In Focus: Vulnerability  

Q&A: How to support policyholders post-Covid

PH: It is clear that people's mental health collectively has been pretty badly dented by what everyone has had to go through. And we might start to see more income protection claims coming through for that in the months ahead.

But we and our competitors have interventions in place that can help. We also encourage people financially to tell us early. We have a deferred period when it comes to an IP claim and if someone is likely to make a claim, ideally we don't want to learn about this for the first time right at the end of the deferred period because it is harder then for to help them get back to work.

We do say if someone is likely to be in a deferred period, then if they notify us, we will waive the premium for that deferred period.

We also have a partnership with Hello Self, which has various interventions that can be made to help people get back to work.

FTA: Anyone can become vulnerable, as we have seen during this pandemic. What more can insurers such as Zurich do to help support people with mental ill-health and make sure people can get the cover they need?

PH: Some 98 per cent or so of the decisions we would have given before [Covid-19] we are giving now. There has not been a significant impact on the underwriting that we would see in IP, for example, but it’s an important area and we need to reflect more in how we ask the questions we do. 

Mental ill-health still accounts for a large part of the IP payouts. The Association of British Insurers is doing a lot to improve access to insurance for those who may have had challenges with mental health through new standards being introduced this year, and we contribute to and are supportive of the ABI's work.

We do already have training on how to deal with vulnerable customers for our own staff dealing with applications and claims; we have rehabilitation capabilities available not only through our link with Hello Self, but also through the counselling services we offer.

We are also reviewing our wording in line with the ABI's mental health standards to see if we can make the wording easier than it already is.

FTA: Should the wider industry be promoting ancillary services more, considering that people could be using free GP consultations and free mental health counselling online through their cover?

PH: Definitely this should be done. It makes sense for people to use them where they can, so promoting these makes sense. Anything that we can do to encourage people to get the help they need, we will do.