One area of the life insurance industry that has been truly transformed by technology is the protection market, which has led the adoption of innovation in each of the last three decades.
From the earliest videotex-based comparison quotes in the early 1980s to companies such as BT and IBM, through to the emergence of the Exchange and Assureweb portals in the 1990s and the introduction of automated online underwriting services in the last decade, the protection sector has been quick to embrace change.
It has been clear to me for some time that the introduction of an app-based service would be the next big advance but the question remained as to who would get there first.
I can now reveal that the prize for the first app capable of delivering accurate quotes from a protection provider goes to Legal & General, which, by the time you read this, should have its app available from Apple.
For the first iteration, the system provides very simple functionality. Having entered your agency number and email, the software uses an algorithm to make sure the agency number is in a valid format. To get a quote, the adviser simply enters the client’s date of birth, gender and smoker status into one screen and the sum assured, product and term required in another.
The quote is returned in seconds and this can be emailed to the client. To avoid data protection issues with emailing quotes, those generated from the system do not include the client’s name or other identifiable details.
There is a message at the bottom of the quote screen that tells users more about L&G’s protection services. If you want more detail, it will take you to the company’s website.
It is annoying that if you see a message but do not click on it quickly enough, you need to cycle through the other four messages included by returning to the home page and back to quotes until the one you want comes up. It would have been nice to be able to swipe through these.
The adviser can select the defaults required from within the adviser settings using the tools option. As it is downloaded, the software defaults to producing quotes that include waiver, showing guaranteed premiums on a monthly basis.
Products offered are level term insurance, mortgage decreasing term assurance and business protection, all with or without a critical-illness option. Income protection is not included in the first release but I understand it will follow soon.
Sums assured of up to £10m for life and £3m for CI can be quoted for terms of up to 40 years.
Although only capable of producing L&G quotes, it is important not to dismiss this as an app that is really only for a tied salesforce. It will give the L&G network a significant advantage over other restricted distributors in this area but, in practice, having an app like this could be a great way for an IFA to give a ballpark figure to a client in a matter of seconds and then be able to follow up with a full open-market quote later.
It can only be a matter of time until one or more of the quote portals comes up with an app-based comparison service, so there is a certain pressure on L&G to develop further functionality for the app in the same way as its OLP Connect system does, delivering a more detailed provider-specific experience.
The functionality in the current version may be limited but it is also clean, simple and provides a good way to get a conversation started. L&G Mortgage Club has had a mortgage-sourcing app, based on the Trigold system, for more than a year now and it is good to see the protection app integrated to work with this.
The protection app has evidently been produced on a limited budget and with the objective of getting something to market quickly. L&G deserves credit for the latter point. When you get your hands on it, it is easy to see how lots more functionality could be added in future.
The app is targeted towards any device running iOS version 4.0 or above. This includes the iPhone3G and above, iPad, iPad2 and the second, third and fourth-generation iPod Touch. The original iPhone and the first generation iPod Touch are not supported.
It is my understanding that there is no intention at this time to produce a version for the Android market.
There are obvious reasons why, in time, the app should be made available on other platforms but I think L&G has got it right with an Apple-first approach. Google’s Android platform may be attracting large numbers of users but Apple has a disproportionately high share of high-income customers and, in the tablet market, while one or two competitors are coming up with offerings, the dominance of the iPad is clear to see.
Bringing this app to market, even with what is initially a relatively straightforward offering, should enable L&G to get valuable feedback on how advisers use apps.
Mobile technology is becoming the most important channel for consumers and I see more and more advisers embracing it. It is not an overstatement to say it is the future of digital communication.
We may look back at this launch as a significant milestone in the evolution of protection technology.
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre