You might be breathing a sigh of relief as 2016 draws to a close. It has certainly been a rollercoaster of a year, with some dizzying highs and lows, and one many of us will look back on with mixed emotions.
Wars have continued to make international headlines, displacing families and creating problems no-one should have to face. And on the political front the drama has been more unpredictable and astonishing than the most gripping box set. The sad cloud hanging over it all was the swathe of celebrity deaths – people we may have felt we knew, even though most of us didn’t.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. From the Olympics and Paralympics to the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, we’ve proved we can still put on a good show. And closer to home in the protection industry, we’ve taken some significant steps towards creating a more positive future.
One of the best ways to learn is listening. The industry has definitely taken note of what both advisers and customers have been saying about their protection needs, and improvements are beginning to take shape.
With a growing number of improvements in online processes, the application journey made by advisers should have been easier this year. Advisers can now free up time by using improved online underwriting systems from a variety of providers.
We’ve had some positive press recognising our step away from the ‘numbers race’ when it comes to critical illness cover. By providing better quality cover for the most claimed-for conditions, advisers should find it easier to recommend the right product.
We know the industry is still striving to improve the outcomes for those who make a claim. When your customer’s world feels like it’s collapsing after a life-changing diagnosis, it’s unlikely that their first thought will be ‘How will I pay the mortgage?’ Support around telling the family, or guidance through treatment, is likely to be higher on their list of priorities. Added value services are becoming more commonplace, because although the money at the point of claim is useful, the emotional support can often make the biggest initial impact.
2016 saw the conclusion of the 7Families campaign. The campaign helped seven families from across Britain whose lives had been turned upside down by long-term illness or life-limiting conditions. By giving practical and financial support, the initiative successfully raised awareness of the importance of income protection.
Statistics show that individuals have a higher chance of needing income protection during their working life than life cover or critical illness cover. A 30 year old, retiring at 65, has on average a 38 per cent chance of being off work for 2 months or more1. But with less than 10 per cent of consumers buying income protection2, advisers need more campaigns like this to help generate awareness of this need.
Our own income protection report has been well received by advisers. Allowing them to create tailored reports for clients, they highlight the risks individuals face and the fact that all budgets can afford to add a little income protection.
We’re proud of our achievements in 2016 and can barely believe that it’s just 12 months since we rebranded to Royal London. In that time, we’ve improved our online service to make life easier for advisers: we now offer estimated decisions for non-standard cases and can give likely costs for rated cases. On top of the online improvements, we’ve refreshed our underwriting proposition to focus more on the most commonly disclosed conditions, improved our critical illness cover to provide better cover for the most claimed-for conditions, and added help for carers to our Helping Hand service – amongst other things.
But don’t take our word for it. We were delighted to win Company of the Year not once but three times in 2016. In June we received the accolade in both the FT Online Innovation and Service Awards and Money Marketing Awards, and then just this week we received the same title in the FT Adviser 5* Service Awards. This recognition means such a lot to us.
Still, we won’t be resting on our laurels. Innovation continues to be the watchword when discussing the future of protection. And while providers labour to develop better, pioneering products, they also need to consider the new hooks that will convince more customers that protection is a necessity, and design new tools to make the sale easier for advisers.
We’re looking forward to welcoming 2017.
1 – Hannover Re, March 2016. Statistics, assuming a 50% gender mix and 25% smoker mix, show the ‘average’ 30 year-old retiring at 65 has a 4% chance of dying, a 13% chance of getting a critical illness and a 38% chance of being off work for 2 months or more. These figures have been produced based on their interpretation of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ Continuous Mortality Investigation insured lives incidence rates together with their estimated view of future trends.
2 – YouGov Life and Health Protection survey, 2015
Ross Jackson is senior marketing manager at Royal London.