MM: Why launch a new protection company now?
DR: Most of the motivation comes from wanting to imp-rove the service to IFAs. Doing the right things in terms of the products and certainly the service proposition. There is a good opportunity to almost reinvent what protection insurance is all about.
MM: Are the service levels of traditional providers seen by IFAs as being quite poor?
DR: That is the strong feedback we get from IFAs in terms of the underwriting process. I think it is poor also in terms of levels of service to customers, who quite often do not understand what they are getting. The customer expectation and the customer experience must match up and that is one of the key drivers for us.
MM: The perception is that the protection industry is very much price-driven, with providers constantly adding bells and whistles to their products to differentiate themselves from competitors. What are you going to do that is different?
DR: Price is important but price is not the be all and end all. We will be providing good-value products because if they are not good value, they will not sell. But what the IFA and the customer are really interested in is covering their needs. It is not about having bells and whistles, it is about tweaking the products so they better match customers' needs. We will not be having bells and whistles for the sake of bells and whistles. We want products that are as simple as possible for IFAs and customers to understand.
MM: Is it going to be tough to sell a new company to IFAs?
DR: We believe not. The response we have had from intermediaries is that they like the sound of what we are offering both on the product side and the service side. Every single new financial services business that has been launched in the last five or six years we know about and we know what mistakes they made. We will not do the same. One of the big mistakes these companies made was shouting too loud at the outset and then not being able to handle the levels of business they have received.
MM: The brand name you have chosen is a very non-traditional one, why have you gone down this route?
DR: It was not us saying we want to have a different brand name because we want to be quirky, it was customers saying the brand name needs to say something about this business which reflects what it is all about and that is where Bright Grey came from.
MM: Does having a life insurance company as a parent place any restrictions on what you can do in the current climate.
DR: I think Royal London is well placed because they are investing in a business of the future. I think it is an opportunity for it to change the marketplace and make some money at the same time.
MM: How much of a problem is the so-called protection gap?
DR: It is an opportunity, not a problem. If the industry off-ered products that customers understood and trusted, they would be much more likely to buy them. Protection should be the foundation stone upon which all other financial planning is built.
MM: Should a protection product be included in the Sandler suite of products?
DR: There is certainly a need for a protection product. The question is how it would be included. I think it is important that customers have access to good quality protection products but they need to be designed from their point of view rather than from the manufacturers' or regulator's point of view.
MM: The critical-illness market is going through a turbulent time, with reinsurers pulling out of writing guaranteed rates and redefinition of policies. Can the product survive?
DR: There is still a customer need there for a lump sum when something serious happens to you. Yes, the criticalillness market will survive, it may change but it will survive.
MM: Where do you see Bright Grey in five years?
DR: We will be a leading provider of protection insurance. We will be a provider about whom competitors and IFAs say “they're the ones who got it right”. We will be delivering exceptional service to customers, we will be successful.