"There is a recognition today that systems should be slick and focussed and of benefit to the user. A common phrase is to take friction out of the process and many of us are actively looking to do more of this.”
Price comparison portals
A close second – but arguably an even more influential development – were price comparison portals, which took a huge amount of legwork out of sourcing the best solution for clients – and even led to the creation of some of today’s leading protection adviser firms.
UnderwriteMe’s Phil Jeynes says: “The very first quote portal allowed advisers to see a range of insurer prices without having to visit individual sites. This allowed advice to expand into being much more representative of the whole market and enthused many IFAs to sell protection.
"It’s testament to its simplicity and relevance that the Exchange hasn’t changed much to this day, with many advisers still using the site as starting point for protection sales.”
“It drove much stronger competition from providers through price transparency,” says Jennifer Burt. “It could take weeks before the advent of portals to get a like-for-like comparison. Protection broking would not exist without this development – ties would still dominate.”
Alan Lakey, director at Highclere Financial Services and also director of CIExpert, concurs, adding: “I recall back in the 1980s that advisers accumulated rate books from all of the insurers – Clerical Medical, Standard Life, Norwich Union, Gresham Life, GA – and to quote for a term or whole life plan you referred to the rate tables within and compared to find the best rates.
“Then came the Viewdata system, which was the first portal and ultimately morphed into The Exchange. This allowed inputting of client details, which enabled printouts of comparable rates and an illustration.”
Ms Walker adds that when price comparison portals integrated with aggregators and other consumer facing websites, this caused debate as to the future of price comparison and potential issues around non-advice, but at the same time it helped make protection prices – and protection per se – accessible to all.
Commenting on the history of comparison systems, Ian McKenna, director at F&TRC said: “The creation of the first multi-insurer/open market protection comparison dates back to the 1980s with British Telecom Insurance Services and Istel (then part of Rover) using the ancient Videotex technology.
"These evolved into what we now know as The Exchange and without this the protection industry as we currently know it would not exist.”
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