk for teachers, which has no bearing on the client’s car accident.
Changing this for the better would cheer everyone up!
It would help grow the market too, if insurers provided tools for intermediaries to help them do more to increase existing customers engagement with their cover, helping ensure that cover bought years ago is still appropriate and to remind them why it was important in the first place to prevent cancellations and increase top-ups.
I’m feeling positive about 2014. The economy is moving in the right direction and I see many good people and organisations doing some very good things. Let’s all make it a happy protection new year.
Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at Lifesearch