The annual AMII Exhibition & Conference has just finished, and there is a renewed sense of optimism in the air.
Despite the credit-crunch, ABI statistics for 2008 showed an increase for the fourth year in a row in the total number of people covered under a UK PMI scheme or healthcare trust scheme. Last year the total increased by 2.75% to 7,335,000. More significantly, there was an increase of over 5% in the “company-paid” PMI sector.
Despite a three-fold increase in the NHS budget over the last decade, with a reduction in maximum waiting times for operations from 18 months to 18 weeks, the market penetration of PMI has remained consistent. Those who forecasted this regeneration of the NHS would lead to a dwindling in demand for PMI have been proved wrong.
The reasons why people buy PMI go beyond just avoiding long waits for treatment. PMI is about access to clean and hygienic facilities, with very low rates of infection. PMI is about privacy, comfort and being treated as an individual. PMI is about choice.
Undoubtedly 2009 will be a more challenging year – no sector can presume to be immune to the wider economic recession. However, medical insurance has proven to be resilient to economic turbulence in the past, and now is an opportune moment for specialist healthcare intermediaries to prove their worth, as employers and individuals look to obtain greater value for money from their healthcare schemes.
There will be pressures on NHS funding in the next spending round – some commentators estimate a funding gap of £15bn or more by 2014-15. This could lead to increasing average waiting times for treatment and rationing of services, ensuring that PMI remains a valuable employee benefit as we come out of the recession.
There is a new energy within this market. This year’s AMII exhibition saw new providers exhibiting for the first time; insurers continuing to innovate and modify their existing plans; and, amongst the intermediaries, fresh faces to the industry. AMII is seeing new specialist healthcare intermediaries starting up, and forward-thinking IFA’s looking to expand into this sector.
There is also a growing consensus that the sector needs to embrace new training and competency. AMII is working with the CII to develop a PMI specific examination and training module. This will provide a robust framework and credible examination to test not only technical knowledge but also the advisory skills necessary to perform well in an evolving marketplace.
Let’s look forward with confidence to AMII’s 2010 conference and exhibition.
TONY HULATT – HEAD OF HEALTHCARE, BROKERBILITY HEALTHCARE
How and when did you start advising on PMI?
I started advising on PMI around 1997, having served my apprenticeship in various administration/toilet cleaning and sales support roles with Standard Life Healthcare and a specialist healthcare brokerage on the wrong side of the Pennines. I am based in Leicester and have a wife and a four year old daughter to finance.
Do you advise on individual/corporate – or both?
I advise on both company and individual PMI as well as cash plans, dental, travel and international. We specialise in the SME sector.
What time does your day start?
It’s important to keep a good work-life balance so while I am happy to start early I will always try to be out of the office by 5:30 pm prompt. My 4 year old provides a welcome change of priorities at the end of the day and makes sure that I don’t have to watch Eastenders; Peppa Pig is so much more believable anyway.
Do you work with introducers?
The whole concept of Brokerbility is about working in partnership with high quality commercial insurance brokers. We have 40 or so throughout the UK who generate large quantities of warm leads.
Source: RGA UK Services Ltd
What is the key issue facing the PMI industry
It’s a shame that so many smaller specialist brokers have been swallowed up by the consolidators. It’s an even bigger shame that so many insurers have chosen to get into bed with the larger intermediaries to the detriment of their smaller counterparts in terms of preferential rates and enhanced commissions. Level playing field? What level playing field! I think some of the insurers should seriously think about the longer term consequences of their actions.
Who in the industry do you admire?
Kevin Melton taught me everything I know. Jack Briggs and Mike Wagg at Simplyhealth are a formidable partnership and seem to have succeeded where others have failed. When asked recently what the secret of his success was, my current chairman, Stuart Randall, said: “I simply surround myself with people who are better than me”. He does try his best though.
How do you relax?
In the winter, I follow my home-town footie team Fleetwood Town and my glory team is the Forest. The way things are going they will be swapping places in the next few years. In the summer, I can be found down the shed, talking to my vegetables (and my 4 year old) with a glass of Jennings and a bit of Madness on the ipod. PMI doesn’t provide a bad lifestyle does it?