Jeff Prestridge 

Insurers should publish and be damned

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

The protection insurance industry has made great strides in recent years at being more open with the public and financial advisers. Cheers all round.

Long gone are the days when nobody quite knew how individual insurance companies dealt with claims. How many did they reject? What were the reasons for not meeting claims?

Such a lack of openness fuelled a deep suspicion among more sceptical consumer journalists that protection cover merely protected the profits of the providers. That if an insurer could get out of meeting a claim it would do, even if it meant trawling through a claimant’s past medical records for excuses to reject.

Today, insurance glasnost has taken grip. Most of the big players (not all) are now quite happy publishing their claims statistics. The more recent company to send me details about how it was treating claims was Zurich, which less than a month ago furnished me with data for the first half of this year.

Indeed, it sent the proverbial works, not only providing me with ‘percentage of claims met’ figures for life insurance (95 per cent), critical illness (89 per cent) and income protection (87 per cent), but for general insurance as well.

Good on ya, Zurich, although it is disappointing that the protection figures have yet to find their way onto the relevant page on its website: The only statistics that make it onto this consumer page relate to 2015 life insurance claims (98.5 per cent met). Tardy.

This is good for buyers of protection insurance who can see that they are purchasing worthwhile cover. Good for financial advisers who have the tricky job of selling policies to sceptical clients. And good for probing journalists who can get a sense of how individual companies are treating claimants.

Yet, if my sources are correct (they are impeccable), I fear there is big pressure building within the insurance industry for the current era of glasnost to be brought to an abrupt end. That it should return to the bad old ways and days when secrecy ruled the insurers’ waves. Goodbye Gorbachev. Hello Putin.

My main source (a massive advocate for the protection insurance industry) was recently at an insurance conference where numerous reinsurers were openly criticising the publication of claims statistics.

Their argument was that the publication of such data is "boring, repetitive, daft even". They also said that claims statistics are not influential in helping persuade the public to take out cover, so their publication is a waste of time.

And, of course, they argued that the issuing of claims figures does not stop horrible journalists like me from criticising insurers whenever they have the temerity to decline a claim (yawn, yawn).