The insurance industry may also need to take some of the blame. Rose St Louis, head of strategic partnerships at Zurich Insurance, says the sector can come across as very male-oriented.
“As a consumer, I am not interested in a product if all I see are advertisements full of men,” she explains. “If there are no women, I think it is not for me.”
Whatever the reason for the difference, looking at insurers’ claims statistics shows that, although the types of illness and causes of death vary between the sexes, the need for protection is broadly the same. As an example, in 2018 some 44 per cent of Aegon’s critical illness claims and 41 per cent of its income protection claims were made by women.
The difference is more marked for life insurance, where the risk of death before age 65 is higher among men than women. Sixty-nine per cent of Aegon’s life insurance claims in 2018 were for men, with women only accounting for 31 per cent.
Drilling down into the causes shows that the most common condition for life insurance claims, excluding terminal illness, was cancer. This accounted for 53 per cent of claims made by women on Aviva’s policies.
Cancer also dominated women’s claims on critical illness insurance, accounting for 71 per cent of the claims Aviva paid in 2018. Its statistics also show that the number of critical illness claims peaks for women between the ages of 40 and 49, with 44 per cent of claims made by women from this age group, whereas the peak for men was between the ages of 50 and 59.
Given the need for women to take out protection, the industry needs to get smarter at targeting them. For Nick Erskine, head of intermediary sales at AIG Life, the six moments that matter – which were identified as part of the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Insuring Women’s Futures initiative – provide a great framework.
These are pivotal points in life where risks can change. They include entering and re-entering the workplace; starting and ending a relationship; motherhood and caring; and ill-health and dying. “Whether a client is male or female, these are key points when financial and protection needs can change,” Mr Erskine says.
“Taking out a mortgage is the main driver for protection sales, but these six moments give advisers an opportunity to revisit their clients and discuss their needs.”
Annual protection statements can help to kick-start this dialogue. A growing number of insurers, including AIG, Royal London and Scottish Widows, send out details each year to advisers and policyholders outlining what cover they have in place. As well as acting as a reminder, this is a useful medium for flagging up the key moments when protection needs can change.