Coming up to the 12-month mark for the coronavirus crisis, it may be an appropriate time to ask: 'What now for the protection insurance sector?'
Of course, we can’t meet in person and we all miss those informal conversations that tell us a huge amount about the mood across the industry.
Yet I get a strong sense that the retail financial sector, and the protection part of it in particular, is currently taking stock of what has happened, how they coped, what it means for clients and customers and where we go from here.
We have effectively live tested many aspects of remote working and remote communications with customers and clients. By and large this has been a success.
That discussion is beginning to turn to what combination of virtual and face to face meetings will become the norm.
Advisers continue to advise clients to take out protection and at Guardian we continue to grow and cover more customers.
Yet that is no reason to be complacent. The attitudes, priorities and maybe the life goals of some clients may have changed depending on their experiences in the last 12 months.
One great piece of news is that advisers tell us that some clients are more likely to mention protection insurance in conversations, sometimes remembering and reassessing what the adviser had said to them years previously.
In other words, advisers may have already laid the groundwork for more protection conversations and recommendations.
Remember the fundamentals
The protection sector needs to adapt accordingly, but I would also argue that it needs to consider the fundamentals as well.
We set up Guardian as a challenger because we thought we could do things better and indeed encourage change across the sector.
For at least the past decade, the whole of the retail financial services industry has been increasingly challenged by consumer campaigners, regulators and politicians demanding a fair deal for both new and existing customers.
The record is certainly mixed and ranges across savings, insurance and investments though in ways that are specific to each.
With teaser rates on savings accounts, some felt that banks and some building societies were winning new customers with competitive or even loss-making rates in year one but making their money back in subsequent years as rates were cut back significantly.
The regulator baulked at an outright ban on teaser rates in 2015 in its cash savings market study but it required much better communications and warnings for customers about rate cuts. This hit the savings sector’s reputation.
The regulator has recently started voicing concerns again.
The current area of greatest concern is general insurance. A situation where customers renew policies each year has also seen many insurers ramping up the price in year two or year three.
Some might argue that customers can easily switch to another general insurer and indeed many do.