Consumers still do not trust insurance despite efforts over several decades to improve communication and transparency.
According to speakers and panellists at the Protection Review 2021 Conference at the Landmark Hotel in London yesterday (December 8), there is a huge gap between the reality and the perception of insurance, and providers and advisers alike need to address this.
Sue Helmont, marketing director for AIG Life, told attendees: "There is plenty of consumer trust out there but the way it is happening is changing.
"Consumers no longer look for top-down, hierarchical trust in a corporate entity; they are trusting in one another."
She highlighted online sites such as TrustRabbit, Uber and AirBnB, where people are putting their trust in strangers, using virtual platforms.
"Will virtual trust change the way we trust each other face to face, and bring both challenge and opportunity to the industry?" she asked.
But, Helmont added, the fact trust is so "subjective and personal", and is a process between the known and the unknown, it is not easy to translate this into the insurance space, and this is why insurers need to work harder.
She made the point that because trust is about the 'unknown', all the narrative of the past 25 years about communicating better and being more transparent about pricing or underwriting has missed the point.
"It is a good thing", she explained, "but transparency is not a magical pill to build trust. If trust is about having a confident relationship with the unknown, then increasing transparency really shows you have lost trust in the relationship."
Instead, companies should focus on improving competence, reliability, empathy and integrity. "When you inject this kind of humanness into insurance, it impacts positively on behaviour" she added.
The point on empathy was highlighted in a panel debate, when Dan Pender, founder of Insurian, said: "We need authenticity, empathy and rigour. When you put these three things together you build trust. And where the industry gets it wrong mostly is empathy. It is really important a philosophy to connect that with consumers."
Authenticity was also a point highlighted by Abbie Knight, founder of marketing specialist Abbie Knight International. She explored what it is like to be a consumer, what their perceptions are of insurance and what sort of barriers to trust are in place.
She said too often insurers seem to ask for information when consumers start their journey into researching insurance, but there is "no value exchange, so this is frustrating for a client."
This does not engender trust and does not present an authentic engagement experience for consumers, who are often overwhelmed by the information, concerned about data security and want access to expert information.
Knight said: "Authenticity is important. People do not engage with cheese. We do not want pictures of people hugging each other. That's not how we are as human beings. We want authenticity."