Protection experts discussed the critical value of industry communication for improve access to insurance during a recent COVER webinar, in association with Royal London
The effectiveness of increasing access to insurance for prospective protection clients is hugely dependant on both communication and improving the relationship between insurers and advisers, according to industry experts.
During the recent Access to Insurance: Write it, refer it…don't ignore it' webinar, hosted by COVER in association with Royal London, a panel of protection speakers discussed the most important elements of the need to improve access to insurance, touching on the role of both insurers and adviser in the process, underpinned by the importance of communication and transparency in dealing with customers throughout an insurance application.
This is very wide-reaching because no customer comes in to buy insurance in the same way, it’s not one size fits all and we need to understand different perspectives."
Jennifer Gilchrist, protection specialist at Royal London, outlined how the insurer is supporting the industry initiative and explained that while the insurer's own approach to providing protection is primarily via intermediaries, this does not mean other methods are not supported when it comes to increasing access to insurance.
"This is about widening the awareness of and access to protection insurance, whether that is direct-to-consumer or through the adviser model. We want to make sure that whatever we do for our customers we can signpost where the customer can get help if there is not an adviser there, but also we are very supportive of the adviser market, those who use signposting maybe in different ways or where their business models are potentially different," she said.
As such, the importance of clear communication and developing relationships between insurers and advisers cannot be understated, the panel agreed, with Gilchrist labelling it as "the key to everything". She explained that the work Royal London has undertaken alongside the Association of British Insurers (ABI) is "very much focused on the customer experience and insight."
At the start of March, a key indicator of progress was announced, when the Access to Insurance Underwriting Workstream unveiled the Explaining Underwriting Decisions initiative, which seeks to establish an industry-wide agreement to providing clear and transparent explanations on underwriting processes and decisions, coming into force in December this year.
Andrew Wibberley, director at Alea Risk and chair of the Underwriting Workstream, said during the discussion that while the initiative isn't about ensuring all people will be able get access to insurance, it is rather making the explanations behind insurance decision as clear and understandable as possible.
"Frankly, it's also about making the insurer have that duty of care to someone who is applying for insurance, in the same way you would have to a customer. That obviously has implications in terms of they way you ask questions through the application process, as well as the way you communicate around your decision at the end," he said.
"It feels like we have said it a lot, but it is true, that the very different inputs from charities, advisers, insures, reinsurers, etc., has been phenomenal and has been what's made Access to Insurance a success, and will continue to make it a success."
While much of the focus on access to insurance since BIBA introduced the agreement to help make protection insurance more widely available in January last year has centred on health, signposting is a much wider issue, said Alan Knowles, managing director of Cura Financial Services and chair of the Protection Distributors Group.
Highlighting the way in which signposting operates in other industries, such as the legal sector, Knowles said: "There is a massive protection gap in the UK and there are still a lot of advisers who don't necessarily write or talk about protection. When people walk past protection because they don't have time or they don't see it as important, that is when signposting really comes in. It should be reciprocal - it's easy for me to say, but it's the same for protection specialists across individual customer needs."
Ultimately though, progress on access to insurance will depend on the communication and cooperation within the industry, the panel said.
"This is, hopefully, how the industry will go forward - very much looking at that customer experience and the communication in how we speak to customers. This is very wide-reaching because no customer comes in to buy insurance in the same way, it's not one size fits all and we need to understand different perspectives," Gilchrist explained.