Protection processing problems are all too common

Neil Liversidge

Neil Liversidge

We frequently read reports on the decline in protection sales.

Insurers seem incapable of working out why this should be with the business at its most technological ever.

I can tell them: Technology is half the problem. It is now rarely possible to complete a paper application and input it later without having to refer back to the client for further details that crop up during the inputting process.

The other half of the problem is down to the arrogance of the main players, but more on that later.

First, some perspective.

When I started my career at Hill Samuel Life Assurance in 1980, a life assurance proposal form was a four-page affair, A3 folded to A4. By the time I founded West Riding in 2004 they’d grown in size considerably but were still manageable.

Starting from scratch with no clients, I brought in 30 term assurance leads per month. Working up to 100 hours per week, I wrote 220 term cases in my first year with similar numbers in the next three years.

I never converted less than 50 per cent of leads. My average conversion rate was around two-thirds. 

In three of the 48 months during which I worked the protection market, I converted 100 per cent of leads received, via what was by then my hyper-refined sales process. The majority of policies I sold are still on the books with quite a few claims paid, never one declined and at least one serious fraud prevented.

Comparison sites, I’m told, convert around 3 per cent of enquiries. 

It will be interesting to see, as time goes by, how many of their claims end up being declined for non-disclosure. We have seen some already, particularly involving smokers.

I realise now that the era 2004 to 2008 was something of a golden age for protection writers like me. Technology had advanced far enough to enable me to get leads in and convert them quickly to underwritten business but without actually hindering it, as later came to be the case.

Yes, you did read that right.

One company switched almost completely to tele-underwriting. After that we never successfully completed another case with it.

Unlike me, its underwriters were not on hand to take medical details at 8pm on a Friday evening and by Monday morning the case had gone cold.

It’s probably not pc to say so, but protection needs to be sold and the fewer interruptions or delays in the process, the better.

Taking the barest details and then having to say to the client, “Now we have to leave it there and a tele-underwriter will call you to complete the process”, is the business equivalent of cutting short a romantic evening by saying, “I have to stop now but I’ll be back tomorrow night to pick up where I left off”.