Insurance should be available to all, at an affordable price.
A pipe dream? Maybe. Grandiose words, you may think, but it is an objective we – all those connected to the financial services industry – should all strive towards, whether we are insurers, financial advisers, planners or mere financial commentators.
That means insurance for the young, keen to get behind the steering wheel of a car for the first time, through to cover for the elderly, keen to travel the world while their health is in good nick. Financial comfort blankets for those moments in life when things go awry.
Yet despite some smart initiatives in the motor market with young drivers (such as telematics) and the protection sector (cheap and cheerful cover from mainstream banks), the insurance industry is increasingly becoming more exclusive than inclusive. More inaccessible than accessible.
I see it every day of my working life. Last week, for example, I received a lovely letter from a couple in their dotage – their words, not mine.
For a long time, they have enjoyed their trips abroad by land and sea, but they believe that the cost of travel insurance is now in danger of curtailing their adventures. A two-month trip to Cyprus later this year has resulted in an additional travel insurance bill of £1,800.
Although they understand that insurers take a risk with elderly people like themselves, it irks them that every time they have travelled, they have returned to Blighty having “not claimed for even a cut finger”.
They ask: “Why is it not feasible for the insurance companies to refund a slice of the premiums paid for not claiming?” Why not indeed.
Through price, they are being excluded from cover. Access to insurance is being denied.
Given the elderly will form a bigger proportion of the population in the years ahead – and have good money to spend – is it right that the insurance industry deems swathes of them almost uninsurable?
Of course not.
I also see it in my personal life: My mother is as hard as nails, even more so since Dad died almost two years ago. A strong, proud, independent individual who just gets on with life.
But, like all of us, she likes the reassurance that some insurance cover brings, in particular her home cover policy with British Gas.
A policy that means if there are problems with the heating or plumbing, she knows someone will come out and fix the problem.
Yet, British Gas just tried to jack up her premiums by 20 per cent – an extra £100 a year. A price increase Mum could not really afford.