"I’ll be looking to build the profile and reach of The Exeter in order to make us the default protection provider for more and more advisers."
We spoke to Steve Bryan, Director of Distribution and Marketing at The Exeter, about the Exeter's plans in the adviser market and what brokers can do to improve the perception of protection.
FR: The Exeter recently launched into the impaired protection market – what prompted this and what can you tell advisers about the product?
Managed Life is a unique plan which offers responsive cover to two important segments of the market – those with type 2 diabetes or a high BMI. Developing a plan specifically for these segments meant that we built an underwriting expertise and capability deeper than the usual focus on preferred lives. As a result, it made sense to challenge how far we could extend the proposition.
Identifying true customer need and being able to cater to demand is at the centre of everything we do. When we looked at the market, it was clear that this sector was underserved and needed attention. Advisers that recommend The Exeter, either for protection or healthcare insurance, will appreciate that we are different to other insurers. We’re a dedicated specialist and as a mutual our focus is different; the customer is truly at the forefront of everything we do.
FR: You recently joined the Exeter from Legal & General – what do you hope to bring to your new role and what are your goals for The Exeter in 2018?
I’ll be looking to build the profile and reach of The Exeter in order to make us the default protection provider for more and more advisers. I’m working from a great foundation; we are already perceived as an innovative, forward thinking insurer who does things the right way. We’re a compact organisation, but we have plans to build an expanded adviser facing team so that we can increase our reach and the number of interactions we have with advisers.
However, being compact is also a huge advantage that we intend to make the most of, as we can spot opportunities and develop solutions faster and more effectively than our competitors. This recent initiative in the impaired lives market a prime example. However, in order to achieve these goals, we need to diversify and open new channels and markets. With Managed Life, we have already proved that we can bring a relevant, innovative concept to an existing market, which is the approach we will look to take elsewhere too.
FR: What steps can both providers and brokers undertake to improve the perception of protection?
First and most important, it’s essential to pay claims and to publicise the how often they’re being paid-out. As an industry we should be proud of our record in paying claims and the huge number of families we have helped and improved the quality of life for along the way. Why we would ever be shy about saying so has never really been clear to me.
Second, we need to look at how we communicate with all our customers – whether that is a policyholder, member or adviser. There is an increasing simplicity and openness about how successful brands now interact with their customers, but firms in our industry don’t always follow that same approach.
FR: How is technology improving the way the protection industry works and how can brokers utilise this?
First, improvements in rules-based, automated and digital underwriting are speeding up and streamlining the application process. In the case of income protection, what was once a lengthy process is often over in an instant. This can only be a good thing; as consumers, we are all impatient and used to getting what we want quickly – and protection should be no different.
However, technology isn’t just about process; it has the potential to revolutionise the way that we engage and attract customers. Digital has an important role to play in the future of protection, helping advisers tell the stories of customers and what having protection in place has meant for them.
FR: If you could see one headline about the protection market, what would it be?
I would like the industry and the government to work together to encourage people to take proactive steps towards securing their long term financial security. Welfare is regularly on the political agenda, the current focus being Universal Credit, but the public don’t seem to make the link to insurance and the steps they can take themselves to lessen their reliance on the state and protect themselves.
I’m not asking for government intervention to make insurance compulsory, I believe that to be wrong, but clarity of message about the benefits of insurance could benefit everyone. Especially the public, driving their compulsion to engage with our industry’s offerings more proactively.