Cutbacks bring into sharp focus the need for income protection

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1 Cutbacks bring into sharp focus the need for income protection insurance services Many consumers rely on a combination of state benefits and personal savings to cover them against an unexpected loss of earnings should their circumstances change for the worse. With these sources under mounting pressure, the need for consumers to have adequate insurance protection is becoming increasingly acute. However, with mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) having unfairly damaged the credibility of the wider income protection market, many firms remain cautious and some have even pulled out, creating opportunities for other providers to step in. After all, with UK consumer debt of 1.45 trillion¹ and less than 10% of families having any form of income protection², the need for cover remains very high. Isn t it time to get back in and start providing customers with the protection they require With new innovations in product design and customer-friendly sales processes, isn t it time to get back in and start providing customers with the protection they require in these uncertain times? So what should affinity partners be doing to provide their customers with the protection they need, taking into account the Competition Commission changes, whilst at the same time tackling negativity around PPI? 1

2 Welfare reforms are biting The consumer perception that the state will always provide in the event of long-term sickness or unemployment has for many years been one of the major restrictions on the growth of the income protection market. This notion will be severely tested as the austerity measures reduce levels of state provision in these areas. Even today, with mean earnings for a full-time UK employee of roughly 26,000 a year, the level of state benefit for those who are eligible is at best less than 20 per cent of average weekly earnings³ hardly sufficient for most people. The welfare reforms announced earlier this year under the banner make work pay includes sanctions for those turning down jobs, an annual benefit cap and the new universal credit which will be rolled-out from This will see existing out-of-work entitlements such as Jobseeker s Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit paid as a single lump sum. These reforms come on top of other changes announced in 2010 to reduce the welfare state bill. Broadly speaking, the effect of all these changes is that fewer people will be eligible for the key sickness and best less than 20 per cent of unemployment benefits average weekly earnings³ Employment Support Allowance and Jobseeker s Allowance and those who can claim will receive less benefit. This is mainly due to stricter eligibility with increased age, health, time and income limits. the level of state benefit for those who are eligible is at 2

3 Personal savings are being depleted According to research carried out last year by insurance company Unum, the average UK worker could survive for just four weeks without full pay. This compares to the average length of unemployment of 36 weeks. 4 Unless people can rely upon the support of family members or have made sufficient short-term savings provision, this gap brings into sharp focus the need for adequate insurance cover. Although it is prudent for people to hold savings to cater for unexpected events, recently published figures by Mintel show that even today more than one-third of UK adults still lack a financial safety net, holding less than 500 in savings. Even though the need for insurance is crystal clear, the fact is that fewer than 20% of mortgages have some form of Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance (MPPI) in place 5 and 89% of families do not currently have income protection.² This shows just how exposed consumers are leaving themselves to adverse changes in their financial position. In addition, many companies are also under considerable cost pressures and some have made cutbacks to their employee benefits provision, serving to reduce the overall level of protection afforded to staff in the event of long-term sickness. the average UK worker could survive for just four weeks without full pay Meeting today s consumer needs The take-up of short-term income protection is primarily driven by the availability, accessibility and promotion of cover, then subsequently by the consumer perception of need and affordability. 3

4 Insurers are responding to the market and regulatory changes with innovations in product design. Most of the new breed of short-term income protection products being launched allow customers to cover a much wider range of outgoings, including mortgage and rent, within a single free-standing, flexible and portable policy. Lifestyle orientated solutions are replacing PPI This opens-up opportunities to cater for the broader consumer protection need good news at a time when mortgage lending volumes in particular remain subdued. There is increasing evidence to show that income and lifestyle orientated solutions are replacing PPI. In 2009 there were around 20 short-term income protection products available. According to Defaqto, that number has already doubled, whilst at the same time, the number of PPI products has reduced significantly. Providers continue to enter the market, such as Nationwide, with the launch of Lifestyle Protector in August Tackling regulatory change One of the key changes resulting from the Competition Commission s Market Investigation Order is the prohibition on the sale of short-term income protection before or during the credit sale. This formally separates the insurance sale from the finance agreement. Even though this change comes into effect on 6 April 2012, most providers and distributors are working towards earlier implementation dates. However, giving consumers the ability to shop around also presents a greater risk that people will choose to go without cover, or forget to arrange it, particularly with most sales being of a push nature. 4

5 Building a new sales model The point-of-sale ban means that a multi-channel sales and marketing approach will play a more prominent role than before. In particular, the combination of online quote and buy technology combined with inbound and outbound telesales is likely to be the most effective way of reaching customers and making new sales. The warmest leads are likely to be generated from the application process for the mortgage or other finance product. This is where the need will continue to be strongest and the brand affinity and timing is most relevant. In addition, there will continue to be opportunities to target existing customers particularly as the new breed of lifestylebased products have much wider appeal across the customer base. For every negative headline on PPI, there are a number of influential publications that talk about the benefits of protection. For example, Which? stresses the importance of having cover in place and is fully supportive of income protection, even though it has been campaigning against PPI. Put simply, delivering good value, customer-friendly products through clear and appropriate sales processes can provide the reassurance that many consumers need. 5

6 Moving forwards There is no doubt the need for protection cover remains very high, with reducing levels of state provision and savings safety nets diminishing. It is time for the industry to address this need and move forwards with confidence by delivering the products customers need and want, supported with different sales methods, in the new regulatory regime. This represents a significant opportunity for affinity partners to generate income and recapture some of the lost ground, working in partnership with those specialist suppliers who have the products and sales processes ready today to exploit the growth potential which exists within their customer bases. a significant opportunity for affinity partners to generate income ¹ Credit Action (January 2011) ² The Aviva Family Finances Report (January 2011) ³ Financial Adviser (31 March 2011) 4 helpucover.co.uk 5 Association of British Insurers To find out about how we can help you, call Janet Farahnak, Business Development Manager, on or visit 6

7 For over two decades, FirstAssist Insurance Services has been a silent partner in our markets working behind many of the UK s largest brands. We deliver specialist and bespoke white-label insurance solutions which generate many millions of pounds of additional income for our clients each year whilst extending their customer propositions. In that time, we have built an enviable reputation as the UK's leading provider of white-label solutions across our core areas of insurance expertise: travel, protection, budget health, legal protection and small business. Driven as a focused business by an entrepreneurial, commercial management team, we provide a unique range of products and marketing solutions for Banks, Insurers, Affinity Organisations, Corporates, Intermediaries and SME s. We provide award-winning levels of customer service to nearly three million customers, whilst handling around 100,000 claims a year. With over 160 individually tailored schemes through major UK brands, we know one size does not fit all. From the commercial arrangements to the regulatory relationship, from a full service stand-alone product proposition to wholesale risk provision, we will custom-design the perfect solution to meet your brief. insurance services FirstAssist Insurance Services Limited, Marshall s Court, Marshall s Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 4DU Registered in England & Wales No Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Services Authority

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