"We no longer live in a world where only protecting a man’s income is considered important and the protection industry must reflect that."
We spoke to Karen Woodley, head of sales at The Exeter, about how value added services can help customers during Covid-19 and why income protection is seeing a rise amongst women and younger people.
FR: What does your role involve and what does a typical day look like?
As head of sales at The Exeter, my role involves managing a team of field and internal telephone salespeople to ensure effective relationship management with advisers. Managing relationships with strategic partners and liaising with internal stakeholders is at the heart of my role so that we can use market intelligence and feedback to grow the business across all of our propositional areas.
A ‘normal’ day would typically involve me attending adviser visits across the country with my regional account managers, or working in the office with the internal telephone team to provide quality support to advisers and ensure effective distribution reach for quality business. Nowadays, a typical day looks very different with Zoom video calls with advisers, my team and the senior leadership team to make sure that we are maximising every business opportunity and maintaining business as usual for The Exeter.
FR: Income protection (IP) has been in the spotlight recently with sales spiking by nearly 21% last year - is The Exeter seeing any trends?
The importance of IP and the benefits it can offer individuals and their families can’t be overstated. So, it’s extremely encouraging to see an increased awareness of this type of protection. Advisers are crucial to the growth of this market and a spike in sales is a testament to the hard work they continue to do in educating clients on the importance of taking out an IP policy.
Having to take time off work due to an illness or injury is not something anyone wants to consider. This is particularly true of younger generations, but with a greater incidence of disease now affecting modern society, it’s vital for this cohort to consider how income protection could provide a financial safety net should their regular income stream halt.
In fact, the average age of claimants for The Exeter’s Income Protection Plus policies was just 34 years old last year - highlighting the importance of younger generations safeguarding their income if they are unable to work.
FR: How can value added services help customers during Covid-19?
When it comes to protection, taking out a policy isn’t just about the financial security this type of insurance can provide. Value added services, such as access to an online GP service, second medical opinions, counselling and mental health support can prove to be priceless for many people, particularly in times such as these. We are all facing different pressures, whether it be financially, emotionally or mentally, so having access to these services can provide much-needed support in times of need.
“Indeed, since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in registrations and usage of our digital health service, HealthWise. In March alone, we saw a 169% increase in monthly registrations and a 527% increase in usage of our remote GP services, in comparison to the same month last year.
Separately, value added services can play a vitally important role in easing some of the current pressure on the NHS through the provision of remote GP services and helping members to positively manage their physical and mental health during this challenging period.
FR: Income protection has traditionally been more popular with men, but recent figures show a 20% rise in enquiries about protection from women under 20 years old - how can the industry make sure this trend continues by appealing to more women?
Societal shifts have changed the face of the UK workforce. Data from the ONS shows that one in four women are now the breadwinners in their households, with further research showing that just over a third (34%) of UK SMEs are now female run. We no longer live in a world where only protecting a man’s income is considered important and the protection industry must reflect that.
It’s certainly encouraging to see that more women are turning towards to IP to protect their income stream. To ensure this trend continues, we need to keep raising awareness of IP among women and advisers are uniquely placed to help do this. Through their expertise of the protection industry, advisers can educate female clients of all ages and backgrounds to ensure they understand how having IP can benefit their individual circumstances.
FR: If you could see one headline about the insurance market during the rest of the year, what would it be?
“The insurance industry continues to provide value-for-money products and excellent standards of service in an ever changing world.”