Friends Life says it is looking to compete on product quality rather than price following the launch of its individual protection proposition.
The company’s Protect+, which launched this week, represents the combined protection product range across the Friends Provident, Axa UK Life and Bupa Health Assurance businesses.
It follows the soft launch of the Friends Life brand in March formed from the Friends Provident and Axa businesses.
The Friends Life Protect+ critical illness product includes 14 ABI+ definitions including cancer, heart attack, stroke and multiple sclerosis. It also features eight partial benefit payments for conditions such as heart surgery, mastectomy and low-grade prostate cancer which are paid in addition to the main cover.
The Friends Life Protect+ income protection product provides a maximum guaranteed benefit of £15,600 a year. It offers deferred periods of one, two, three, six, 12 or 24 months but with waiver of premium available after three months regardless of the chosen deferred period.
Across its CI, IP, and life cover products Friends Life is also offering fracture cover covering certain fractures with a payout of up to £2,100.
Add-on benefits available with the product range include access to the Best Doctors service, which connects clients with worldwide medical specialists, and access to the advice and support telephone service Bupa HealthLine.
Advisers placing business with Friends Life Protect+ will be able to use the Friends Life online system to write policies in trust without a signature.
Advisers will also be able to track the progress of applications and receive alerts when terms are offered via email.
Friends Life managing director of protection Steve Payne says: “We want to be known as the best quality protection provider, with a real expertise on CI and IP. We will focus on delivering that through the quality of products and the way we partner with advisers.
“We are not going to be chasing volume. We do not have an aspiration to be the biggest, we have an ambition to be the best provider in that marketplace with the scale to deliver the proposition at good value.”
Payne says overall, advisers will see a small reduction in policy pricing compared to the previous rates under Friends Provident, Axa and Bupa. He says: “It will not be the cheapest, but I think it will be the best value. We are certainly not in the business of pricing ourselves out of the market.”
The Best Doctors and Bupa HealthLine benefits can be used at any time during the life of the policy, rather than solely at claims stage and can also be used by immediate family as well as policyholders.
Payne says these services and the fracture cover option are about helping clients and advisers see the value in the products.
He says: “It is about seeing that you can get something from the contract at an early stage. A fracture is something that you have a perception of at a much earlier age, whereas very few people have a perception about their own mortality and morbidity in their twenties and thirties.”
Master Adviser senior partner Roy McLoughlin says: “There was a bit of nervousness about the three companies coming together but I think this demonstrates Friends has taken the positive aspects from all three. One immediately gets the feeling that Steve Payne and his team have listened to the concerns of advisers in designing an adviser-friendly proposition.”
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says: “The CI product in particular is of a very high quality. Friends is setting its stall out and aiming for the quality end of the adviser market. I am pleased to see it is going down the route of quality rather than price.”