Emma Thomson: We have had enough of endless product changes

Emma Thomson

We do great things in protection, making hugely positive differences to people’s lives. Our claims teams do amazing work. The Seven Families initiative in particular highlighted all the practical and emotional support these teams provide, in addition to paying the money. All fabulous stuff.

But we seriously need to shake things up. Insurers typically make a few tweaks here and there but barely any are aimed at properly growing the market. The name of the game seems to be how to steal market share from competitors. I am not saying these changes are not beneficial to policyholders, because many are, but I am frankly frustrated with having conversations about “initiatives” that are pretty much just copying what other insurers are already doing.

We are just not reaching out to enough UK families who have no cover; who do not think anything will happen to them; who do not know the available options. Income protection is widely agreed as the cover people should prioritise and while last year’s sales grew they are still too far behind life and critical illness numbers.

I can no longer get excited about another CIC change. In fact, quite the opposite. We have had enough. This endless focus on improving CIC to catch up or beat the competition creates complexity for both advisers and consumers, while not doing anything to grow the market. What about all the other things we need to improve on?

Many of us have been calling for improvements to IP policies, making them more attractive when comparing with CIC. Hybrid policies that bridge the gap between CI and IP so clients who like the lump sum element of CIC can also have the security of IP, leading to more clients claiming and fewer negative headlines. To include Carer’s Cover. For existing clients to benefit from new additions. For regular communications with existing clients so they feel valued and know what they can claim for to reduce vital policies being cancelled. To simplify the application process. To introduce electronic signatures. And so on and so on. We keep asking for them but those initiatives seem such a long way off.

The good news is that innovation is not completely dead. There are some positive initiatives coming soon but alone they are not enough to make any real difference. We need much more.

Radical investment is needed to grow this market and help get thousands more families protected. Given the end of the excellent Seven Families initiative this month, we must use that experience to build a long-lasting collaborative marketing programme to clearly promote what we can do, similar to lifehappens.org in the US but bigger and better. And we need to remember it’s not just consumers we need to attract. We need more advisers to engage with protection and that requires education, better processes, different product solutions and increased consumer demand.

Our industry needs to listen, embrace change and make brave choices to help many more consumers get the valuable cover they need. Let’s finally have improvements we can get excited about.

Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at LifeSearch