However, there are a couple of notable caveats I need to state concerning my opening statement that are important to its credibility. Firstly spring has sprung only by date; anyone who shares my longing for warmer, sunnier climes will agree that the infernal cold of the last few weeks (or should that be months) has been anything but spring-like.
The second caveat is that not all, in fact only a notable minority of, income protection providers currently publish their claims statistics. We have been talking about it for years debating its importance; but we’re still waiting for a handful of the big insurers to bite the bullet and help consumer confidence in financial planning’s most important insurance product.
So what’s the delay?
It seems like a simple concept doesn’t it. Consumers have a problem believing in insurance and trusting insurers to do the right thing by them when they need them most. So why wouldn’t we publish a set of simple statistics and stories to boot which help overcome this malaise and breed a new confident buyer?
Well apparently it’s not that simple. Those who have yet to publish have declined on the basis that there is no agreed common format for release so any comparison wouldn’t be on a like for like basis.
To be frank I think they’re missing the point. Firstly the real and tangible need for the UK public to protect themselves and their family from potential financial disaster won’t wait for a group of insurers to debate, cogitate and move at snails pace towards agreement. This is too important to wait for insurers who are too focused on protecting themselves and not focused enough on protecting consumers.
Secondly and vitally; this was never about comparing the statistics of one insurer to another it was about promoting confidence and engaging the public in our industry proving that there is protection they can believe in (so long as it doesn’t have the word “payment” inserted just prior).
What’s the good news?
The good news is that there are a growing number of insurers who have followed by publishing their claims statistics and a number who show real commitment to growing the size of the market, not simply fighting it out for what’s already there.
Ultimately if we are ever to attract consumers to what we do in any volume we have to tackle some big issues. Agreement from all to release their claims statistics is just one of these issues in my view.
But it’s not as simple as putting a tick in the box alongside a task and moving on. As with everything in life evolution and improvement is crucial. Each year we have released statistics we’ve tried to take our analysis to the next level to give advisers and consumers a real picture of what a claim looks like.
Years ago we provided a breakdown of claims by the symptoms that cause them. The idea here was not just another graph but to pitch income protection as the great all rounder when it comes to protecting your family. Regardless of what you are suffering from be it a cold or cancer; if it’s enough to keep you from work, it’s enough to trigger a claim.
But we always want to do more to help advisers explain the importance of this cover and the crucial importance of their commitment. For example this year we are introducing a detailed new section showing the reasons why claims we’re declined. Ideally we wouldn’t have to do this; we believe insurance should be designed to be used and we want to pay 100% of claims.
But the fact is this isn’t and isn’t ever likely to be the case. As such, it is vital for consumers to understand their commitment to us when completing their application. But more than this it is vital they read and understand their policy.
If we are to achieve this we need to be open with them about where they could make mistakes along the way and some common misconceptions of cover. Some may view this as a negative message they simply don’t want to convey to consumers, but I would challenge this.
If anything this perfectly summarises a final thought from me. In a brave new world where good news travels fast and bad news even faster we have to be more open and transparent than we could ever have imagined; there is simply no other way.
A commitment to releasing claims statistics is a start but there will be more to come; today’s buyers and sellers will demand it.