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Guest viewpoint: A journey to excellence

A voyage into a new era for individual protection

As one of the inaugural UnderwriteMe insurers, launching on its comparison service in August 2015, we have now completed our third year of trading in individual protection.

Prior to the launch, our product development process focused on providing up-to-date terms and conditions, but only on those conditions we felt we could pay claims on. We believed that simply appealing to advisers and consumers by providing a volume of conditions meant product complexity. By extending our group philosophy of providing “much more than a cheque” through Support Services (second medical opinion, personal nurse adviser, etc.), we knew we would be different to most other insurers. It is gratifying that they are catching up, as we remain committed to supporting claimants with something policyholders value and enables the benefit to extend beyond the purely financial.

However, we were not naïve enough to discount the importance of price in this market, however good the product and support. So, due to the ability of UnderwriteMe, our philosophy was to take the expense savings of straight-through processing and ensure we were competitive. In the first year of trading, albeit with a limited number of distributors using the comparison service, we did our numbers and the model seemed to work with customers and advisers who understood the price, value and T&C offer immediately. However, having a differentiated product at a competitive price was only half the battle. We also understood that for advisers to engage profitably with protection (as we had found with our CLASS system on the group side) we needed to also be incredibly easy to do business with. Therefore, the most important differentiator was our ability to provide a ‘click and buy’ solution. With around 70% of potential customers going straight through to a decision, this was the final part of our value proposition at launch.

As we ended 2016, we were becoming ever more confident in the proposition and the technology was delivering what we wanted perfectly. We recognised our next development was to widen distribution. In summer 2017, we launched on the IRESS platform stating at the time:

“We chose IRESS’ The Exchange as our first portal to launch these new products as its proven functionality helps intermediaries improve client service while cutting the cost of the sales and advice process and this ties in beautifully with our ‘easy to do business with’ approach to protection. We genuinely believe efficiency and value can work hand-in-hand to deliver outstanding results for both customers and advisers and the partnership with IRESS achieves this seamlessly.”

A year later we launched on iPipeline. Developing our distribution channels in an orderly, structured way has enabled us to grow without once compromising service, whilst listening to advisers and customers about what they wanted us to do next. We started 2018 with a simple creative platform: “We do protection, we do it differently, talk to us!” And we listened!

One opportunity we thought we were missing was to deliver to consumers who did not get an immediate decision through the platform. We were already providing in excess of 80% of potential customers with a decision in around 20 minutes, with 27% of these getting non-standard rates, as we had developed our underwriting rules engine on the UnderwriteMe platform. Not content with this, we wanted to develop an “easy to do business with” traditional medical underwriting approach that was pragmatic and innovative. Pragmatic as we only asked for specific information through tele-interviewing on areas of the application that needed further information. Innovative as we decided not to use traditional GP Private Medical Attendance Reports (PMAR), instead preferring to trust the medical underwriter to elicit the right information and the customer to provide accurate, truthful detail on their health.

As a result of this approach, 75% of customers that go through the manual underwriting process get a decision from us in around 24 hours, or 5 days if we need more information. By putting the adviser at the heart of this activity and the customer at the heart of the journey we now believe the 95% of people who get a decision from us get it in the shortest time possible. Additionally in 2018, we extended our manual underwriting to cover another 30 conditions (including diabetes, BMI up to 42, mental health, IBS, raised blood pressure and cholesterol) and this again has broadened our potential for acceptances. Our online journey was reviewed at the same time and the words used reduced by 42% as we were mindful that the bulk of customers ultimately want a “buy now” approach. Finally, we issued Perks in January 2019 to provide additional daily value to customers as an augmentation of our Personal Assistance Programme.

As we enter 2019, the results of this are bearing fruit for us, our advisers and customers. In both 2018 and 2019 we were voted as best service provider by advisers, an astonishing feat for such a new entrant but also in recognition of the importance of the ease of the customer journey and use of technology. We were voted number one on 6 of the 10 customer journey assessments and 2nd on a further two. With an 89% satisfaction score on both new business and underwriting, 85% on product design we have literally delivered a market-leading complete proposition, some would say overnight. It just goes to show that a differentiated product at a competitive price, delivered through great technology, a listening approach and trust in the team and customer can transform markets and set the benchmark high for others to follow. Albeit following a very new entrant may be uncomfortable for some!

Jon Ford (pictured) is director of individual protection at Canada Life and
Paul Avis is marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance


Sources:
Canada Life MI
Defaqto Protection Service Review February 2019