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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 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


How the industry can build on the foundations of Seven Families

The ground-breaking Seven Families initiative winds down at the end of this month. Since launch in 2014 the campaign has illustrated the reasons people need income protection through real life stories of families who did not have sufficient cover when they lost an income through illness or accident. The families received a year’s worth of […]


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Increasing the take up of income protection is a tough nut to crack, not only in the UK but also around the world. Last year, research conducted by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion for the Association of British Insurers found that increasing IP coverage from its current level of 11 per cent of […]

Tax year-end planning for annual allowance

Last tax year-end there was a lot to think about in relation to planning. The introduction of the tapered annual allowance and the implications of moving to a fixed pension input period, the reduction in the lifetime allowance and potentially applying for protection, and the concern about changes to tax relief, to name a few. […]


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There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Interesting article – by the same person who for years has said to Providers that their competitors have upped their game by adding to the list of critical illnesses covered !

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