Consumers think insurers are untrustworthy, according to research conducted by Bright Grey, a new protection company from Royal London subsidiary Scottish Life.
When consumers make a claim they want an insurer they can trust, that will deal with them efficiently, and will be there for them during the bad times in their lives, according to the research. As we reported in last month’s Health Insurance, this company plans to do things differently – starting with its name. Apparently the name “reflects” the contrast that the business aims to offer in a market perceived to be grey, complex and confusing.
Order in the house The fact that consumers do not have enough protection is not surprising, but Bright Grey plans to turn this around, and it all starts with its company ethos that you cannot deal with the public until you have put your own house in order first.
Tracey Ashworth-Davies, Bright Grey’s deputy chief executive and head of recruitment, says that if staff are treated well and motivated it will affect the customer’s experience of dealing with the insurer. “The whole business model is about treating customers well, designing the right products that will not fail the test in five years’ time, and doing right by the customer. So it is important to also do things right by your own people,” she explains.
She says protection products are about helping people when the chips are down – if there is a death in the family, unemployment, or the diagnosis of a terminal illness.
“The sort of people we want working with us,” says Ashworth-Davies, “are those who have a natural tendency to want to help people and actually be proactive about it.
“There were 1,500 applicants whittled down to 100. When new staff begin their first day at Bright Grey they are given a card to welcome them that is signed by everyone in the company. There are no silly rules like dress code so if a member of staff feels like wearing a bow tie that day, they can.”
Staff diaries record the highs and lows of their first month in the job and they must also compile a collage with pictures of things that are important to them – their children, the family pet, etc – to be displayed in the office.
It all sounds very hokey but Bright Grey believes that this “good feeling” will work and, apparently, customers approve. Consumer focus groups were also asked what they were looking for in a new insurance company and, sure enough, they said they would buy a policy that would pay out.
But what about the service?
From application to claim, Bright Grey promises crystal clarity where customers know what they’ve bought and in what circumstances their claim will be successful.
Head of products Roger Edwards says some people do not consider buying insurance because they think “it will not happen to them”. He says: “We asked people how they would cope if they couldn’t work through illness. On the whole, consumers are not against the idea of insurance, but they do feel the products are difficult to understand. Bright Grey will build products consumers want to buy that will be value for money, but will not be available until next year.”
The creation of a different protection company was the brainchild of chief executive David Robinson, who previously worked for Scottish Provident. “I could see a huge opportunity to reinvent a life assurance product the way it should be done. The quality of service from many companies is poor but we have a good team in place and a number of ideas up our sleeve,” he says.
He explains: “We put it to people that there is soon to be a new insurer that would be transparent and pay out and they would know when their claim wouldn’t be successful because it would all be clear. The research respondents said this would have to be a new concept and they wouldn’t expect an already established insurer to do this.”
Bright Grey could be just what the market needs but it has a hard task ahead to prove that it will work for both the good of the customer and the industry. z