Zurich UK looks to boost life support for SMEs

Zurich UK looks to boost life support for SMEs

Zurich UK is planning to bolster its services to small to medium-sized enterprises to help encourage the take-up of life assurance and income protection cover in the workplace.

According to Nick Homer, head of market management, corporate risk, for Zurich UK, there is a recognition across the industry that SME bosses need to get on board with life insurance and income protection if more workers are to be offered invaluable cover through the workplace.

Mr Homer said providers have been good at focusing on the larger corporates, but added Zurich has recognised that to help get more workers the protection they need, it is also important to do more to reach SMEs and their financial advisers.

He said: "We have been successful in our focus on larger corporates and now we want to also turn more attention to help drive business in the SME area.

"We already do a lot with SMEs but we are looking at different ways to get closer to the IFA community [that services SMEs]."

Zurich UK already has a strong focus on firms with 20 employees or more, but he said it was right to work on expanding this below that level, with a "possible proposition refinement to make it easier for SMEs".

According to Mr Homer, there is also a huge educational piece involved, so the business owner knows how protection can deliver for the SME - for example, in helping key employees get back to work quicker after an illness or accident, and how to help employers fulfil their obligations under the Equality Act.

There is no specific timeline given for these propositions, although a spokesperson for Zurich UK said: "We recognise that this is an underdeveloped section of the market and we’re keen to focus on it."

In November 2016, the Department of Health and the Department for Work & Pensions issued its 88-page Green Paper called 'Improving Lives'. This highlighted the gaps in provision of support for people in employment who have disabilities or long-term health conditions.

The Green Paper seemed to suggest that not enough products were available at the low-cost end of the insurance market, which prohibited the take-up among SME employers in particular. This was debunked at the time by many in the industry, including trade body Group Risk Development (Grid). 

At the time, Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, welcomed the thrust of the report, but cited figures from a survey carried out among employers in October 2016, which revealed the actual average cost of providing group income protection (GIP) is just 0.5 per cent of payroll.

In its own response to the Green Paper and Roadmap, seen by FTAdviser, Zurich said: "We remain concerned the government seems to believe the main challenge to increasing the take up of GIP is one of product design, which is not the case.