Paul Yates: Time to make a new plan, Stan

Paul Yates: Time to make a new plan, Stan

Paul Yates is product strategy director at iPipeline

As the UK slowly makes its way out of lockdown, the attention of many businesses has shifted from dealing with the immediate consequences of the COVID-19 crisis to what comes next.

But confusion reigns when trying to work out how to navigate the future protection landscape and I don’t think I’m alone in having a number of questions swirling around in my head, such as:

  • How fast will the recovery be? Will we have further lockdowns?
  • Will mortgage business rebound quickly, or will it be 2022 before we get back to pre-pandemic business levels?
  • Will increasing numbers of consumers want to do more of the process digitally in future? How many will pivot to working remotely all the time?
  • Does COVID-19 impact future claims or morbidity rates?

These are just some of the questions interrupting my much-needed beauty sleep as I wrestle with how we should support our customers in the next 12 months.

For some time I have used the metaphor “fog of war” to describe the uncertainty faced in risky situations.

This is a term attributed to Carl vonClausewitz from his bookOn War which materially affected military thinking.

The book is not really focused on fog as such, but the frictions that occur during conflict - all those issues that prevent good decision-making and the execution of orders.

For example, the Charge of the Light Brigade’s disastrous outcome in 1854 resulted from frictions in understanding the orders given. Limited information makes it more difficult to make the right decisions at the right time.

When we look at the pandemic, it’s clear that we simply do not know many of the outcomes that may come from it. Put in war terms, we do not fully understand our ‘enemy’, which is never a good place to be. It is hard to work out how the virus will impact our business in the short, medium, and long term.

So, how do we face this lack of certainty? How do we handle the limited knowledge and inability to exactly describe the existing state and future outcome (or potential multiple outcomes) for our industry? There are a number of steps firms can take to put themselves in the best possible position, and I outline five of them below:

1. Develop strategy on what we know and what we can reasonably expect to produce the results we need. Yes, I know we all have strategies and, as that great strategist and boxing legend Mike Tyson is purported to have stated: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well, we have been well and truly hit hard. So, that means now is the time to make a new plan, Stan.

2. In developing the plan, talk to your customers, clients, sales teams and partners. Get good quality data and produce strategic ‘living’ plans that can react to market changes as they unfold. Your playbook needs to have the ability to shift the way you work to respond to market conditions at a rapid pace.

3. Identify and remove the friction points, such as manual / paper processes. Introduce e-signature solutions, strengthen remote working capability and, where needed, ensure you have online capabilities. Make sure you have the right suppliers who can support your need for agility and flexibility as well as quality data. Critically, focus on your customers’ evolving needs.

4. Contact, contact, contact – use triggers to key into their needs and provide personalised information and advice. We see firms having extraordinary success after going back to existing clients to talk to them about protection. Nurture them with campaigns that understand their concerns and needs and offer real solutions.

5. Be where your clients are – where they are looking for help. Having a protection lead support service on your website can help support and provide options for your clients. Also look at broadening offerings to help react to changing customer demands. It will also improve client persistency as customers see you as a fuller solution provider.

Two things are certain in this ‘fog’: 1) COVID-19 has accelerated consumers’ digital understanding and increased expectations; 2) it has dented their financial resilience.

They are ready for the protection conversation, but will they accept old world processes and timescales? It’s time you put a plan in place just in case they don’t.