Purdy adds: “This increased drive for transparency generally has had a very positive effect, speeding things up and enabling underwriters to explain their decisions better, which has led to fewer disputes and less reputational damage for the industry.”
In terms of benefit to both efficiency and transparency, however, the most significant development of all has been the gradual evolution of underwriting rules engines that enable advisers to use fully-underwritten quotes from a wide range of insurers during the recommendation process.
Ben Burgess, senior adviser at specialist intermediary LifeSearch, says: “Knowing a client’s full underwriting details when making a recommendation is often essential.
“Unless they are young and perfectly healthy, with no other associated risks such as hobbies or family history, a generic quote can be meaningless and offers no real insight into what the actual price might be or who might be the most suitable or cost-effective insurer.”
Speed of decisions
UnderwriteMe, launched in 2012, has emerged as the most prominent of these engines, offering access to most leading protection insurers (although Aviva and Legal & General remain notable absentees.)
As long as applicants do not require a GP report, it can produce a range of underwritten quotes in only 10 or 15 minutes.
Robert Harvey, head of health and protection at Drewberry financial advisers, says: “UnderwriteMe is a tool we have dabbled with for a couple of years but since this January we have put a much more concerted effort into using it, as the amount of time advisers are having to spend on pre-sales research has increased immensely with COVID-19.
“It’s particularly helpful being able to get quotes whilst on the phone with clients, asking them the set underwriting questions the system has built into its software.
“Underwriting has been a bit clunky in the past, but this ultimately has the potential to make a massive difference to the advice process for advisers and consumers.”
The main downside of UnderwriteMe is that it still doesn’t offer whole-of-market access. But Peter Chadborn, director of IFA Plan Money, does not see a problem if advisers can say it covers most insurers.
He says “I tell clients that it covers a broad enough representation of the industry that I’m happy with as their adviser. If you don’t always recommend the cheapest anyway, then what you can buy on UnderwriteMe is likely to be close enough, and you can always check on others via a portal.”