We sit down with product expert Paul Quarendon to hear how product innovation, streamlined online solutions and responsible lead generation apps are driving a surge in income protection growth
Due to market demand Synaptic recently launched Webline Play, a plug-in version of its quote and e-apply portal for protection business. The lead generation web app sits within partner websites, allowing advisers and distributors to create business opportunities and take clients through a streamlined customer journey.
Alongside this, the Webline portal itself (which offers real-time quotes to advisers with pre-populated forms and personalised front-ends) has been witnessing a surge of interest in income protection (IP), the sector's hugely undersold product. H1 2019 saw a 41% increase in IP quotes on Webline compared to the same period last year, while enquires for Webline Play have been increasing daily, Synaptic tells COVER.
It is clear that streamlined technology solutions alongside IP product innovation is bringing unprecedented attention to protection's most undersold form of insurance; whether that's due to emerging opportunities in the rental market, uptake among younger people or online lead generation and streamlined user-friendly solutions speeding up efficiency.
Amid this, however, some important questions arise: How do we ensure customers get the most appropriate advice in the face of product evolution? How far can we go with online innovation in a marketplace so heavily reliant on human advice? And, crucially, what does responsible lead generation actually look like? We quizzed Synaptic's Paul Quarendon, product manager for Webline, to get some answers…
So, Paul, what online sales trends are you personally seeing for income protection?
The industry is currently seeing high levels of income protection sales. This positive upward trend suggests that the general public is beginning to see the benefits of income protection cover, which is good news. I am really glad to say that Webline is contributing to this upturn by continuing to offer easy-to-access research. Comparing the first half of this year against H1 last year, quotes are up by 12% and electronic applications are up a staggering 54%. We are also seeing new products coming on board from existing provider partners, specifically those looking at the rental market. It's really exciting to see income protection evolving to meet the needs of all customers in all scenarios. It is also an encouraging sign to see the younger generation (25-34 age band) out-purchasing the 35-44-year olds. Perhaps a strong indicator that the rental market is in fact the area for advisers and providers alike to focus on, and one where the young are becoming more financially responsible than their older cohorts.
How is technology opening access to insurance online for income protection and how are these leads being converted?
Synaptic has long recognised that the UK has a significant income protection gap. Where benefit support remains low, increasingly hard to access, and inadequate by not reflecting previous income, recreating any earlier quality of life is becoming really hard to address. Because of this, we built Webline Play which is a new lead generation tool for the adviser from Synaptic. It's a web app that blends seamlessly with a website and helps the advice process by allowing the customer to obtain an IP quote before speaking to an adviser. For me, this is a seamless and easy way for IP to break into the digital space.
I do think that IP can be too complicated (replacement ratios, deferred periods, and so on) to buy solely on a D2C basis online without some form of intervention from an adviser, so having access to a warmer lead, a customer with a quote already, will help an adviser convert the sale, or at least get closer to signing on the dotted line. It really is just as important to get the process right as much as the product itself. I say that because we still seem to operate in a market which needs advice to be an integral part of the process, one that must instil confidence in the consumer before any purchase is made. Whether initially accessing the product on a laptop or a mobile, as an industry we must firstly be providing 24-hour access across every channel, offering relevant information quickly and with clarity. Then, once that information has been absorbed, the lead can be picked up by an adviser, who continues the process verbally and advises on the best product.
What role do third party technology providers have in paving the way for responsible protection advice?
By making it as simple as possible for financial advisers to encourage and help people protect themselves. As a sector we are competing against more glamorous purchases and immediate gratification impulse buys all the time. Technology should be able to help turn a grudge buy into a must buy.
Distributors are at the front line of providing the right financial products to their customers and technology providers need to be working with them to design and deliver innovative technology solutions to encourage responsible financial decision making.
How far can the sector go with regards to online innovation for income protection sales - and other protection products?
The best technologies evolve in line with changing adviser and consumer requirements, and Synaptic works with its client base to understand and develop solutions that will best fit these evolving needs. As a consequence, adapting and providing advisers with end-to-end capabilities to service their customers is paramount to our product development strategy. We particularly value our trusted customer partnerships which help ensure we continue to deliver responsive software solutions to meet the needs of the market, ultimately helping advisers in the delivery of responsible and holistic financial advice.
I firmly believe there will always be a fundamental need for human interaction with any insurance sale. Term assurance is a less complex sale than income protection so perhaps it is quicker to get to the product solution but expecting a consumer to purchase IP without guidance is possibly too far out of reach at the moment. The online experience can offer all the information - jargon buster, easy to understand language, facts and figures etc. But we have to ask, how much tech does the customer want (or require) to make a purchase that meets their needs and expectations? Give them 24-hour access with relevant information, but most importantly we must instil trust. Customers need a solution that helps them make the right decision, backed up with clear claims figures, highlighting how claims have been paid and reasons why claims have not been accepted. While this may not provide something tangible to hold (except a policy document), they will be safe in the knowledge that they have purchased a product which protects them should they become unable to work through accident or sickness.
With partnerships emerging and smart data being used to build risk profiles and gather underwriting info, what does the future of protection online look like?
Less complex. Protection products can be made simple but the process around those products needs to offer simplicity in equal measure. Decision making for the customer needs to be simple as well. There seems to be scope for all types of partnering up to drive value - wearables, smart gadgets around the home and in the car. All of which can predict events as long as the customer is willing to share their data. We need to find a smart way of bringing together technology, data and partnerships; that bring together expertise, focus and access to information; to close the protection gap with solutions that not only provide security but help consumers live a happier, healthier life.
Synaptic is part of Capita plc. For more information visit www.synaptic.co.uk
Paul Quarendon is product manager, Webline, Synaptic