Axa PPP's Fergus Craig has a keen eye on PMI. Paul Robertson asks him how the market is improving.
“We don’t do it partially because we just don’t think it would be legal to do it. I don’t know why when we explained – or tried to explain – to external parties who feel enthusiastic that we should do it, that they don’t hear that part of the message.
“If you start from the proposition that whether or not you’ve had significant medical treatment is a piece of personal data about you, employees in small schemes – as opposed to the business partners or their families – could be put in a position where it is obvious to their employer that they have had a significant medical intervention.
This might have some impact on their employment status or whether they get PMI next year – that sort of thing.
“What if a member of one of those schemes found out that de facto data or information about their medical status had been disclosed, essentially to their employer, and that person chose to complain about this to the data protection registrar?
“If it’s a pieceof personal data, we require their consent. We haven’t got their consent and I can’t actually conceive of a plausible set of circumstances in which we could get their permission in a way that satisfies the law. Because consent must be given in an informed way, it must be contemporaneous and it must not be the subject of pressure or coercion.
“We could get their consent at the start of the scheme year, but then they don’t know whether they’ve claimed or not, so we’d have to get their consent at the end of the scheme year. Now let’s say you have made a big claim – what position are you in then?
“So, it is impossible to get the consent without coercion. And we cannot see how it can be done in such a way that, to our satisfaction, no coercion has occurred.”
COPING WITH A SHRINKING MARKET
Another by-product of the Groupama sale was that it highlighted market consolidation, a worry to many advisers in the PMI sector.
Craig pointed out, fairly, that this often happens when a market is shrinking. But is this a problem in the market? Will there be more?
“Obviously, I would prefer us to have a 99.9% market share and complete carte blanche from the OFT for whatever we might want to do. It would be disingenuous for me to sit here and say I am desperately upset that a player in the market has dropped out.”
Craig believed it is tough for smaller players, who were tempted during periods of growth when capital was relatively free and easy, only to find they had not reached critical mass once the recession hit.
“As for further shrinkage, possibly, but not among materially sized players. If you look down the list, ourselves, Bupa, Aviva, Pru and Cigna, WPA, Simplyhealth and a couple of others will be fine.”
It is always nice to finish interviews in an upbeat way and Craig obliged: “I would anticipate that it’s just a tide going out and, hopefully, as the market recovers, I think people will come back in.”
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