Firing Line: The Exeter's Steve Bryan on changing protection

Firing Line: The Exeter's Steve Bryan on changing protection

For Steve Bryan, the move from Legal & General – a FTSE 100 company – to The Exeter, a mutual insurer with 130 employees, has been dramatic.

Mr Bryan, who is director of distribution and marketing at The Exeter, said it was now much easier to make decisions, and he could move much more quickly when an opportunity presented itself.

He said: "One of the things that I've seen is the agility of The Exeter and the ability to respond to things very quickly. It's been very quick with the entry into the impaired life cover market." Just announced it was departing the market in September, and The Exeter decided to move into that business straight away.

Mr Bryan said: "They just announced that there's a departure on impaired life term assurance, so we saw an opportunity, and we thought it appropriate to offer that cover to an audience that clearly needs it.

"This market is a group of people who have conditions that need to be managed, such as diabetes or heart conditions that are more difficult to underwrite, and that many companies may be more reluctant to insure.

"The Exeter, being a specialist insurer, felt it was the right opportunity for it to move into, allowing more people to be covered and the option to reduce one's premiums if they control their condition.

"A company the size of L&G would not have been able to move into that area as quickly as The Exeter," said Mr Bryan.

"At L&G you're not all in the same building, whereas at The Exeter you can just get together and have a chat to see what to do. It's like a family business, compared to a FTSE 100 organisation."

Protection has been viewed as the poor relation of the financial services sector, with people being reminded to buy it and having to be told that they need it, through being warned that the worst can happen.

However, Mr Bryan said: "Income protection is a market that's growing, and rightly so. It's probably been undersold, but I would suggest it's a very, very good solution for people when they feel they are unable to work."

Both long-term and short-term protection are seeing growth opportunities, but the working environment is changing, and Mr Bryan said providers need to reflect that. He said: "We need to adapt to the changing fact that in the UK people change jobs, and more often they're doing the job they weren't doing 10 years ago. That change is being reflected in the products we're bringing to market. I would like to see The Exeter at the forefront of that.

"If you go back 20 or 30 years, people were employed and didn't change jobs very often. Now we're seeing the rise of the gig economy, and it's people doing transient jobs on a short-term basis; there are more people self-employed and the company-provided benefits are less prevalent."