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Industry mourns godfather of underwriting

Many in the industry have been mourning the death of Dr RDC Brackenridge, a pioneer of medical underwriting, who died recently at the ripe old age of 90.

Brackenridge laid the foundations for the evidence-based approach to risk assessment and his 1962 book, The Medical Aspects of Life Assurance, is seen as the definitive text on the subject.

Industry experts describe the fifth edition of the book, The Medical Selection of Life Risks, as the “gold standard” reference for justifying underwriting decisions.

Brackenridge served as a medical officer in the RAF during World War Two and in 1959 became a consulting medical officer to Mercantile & General Re, later acquired by Swiss Re. In 1977, he was made president of the Assurance Medical Society and was given honorary membership of the American Academy of Insurance Medicine in 1995.

Swiss Re executive board member Martyn Parker says: “He instilled into underwriters and consulting medical officers the need for continuous and meticulous research, along with a readiness to apply sound reasoning and judgement to underwriting decisions.

“He helped to create an evidence-based approach to underwriting and strongly influenced successive generations of underwriters and CMOs. This approach over time has enabled many people – previously considered uninsurable because of their medical histories – to obtain life cover.”

In other news Axa has published research showing that most people who do not have protection in place believe it is too expensive. We have heard this before but it is probably worth reiterating if it will get providers out there educating consumers that it is not actually as extortionate as they may think.

So one in four UK adults without a life insurance policy believe that cover is too expensive, one in five don’t think they need it and for one in ten the thought has never crossed their mind. But UK adults are more likely to have life insurance than their European counterparts. According to Axa, 71 per cent of UK adults have at least one life insurance policy compared with 45 per cent in Italy and 53 per cent in Germany and Spain.

Meanwhile Friends Provident has been busy researching as well. The firm found 5 per cent of people have lied on protection applications and one in five do not read all the terms and conditions before they sign up.

Friends surveyed 2071 people and found 54 per cent believed dishonest applicants should not be paid any benefits if they needed to claim. Fifteen per cent said applicants who have lied should get a percentage of the full payment depending on the type of information they withheld.

The firm found that just under half of respondents researched life insurance on the internet and through the media but 20 per cent said they would ask a financial adviser for advice. If people had £5 each month to spend on insurance 28 per cent would choose life insurance according to Friends and 17 per cent would choose income protection. But if they did not have to spend it on insurance nearly a third would spend it on food.

The protection world must have partied hard over the festive season – after a month long trip to Australia I was expecting exciting things, after all this talk of ‘innovation’ in 2007. But no, it’s still oh so quiet, to quote Bjork. Have a good week.

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