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Fortis for February?

So Money Marketing has caught wind that Fortis is planning to enter the protection market with a combined life, critical-illness and income protection plan.

Sources say the insurer, which has been eyeing the market since at least February, plans to launch the product alongside a typical menu proposition in the first quarter next year.

MM understands the plan will automatically top up to the full sum assured after paying out on a critical illness or income protection claim and will have a maximum sum assured of £250,000.

Fortis is believed to have designed its products with the help of a firm of protection advisers – Lifesearch perhaps? – and has been gauging advisers’ opinions over recent weeks.

In other news Bupa is annoyed at certain networks that have been asking providers to increase their basic premium rates in an attempt to boost their commission payments.

Bupa individual protection product and marketing manager Steve Casey is worried that providers, which agree to the networks’ demands and put their premiums up, will essentially be buying themselves onto their panels which is no good for the life offices which refuse, let alone the man in the street who could end up paying more.

He says if the networks could demonstrate why they deserve higher commission, say they give exceptional customer service or spend more time with the client, it may be another story. But according to Casey they have not even attempted to justify why they should receive more dosh.

He says: “It does not sit well with me. We have been asked to increase the basis price and by doing that pay higher commission than we normally do. We said no. It is effectively buying yourself onto their panels. If it was because the network was giving exceptional customer service or because they spend more time with their clients then we might consider it but they give no justification, they basically say “are you prepared to offer higher basic rates?” People know it goes on but nothing is happening to stop it.”

Meanwhile Pru Protection, the joint venture of Prudential and South African insurer Discovery, has been having trouble getting advisers, keen as mustard about the exciting new PruProtect severity-based health-boosting product, on to its system so they can sell the plan.

Last week there was a backlog of around 2,500 advisers still waiting for log in details and the JV had brought in extra staff in its Mumbai office to deal with the influx.

But never fear, Pru Protection chief executive officer Shaun Matisonn says the firm simply underestimated adviser demand for the product but all advisers should be up and running within a fortnight.

He says: “We were caught by surprise by the rush of advisers wanting to log onto the system. The number of advisers in the pipeline is coming down everyday. Obviously the odd broker has been frustrated but we are communicating with them so everyone knows when they will be on. The system should be clear within two weeks.”

helen.pow@centaur.co.uk

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