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Serious undertakings

Very sadly, I have been far too frequently in touch with undertakers for my liking this year. One of the worst of many bad habits I have is trying to pick up little business insights in the most incongruous circumstances.

This means I cannot even organise my own father’s funeral without thinking about how difficult and emotionally stressful a typical day in the life of an undertaker is. Then I start to reflect on one of my current preoccupations – that we as an industry need to think about what we offer to clients much more holistically.

I think many people in these times – when cost-cutters are rising to the top at the expense of those whose primary inclin-ation is to help customers – forget that the way in which we pay claims says so much about what sort of company we run and what sort of industry we are.
When someone takes out a contract with us, we make a promise to pay their claim if they have answered our questions honestly. It is worth noting this. We do not go into the transaction with a fond hope that we can save a few bob along the way by finding a way to refute a high percen-tage of claims.

That is why I cherish the notion that eventually, just as we now disclose critical-illness claim rates throughout the industry, we will do it for all policies.

While we are on the subject of claims, let me revert back to the undertaker.

Undertakers project-manage a gruesome range of tasks with great dignity and efficiency. They try to take the pain out of the most emotionally fraught set of situations we can exper-ience. Surely there should be a link between insurers and undertakers – why can’t the funeral be arranged and paid for as a part of the life insurance contract?

We need to not only be more imaginative about the propositions we present, we need to think about the majority of claimants who will be totally genuine and emotionally vulnerable when they look to redeem the promise we made to them.

Looking at how other professions deal with the same issues might be a way for the industry to reclaim the faith and trust that have been tarnished on occasions in the past. We provide a wonderful service – let us ensure we deliver it wonderfully as well.

Peter Le Beau is managing director of Le Beau Visage

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