UnderwriteMe sales director reflects on the challenges faced by the protection industry in recent times
It's been a "bit of a year". We had a house move planned early in 2020, followed by a holiday and maybe a city break later in the year.
But like pretty much everyone reading this article, Covid-19 reared its ugly head and choosing colour schemes was replaced by six o'clock news briefings, face masks and the feeling of being permanently on Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
We've all faced challenges due to Covid-19 this year, from healthcare to economic and social disruption. In the face of this, the protection sector has been working hard on its underwriting approach to keep new business available and existing clients on the books.
So how do we think the industry has done?
As I write this (finally in the new home and embroiled in DIY projects), I reflect back to March, when it became apparent that a unified approach to Covid-19 underwriting would be required.
The Protection Platform needed to initiate a specific Covid-19 question set to be agreed to by all 13 insurer brands on the platform. This challenge, whilst not quite in the "which breadbin" category, was a tough one, but the collaborative approach of all parties ensured we deployed it in six days.
The industry wanted to stay open for business and we think that a remarkable turnaround time was achieved, which is testament to the ability of the insurers that we worked with. By adapting so quickly, it became possible to ensure the Covid-19 risk could be assessed and policies could be underwritten in a fair and fast manner.
What did this mean in practice?
More than 9,000 applicants (based on our MI data) have answered "yes" to a Covid-19 related question (e.g. have you been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19?) since March. Straight through processing rates through the Protection Platform did initially drop slightly, as you would expect, but for the last six months they have recovered and remained consistently high.
As we and our insurer partners learned more about the virus, we've had to respond with updated question sets and day-to-day reviews of the data. This has enabled us to help insurers start taking steps back towards the previous underwriting philosophies held before Covid-19 struck.
Advisers still want quick decisions and clarity around underwriting, and we are working constantly to help provide these outcomes. Whilst we can't directly improve the lag in receiving GP reports if they are requested, we can minimise the need for those requests.
The fact that we are seeing high numbers of cases receiving a quick decision on the Protection Platform suggests the underwriting approach to Covid-19 is working. The adviser community needs this speed of decision more than ever. They have had everything thrown at them this year - remote working, new sales processes, uncertainty in the mortgage market, changes to underwriting and reduced customer budgets to name only a few.
"Advisers, have had to react strongly to a number of challenges, but the Protection Platform helped our New Leaf members stay on," says Daniel Hobbs, managing director of New Leaf. "The platform provides a clear picture on the Covid-19 question set, who can get coverage and allows us to get fully underwritten premiums from multiple insurers."
Having a real-time view on underwriting philosophies of our insurer partners means that clients are less likely to be put off applying for coverage due to Covid-19. Insurers have been working on their underwriting processes to minimise the number of adviser applications held up by GP requests.
Technology has made much of our lives manageable during Covid-19, from video conferencing to online shopping and delivery (not to mention Click & Collect at ScrewFix). Protection underwriting has also stepped up and embraced technology and the data shows the results have enabled the industry to keep business rolling. And I believe there is much more innovation to come.
Phil Nash is sales director of UnderwriteMe