Gary Burchett: Focusing on the things that matter

'At Scottish Widows our philosophy is simple'

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Gary Burchett: Focusing on the things that matter

INDUSTRY VOICE: Financial resilience, its impact on overall wellbeing and meeting the needs of customers

It's fair to say that the last few months have been challenging, but difficult times require an extraordinary effort to rise to that challenge and I am proud of my Scottish Widows colleagues and the exceptional response they have collectively delivered so that we could continue to support advisers and customers.

I strongly believe that delivering financial resilience via protection products is a key driver in improving the overall financial health of individuals and society generally. We are beginning to understand the strong inter-dependencies between financial confidence, physical and mental health and developing this resilience is part of our Helping Britain Prosper purpose.

It's a staggering number, but up to six million people each year suffer a life event that causes a sudden loss of income, and many others experience events that cause a sudden rise in their outgoings.* These life events are caused by a variety of things, from ill health to the death of a partner. It's not only the individual who is impacted, but their families, friends, their employers and even their landlord.

In our industry we often see the impact of these severe life events which can dramatically affect the wellbeing and mental health of individuals and their families. Having the right protection in place can help reduce the stress of such events and deliver better long-term outcomes. At Scottish Widows our philosophy is simple, we are here to fulfil the promise we make at application stage and support your clients when they need us most ‒ at the point they need to claim. Hearing about cases that our claims teams deal with on a daily basis is both emotional and uplifting and it serves as a constant reminder of the significant importance of the work we do and the difference we can make.

I'm very proud of our claims statistics but we're always working to do everything we can to help you make the process as quick, transparent and as simple as possible:

  • Each claimant receives an individual case manager, meaning the same person will deal with their claim from start to finish.
  • We've introduced online claim forms to ensure customers can register claims easily at a time convenient to them.
  • Helping vulnerable customers and those in financial difficulty by providing advance payments for cancer critical illness claimants.

In the past year we've worked hard to provide you with more support, making it simpler for you to protect clients and their families:

  • We're working more efficiently to deliver enhancements to our product and service offering. We've grown our team by increasing the number of Regional Protection Managers and Telephone Account Managers. We want to deliver a noticeable improvement in the frequency and quality of service we offer you.
  • During 2019 we delivered enhancements to our online adviser dashboard to help with pipeline management at a time that suits you. These enable you to see underwriting decisions and outstanding actions, together with providing flexibility to amend quotes post underwriting.  Electronic documents have led to improved service and a reduction in unnecessary paperwork.

Our Charity Partnerships

Wellbeing and working with charity partnerships is a real strength of Scottish Widows and it gives us great insight into the challenges faced by our customers and how we can work together to address these.

Having a partnership with Macmillan is beneficial as it enables us to understand and support our customers better. Especially since 63% of our critical illness claims are related to cancer. According to Macmillan, four out of five people with cancer will on average be £570 per month worse off as a result of their diagnosis.** This increase is often caused by a combination of reduced income as many people need to stop working during treatment; increased costs because of the illness, such as travel and parking charges when attending treatment sessions; and increased heating costs at home.

Our partnership with Mental Health UK puts us in a unique position to really understand the issues facing customers when applying for protection. It's very pleasing to me that we offer cover to 95% of customers who disclose a mental health condition, and of those, 85% will be accepted at standard rates for life cover. By gaining valuable feedback from Mental Health UK we are firmly focused on making improvements to the way we ask application questions using language that is accessible, easy to understand and not open to interpretation. And we are sharing our insight with you through things like our Expert Series, a programme of Webinars, vodcasts and podcasts which are designed for that very reason.

In summary, I am immensely proud of the vital service we give to customers in uncertain times and am thankful for the support you give your clients.

The focus for Scottish Widows will be to continue to do the right thing for our customers, ensuring advisers can have confidence and pride when recommending our products and services. Find out how we're taking protection further at www.scottishwidows.co.uk/takingprotectionfurther

Gary Burchett is protection director for Scottish Widows

* Managing Households Financial Resilience 2019

** Macmillan Cancer Support: Cancer's Hidden Price Tag Report 2019

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