Analysis: Navigating the big four quote portals

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Adam Higgs considers what advisers need to know about the main protection quote portals.

Quotation portals have always been an important tool to help advisers compare protection options. However, as the protection market and products have moved on, they have often been slow to keep up with the changes.

Over the past few years the portal suppliers have been working hard to catch up, introducing a number of new features that aim to make the adviser's job easier.
Currently, there are four mainstream quotation portals available to advisers, provided by iPipeline, IRESS, Direct Life & Pensions and Capita.

While the individual policy-quoting capabilities of these portals are very similar, each now provide multi-benefit and multi-policy comparisons. As these use a range of approaches, it is worth exploring their merits.

Assureweb

Since being acquired by iPipeline, the Assureweb quotation portal has been subject to significant enhancements. This validates the move to independent ownership that was designed to enable further evolution of its services.

First, in April 2014, iPipeline incorporated its XRAE technology into the service. This provides users with a rules-based indicative underwriting tool. Inputting details of the client's health and lifestyle will enable the user to compare the likely underwriting decision on quotes from a number of providers and help the adviser set more accurate client expectations as to the premiums they are likely to pay.

While it does not currently have full coverage of providers within the tool, it will reduce the burden of having to contact provider underwriting services prior to the application in order to get an idea of the rating that might be applied.

The recent announcement of Solution Builder - currently in use with Openwork members and due to be released to the wider Assureweb user base in Q2 - has added another string to iPipeline's bow in the form of multi-benefit quoting.

iPipeline are the last of the quotation portals to release multi-benefit quotes, and it offers much of the same functionality in this area with a few additions.

One notable difference is its ability to not only compare multi-benefit - ie. menu plans - and multi-policy solutions, but to also compare a combination solution where income protection policies are quoted separately from the menu plan.

This enables advisers to consider the costs of applying for the term assurance products via a menu plan and the income protection policies via a single policy that could include Friendly, low-start and budget plans.

While the service is extremely intuitive and fully tablet-friendly, advisers would find it useful if a full research report showing not only the three main solutions, but also the costs of all the providers not selected, was included. Perhaps this could be developed for the full open-market launch?

IRESS

IRESS has also developed multi-benefit and multi-policy solutions with the Exchange portal, although it has taken a slightly different approach.

The Exchange system asks the user to decide to start with quotes based on a multi-benefit or multi-policy solution. They then input the client information and the details of the plans, and are provided with the overall cost based on the solution type selected.

They are then offered the opportunity to see the results of the opposite solution for comparison.

While this enables the adviser to compare the two solutions, it also requires them to print two comparison reports as there is not a combined multi-benefit and multi-policy report that can be generated.

From a compliance point of view, both reports will be needed and therefore a combined report could be something IRESS might consider for future development.

The Exchange enables the adviser to tailor the type of cover required by giving more policy options, such as whether income protection comparisons should include short-term payment plans or whether life or critical illness buyback should be included on critical illness plans.

This should help advisers ensure that they get the correct comparisons and figures first time as it will highlight the providers that do not offer the features required.

The multi-benefit and multi-policy areas of the system are tablet-friendly, allowing advisers to obtain quotes on the road and, impressively, this is the only system that works well on a smart phone.

Direct Life & Pensions

Direct Life & Pensions were the first portal to provide a multi-benefit solution so unsurprisingly it offers the least mobile-friendly system.

Its Intelligent Protection tool enables advisers to select the benefits they wish to quote on based on the actual event they are aiming to cover.

The tool is able to calculate the amount of cover required for each benefit based on an additional client fact-find area, which captures information such as income and expenditure.

The results screen will show the cost of each type of cover, which would have been prioritised by the user in order to inform them what their client can afford within their budget.

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