Jonathan Burton is Chief Executive at award-winning health cash plan provider and non-profit making Friendly Society, Health Shield.
Can too much information ever be a bad thing? We would argue not - especially when that data is relevant, timely and offers you with a clear insight into the business and the market in which we work in.
Knowledge in today's health cash plan market is a powerful thing; the key is managing and communicating that information to the wider network (and by that, I mean our team and you, our intermediary partners) to ensure that it is translated into meaningful business and product development.
Spreadsheets, bursting with information on claims, sales, the use of benefits and financial performance, are all well and good, but if they sit in isolation gathering dust then they mean very little when it comes to trying to deliver a first-rate service to our clients.
We are investing significantly in systems that allow us to access and manage key information that, in turn, enable us to innovate and react swiftly to the changing health cash plan landscape. Having the flexibility to respond to members' needs, market forces and wider regularity changes, such as Solvency II, ensures that our offering is as relevant to you, as it is to your clients and the people who they employ.
I will admit, it does not all start and end with a clever IT system, but that technology - and the subsequent knowledge that it provides - helps to feed our continuing evolution as a health cash plan provider. As we sit here waiting for the latest market intelligence to be published on how the sector and its players have fared in the last 12 months, we are using up-to-the-minute, live management data, to ensure that the decisions we make today are the right ones in the years to come.
According to the most recent statistics, Health Shield provides cover to 20 per cent of the corporate-paid health cash plan market. What is more, we are the only provider in the market that has grown organically over the last few years. However, we are not resting on our laurels, regurgitating products by dressing them up as being new, or attaching sales gimmicks to current schemes, as a way of appealing to the masses. We are staying true to the often ‘watered-down' principles of what it is to be a successful Friendly Society.
We may be grounded in century-old tradition, but when you combine that experience with technological advancements, peppered with a clear understanding of current market needs, then it is at that point where you really find success.
Without giving away any closely-held secrets, we believe the key to thriving in today's challenging marketplace comes down to four very simple values. These allow us to build solid relationships with the intermediary market and, as a result, help us deliver pertinent schemes that tick the right boxes for our clients.
In no particular order of importance, they are: competitive products. We are constantly reviewing our product portfolio to ensure that it is fit for purpose. You cannot assume that a product that was relevant seven years ago will automatically stand up in today's market - it is important to listen to what clients are saying and understand what and why they buy the benefits that they do.
Next up is excellent customer service. This forms the very backbone of everything that we do and we are not afraid to ask for feedback either. Customer care surveys continue to highlight extremely high levels of member satisfaction, with 99 per cent of members stating that they are happy with the Society's service level standards regarding claims payments.
As they say: ‘the proof is in the pudding' - and it is one that we are constantly testing to ensure that whatever the size of client - whether it is a 50-employee company or a 1,000-strong corporation - we are providing the same service at every level.
The third piece in the puzzle is sustainability. Yes, by all means be competitive, innovate and set down ambitious markers in the health cash plan sand, but above all, respect longevity, have a watchful eye on the future, and make decisions that are commercially sound.
Last, but by no means least, is being financially robust. The Solvency II deadline may be moving with a familiar frequency, but do not be fooled into thinking that you can get away with not having the correct capital and risk model in place now.
When you are investing substantially in new management systems, improving product development and delivering an excellent service, you must have the financial foundations in place to ensure that you are not ‘here today, gone tomorrow'.
I started by asking if too much information is ever a bad thing? At the end of the day, it is the quality of the questions that are just as important.