We are increasingly seeing product providers beginning to respond positively as advisers start to mirror consumers and demand increased choice within the protection market.Imagine a world where a provider completes an application form over the phone on behalf of the adviser, making the entire sales process easier, less time-consuming and without a cost being incurred. Imagine a situation where some companies would even consider using trained underwriters in this process, to help make the customer experience more pleasant. Innovation and flexibility are the new bywords in the world of protection and in recent months an innovative way for advisers to write protection business has begun to get increased levels of focus. Tele-underwriting is its name. At the Pru, we believe tele-underwriting will ultimately increase the amount of protection business written across the board and close the protection gap. Advisers who have not written significant protection business can find this a much easier way of getting this type of business on the books and the experience of customers who have been through the process is encouraging. But the real potential is that tele-underwriting, which is essentially used by some companies as a tool to ensure the quality of their business, can be turned into a process to help advisers write significant amounts of business. It has the potential to be particularly attractive to specialist pension and investment advisers who previously would not have strayed into this segment of the market. Today, the business case to do so is very strong. Advisers are sitting on a potential goldmine, with an opportunity to increase their profits significantly while somebody else – the provider – does the legwork and the administration. Tele-underwriting as a new means of writing protection business is being pioneered by a few leading offices and to great effect. The adviser passes simple basic customer information on to the life office. The life office then calls the customer and arranges with them to complete their application form at a convenient time and place, removing the burden of information-gathering that may have put off some advisers from writing this type of business. In this simple example, it is obvious that this process creates a new opportunity which is ideally suited to those who may not have written a lot of protection business before but who have large client banks with a protection requirement. Originally developed in the US, this method of gathering information has the potential to revolutionise the way in which UK advisers write protection business. The completion of lengthy application forms will be a thing of the past, as will worrying about the nuances of different application forms from different providers. Tele-underwriting is way of writing business that is free of the back office and administration and without giving up valuable commission. We have developed a process to gather information by using trained initial underwriters to man our systems. The benefits of this system are clear. Research has proven that customers are less evasive, more friendly and open when the information-gathering process is conducted by trained individuals. The underwriter creates an environment which helps with the disclosure of all relevant information that is required to reach a decision at the end of the call. The way in which trained professionals handle calls enhances the sales process and helps cement the sale. There are a number of key reasons why tele-underwriting can be very lucrative: Protection commission can be up to 200 per cent of the first year premium, depending on the term of the contract. Multiplied by the number of potential cases, this means a successful campaign in terms of premium income. In addition, a well targeted direct-toconsumer offering by an adviser can bring a good response rate from your customer base without the admin burden. The information that the life company needs to make the customer contact can be easily gathered via the responses to direct-mail activity. But tele-underwriting has an even wider appeal, saving advisers time and money. You can earn full commission without the need to sit in front of a customer asking all those awkward medical-related questions. Advisers save a significant amount of time with tele-underwriting on each application form completion – the most time-consuming part of the application process. The basic information required by a life office to make a call takes minutes to gather and is passed to skilled initial underwriters who carry out the majority of the work over the phone. When the amount of time saved per application is multiplied by the total number of cases sold, tele-underwriting can dramatically change the way in which advisers work.
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