Medi-Quote was developed by Paul Ackrill and Ken McNally in 1988. At the time it was thought the PMI market would boom in the early 1990s so the pair set themselves up as a software house and began marketing the system to IFAs.
The system basically offers a comparative quotation service for intermediaries. It provides a comparison of premiums and benefits for individual, corporate and voluntary group schemes for up to 99 members. This information is updated monthly and is available on-screen to help the intermediary recommend a PMI provider and can be printed out for customers.
Recession obviously resulted in a slump in PMI sales, especially in the corporate market, which was served largely by IFAs. But despite this, Medi-Quote still managed to increase its market penetration, not only to IFAs but to banks and building societies, such as the Abbey National, Lloyds Bank Insurance Services and the Nationwide Building Society.
To date, the system is unique – no other software house offers a comparative quote programme for PMI. Ackrill believes that with the recession over, intermediaries could see an upsurge in PMI sales, particularly in small group business and many more will be looking to purchase the Medi-Quote system.
Medi-Quote is a DOS based system. Ackrill says there are plans to upgrade the systems to a visual basic format, but, at present, no plans to produce a Windows version of Medi-Quote. (Visual basic, though, will produce a more user friendly screen, with pull down menus and mouse functions.) This has been seen by some users as a limitation. One East Sussex-based intermediary, who asked not to be named said: “The system is a little archaic but does provide a good overview of which insurers are operating in these markets.”
But more technically inclined brokers have been able to run the Medi-Quote programme through their own computer systems. Bill Poynton, a partner with Healthcare Plus in Oxfordshire says Medi-Quote runs perfectly through his Windows’95 system. He adds: “Medi-Quote certainly saves us a lot of time. We are sending out at least a dozen quotes a day.”
But as most of the quotes are not guaranteed, some intermediaries are hesitant about relying purely on the system for customer quotations. One intermediary says: “The quotes are not always that reliable but they give an indication of what is available and roughly what it costs. The system is extremely useful in providing a good snapshot of the market. Medi-Quote will throw up all the obscure providers working in an given area, which might be easily overlooked.”
But it is important to remember that not all insurers are included on the system, and there are those that only publish premium quotes for some of their schemes. For example, currently PPP are not quoted on Medi-Quote and WPA only include certain corporate schemes on the system.
But for Ackrill, although not every insurer pays the subscription fee, Medi-Quote still provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the market. Not only is it bought by specialist health intermediaries, it can also be used by general insurance brokers and IFAs who only handle small amounts of PMI business.
Ackrill says: “With a system like Medi-Quote intermediaries do not have to keep bang up to date with who is moving in and out of the market. If a customer comes in and asks for advice on PMI, the intermediary will be able to print out a list of PMI providers, showing who offers the most benefits and the most competitive premiums.”
But, with Medi-Quote costing around £500 a year, general brokers would have to be generating at least this amount in PMI commissions to make the purchase worthwhile. The system costs £175+vat a year for an annual licence plus a monthly charge of £25.85 for updates, although at present Ackrill is offering discount for new subscribers.
As well as a comparative quote engine, Medi-Quote is also useful as a marketing tool. Print-outs can help convince the client of an intermediary’s competence and his ability to locate the best deal. Seeing is believing: although no-one wants to confuse a customers with too many details, certain print-outs can make presentations convincing.
As Ackrill says, even if an intermediary does very little PMI business, using a computer system can improve customer service standards and give the intermediary a competitive edge. Although the system may not be perfect, it is the only PMI quotation system on the market today.
There is much talk about the Internet and new technology, but brokers and IFAs should first consider how some of the more straightforward computer systems could benefit their businesses.