Jeff Prestridge  

We need to boost insurance take-up

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

As I write this article there will be people in the marketing departments of protection insurance companies poring over their claims figures for the mighty fine year just gone.

Come spring – much earlier in the case of Zurich, which looks on course to publish data later this month – they will then release these figures for public and financial adviser consumption.

Well, not all of them.

Some will stay schtum because they have no vested interest in releasing such figures – typically, as a result of no longer offering protection insurance; in other words, running closed books.

Some newish companies will not detail their claims because they will argue they need more time for any data to be reliable (fair game), while others will simply just be bloody minded and refuse to play ball (shame on them).

Although I have no crystal ball, I imagine the figures that do eventually see the light of day will be as impressive as they have been in recent years with successful claims [where there are payouts] across critical illness, life cover and income protection policies averaging out at around 95 per cent.

Slightly higher in the case of life insurance, lower for both critical illness and income protection.

Those who routinely absorb such figures – protection advisers, consumer groups and grisly old journalists like myself – will then probably mutter, ‘Job well done’, and move on, confident in the knowledge that protection insurance is a now a product fit for purpose.

Certainly a lot fitter than it was 10 to 15 years ago when disclosure of individual company claims data was a no-go and many claims were rejected on somewhat spurious grounds.

Yet, there is no room for complacency.

There is now a growing awareness among some flag-wavers for protection insurance that the industry needs to do more with this claims data if it is going to encourage consumers to go out and buy such essential cover.

The information needs to be more robust and consistent across insurers.

It also needs to be presented in a more consumer-engaging way – a skill set that the insurance industry is not renowned for.

Without wanting to wave my flag too vigorously, I have been involved at the fringe on an initiative designed to come up with ways of making claims data more consistent across providers as well as more detailed, accurate and captivating.

The big drivers behind this project have been Protection Review, product ratings group Fairer Finance and the Protection Distributors Group.

The objective behind the project is to come up with a charter that a majority of insurers agree to adhere to.

Its scope will be broader than the existing charter overseen by the Protection Distributors Group, which not all leading insurers are signed up to.

Some of the recommendations from the group should be easy to adopt, if it were not for the fact it is the insurance industry we are talking about.