The UK protection industry tends to get a bad rap when it comes to innovation and technology.
But for a 300-year-old industry, dominated by household-name behemoths and their legacy systems, it perhaps comes as no surprise that getting ahead of the technology curve seen in other markets was always going to take a little time.
While many other industries have already been upended because of disruption through technology – Amazon changing the world of retail represents an obvious example, as does Netflix breaking the mould of traditional TV – the time for insurance is, arguably, still to come.
Saying a market needs disruption is easy, but actually doing it is perhaps a little harder.
That is not to say that giant leaps have not happened over recent years though.
Indeed, they have: even among the behemoths. But when it comes to total transformation, our beloved protection industry is arguably still waiting in the wings.
However, with developments from existing companies over recent years and a growing number of insurtechs now getting in on the act, there is a swell of opinion that the time for change is getting closer.
In this column, we take a look at the most influential technology game-changers from the past, the best tech features around for advisers today and the biggest tech predictions for the market in the future.
The most influential game-changers from the past
Almost all of the industry experts who we spoke to for the purposes of this column said that one particular development from the past could be regarded as a verifiable game-changer for the industry – namely Legal & General’s design and introduction of online protection applications in 2006.
Originally known as OLP (Online Protection) it replaced paper applications with online questions and paved the way for underwriting systems using rules-driven logic.
According to Guy Williams, sales and marketing director at Liss EXL, this helped improve the customer journey and reduce operating costs for insurers and advisers. “In hindsight, this was an extremely innovative use of technology and paved the way for the future.”
“This led to significant process improvements and efficiencies in the application process,” says Jennifer Burt, senior marketing manager at iPipeline.
Emma Walker, chief marketing officer at LifeSearch, agrees, adding: “Because it was deep linked from the portals, advisers didn’t have to go in and out of systems. They could simply click through to the L&G system from a portal, something that’s now commonplace but back then it was very new and different.”
This development also helped pave the way for many other present-day useful features for advisers, such as online trusts and e-declarations, adds Ms Walker.
Reflecting back on the changes, Mark Jones, protection product director at Legal & General, says: “It seems odd to think that it’s only a dozen years since L&G introduced online applications and easy to forget what a huge difference that made to customers, advisers and providers.