As the year draws to a close it’s inevitable that some of us turn to look back at what happened with a real mix of emotions.
Internationally, wars have continued to make headlines, displacing families and creating problems no-one should ever have to face. Politically, there have been many different contests and votes with results so unpredictable they couldn’t have been written better in fiction. And nationally, a swathe of celebrity deaths seemed to pique a collective sadness for individuals few of us could possibly have known as anything more than a media personality.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though. From the national events throughout the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, followed by the spirit, excitement, and huge medal haul, of both the Olympics and Paralympics, the year has had its positives.
As an industry I think there have been some significant steps towards creating a more positive future for protection too.
So what have we learned this year?
Listening can be seen as one of the best ways to learn. The industry has definitely taken note of the things both advisers and customers have been saying about their needs in terms of protection, and improvements are beginning to take shape.
With an increased number of improved online processes, the application journey made by advisers should have been a little easier this year. Advisers are now able to free-up time by using improved online underwriting systems from a variety of providers.
We’ve received positive press recognising our step away from the ‘numbers race’ when it comes to critical illness cover. By providing better quality cover for the most claimed-for conditions, advisers should find it easier to recommend the right product.
We know the industry continues to make efforts to improve the outcomes for those who make a claim. When your customer’s world feels like it’s collapsing after a life-changing diagnosis, it’s unlikely that their first thought will be ‘how will I pay the mortgage?’ Support around telling the family, or guidance through treatment is likely to be higher on their list of priorities. Added value services are becoming more commonplace because while the money at the point of claim is useful, the emotional support can often make the biggest initial impact.
New ways to reach customers
2016 saw the conclusion of the 7Families campaign. The campaign helped seven families from across Britain whose lives had been turned upside down by long-term illness or life-limiting conditions. By giving practical and financial support, the initiative successfully raised awareness of the importance of income protection.
Statistics show that individuals have a higher chance of needing income protection during their working life than life cover or critical illness cover. An ‘average’ 30 year old, retiring at 65 has a 38% chance of being off work for 2 months or more1. But with less than 10% of customers buying income protection2, advisers need more campaigns like this to give them the ammunition they need to sell more.
Our own income protection report has been well received by advisers. Allowing them to create tailored reports to give to clients, they highlight the risks individuals face and the fact that all budgets can afford to add a little income protection.
Giant strides for Royal London
We’re proud of our achievements in 2016 and can barely believe that it’s just 12 months since we rebranded to Royal London. In that time, we’ve improved our online service to make life easier for advisers: we now offer estimated decisions for non-standard cases and can give likely costs for rated cases. On top of the online improvements we refreshed our underwriting proposition to focus more on the most commonly disclosed conditions, improved our critical illness cover to provide better cover for the most claimed for conditions, and added help for carers to our Helping Hand service amongst other things.
But, ‘self-praise is no praise’ as the saying goes. And thankfully it’s not just us that thinks we’ve attained a lot this year. We were delighted to win Company of the Year not once, but three times in 2016. In June, we received the accolade in both the FT Online Innovation and Service Awards and Money Marketing Awards, and then just this week we received the same title in the FT Adviser 5* Service Awards. It means such a lot to us.
But this means that we can’t rest on our laurels. Innovation continues to be a keyword when discussing the future of protection. And while providers labour to develop better, pioneering products they also need to consider the new hooks that will convince more customers protection is a necessity, and design new tools to make the sale easier for advisers.
We’re looking forward to welcoming 2017.
1 – Hannover Re, March 2016. Statistics, assuming a 50% gender mix and 25% smoker mix, show the ‘average’ 30 year-old retiring at 65 has a 4% chance of dying, a 13% chance of getting a critical illness and a 38% chance of being off work for 2 months or more.
These figures have been produced based on their interpretation of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ Continuous Mortality Investigation insured lives incidence rates together with their estimated view of future trends.
2 – YouGov Life and Health Protection survey, 2015