Q&A with Jamie Page, Head of Protection Distribution at The Exeter

Q&A with Jamie Page, Head of Protection Distribution at The Exeter
Q&A with Jamie Page, Head of Protection Distribution at The Exeter

Jamie Page


Head of Protection Distribution

The Exeter’s 2023 Health & Financial Fears Report shows that UK workers are facing some significant concerns around their income in 2023. How does this match with what The Exeter is seeing in the market?

When I read The Health & Financial Fears Report, I was struck by the statistic that the equivalent of more than 19 million UK workers are struggling to pay for essential food and utility bills. It’s a sad fact, but cost of living pressures are still high, with more than half of consumers (52%) feeling worried about meeting essential mortgage or rental payments and 58% unsure whether they can afford to pay utility and food bills.

Perhaps because of the challenges posed by rising costs, our research points to fewer UK workers considering a protection policy in 2023. At The Exeter, we have consistently seen a continued increase in the number of protection policies sold year-on-year but it is clear that the average UK worker today is struggling and may not feel they can afford a policy in the current climate. If nothing else, this hammers home the value of independent advice in making consumers aware of the options available to them to meet their budget.

So, are customers changing their saving habits to keep up with the cost of living crisis?

The short answer is yes, and if I’m honest, our findings remain concerning. In 2022, almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents said they were not saving as much as they would like. In 2023, this proportion hasn’t dropped at all, indicating the crisis still affects the majority of UK workers.

In further evidence of this, three-quarters of respondents expressed concern about the UK’s cost of living crisis worsening, only 4% fewer than in 2022. The fact remains: UK workers are still facing real concerns over their day-to-day financial security, and many may have grown accustomed to making their incomes stretch.

When choosing a new protection product, what is the biggest selling point for customers?

According to our research, 40% of UK workers rank affordability as the main selling point when it comes to buying an insurance product, which isn’t a surprise. Value for money will always be important, and as an industry, we offer a diverse product range with flexible pricing options to ensure more customers can overcome any potential cost barriers.

Are you seeing that the cost of living crisis is affecting insurance cancellations in 2023?

At The Exeter, we are seeing slight increases in cancellations when compared to previous years, but these are within the levels we would expect given the prevailing economic circumstances.

Some clients decide to cancel their policies to reduce outgoing costs or may not continue with their cover as they feel that it no longer meets their needs. A worrying statistic within our research was that 43% of respondents had cancelled an insurance policy in the last 12 months either because they did not see what value they got from it, did not know what it was for, or had never claimed.

It’s therefore important that our industry keeps talking to customers. Timely engagement from insurers and advisers regularly reviewing cover with their clients to ensure a product remains relevant to their needs is key to reminding people about the value of their cover.

For advisers looking to show the benefits of income protection to their clients, where is the best place to start?

Advisers now have access to a wider array of tools than ever before to help them show the benefits of protection to clients, whether provided by adviser networks, product providers or independent comparison sites. The Exeter offers tools such as our Income Risk Calculator, designed to help customers understand the cost of income protection and the potential risks of going without cover.

Claims stories and key statistics about claims payments also play a crucial role in helping advisers establish the need for cover with clients. At times, clients simply need more relatable reference points when deciding on an income protection product. By drawing on the resources available, advisers can outline the seriousness of illness and injury, while also showing how protection can offer something invaluable – much-needed peace of mind.

How can providers like The Exeter inspire and equip advisers to run successful businesses while meeting the obligations outlined by the Consumer Duty?

On a day-to-day basis, advisers consistently deliver extraordinary results, and we aim to help them meet their client’s needs through the provision of high-quality products, a first-class service and educational content.

We regularly review all elements of our proposition to ensure it performs for advisers and their clients as intended and we enhance product features as necessary to make our offerings more appealing to wider demographics.
For instance, consider our recent decision to enhance our Income First product, which now includes a ‘redundancy premium holiday’. If a member is made redundant through no fault of their own, we can waive their premiums for up to three months. This allows them to keep valuable cover in place while they seek new employment opportunities.

Income First is complemented by our life cover product, Real Life, which continues to provide a valuable option to people living with complex or multiple health conditions and who may not be able to access cover elsewhere. We have also rolled out a guided option on our health insurance product, Health+, to help consumers access lower-cost private healthcare without compromising on the quality of care they receive.

Of course, consumer and adviser education is important too. Providers have a real opportunity to provide informative and educational content to advisers on the need for insurance. This can be achieved via regular and bespoke webinars, research reports, insights, and product training. In the past twelve months alone, we’ve seen advisers download over 5,000 CPD learning certificates - a huge number, underlining the equally sizeable appetite in the sector for educational content.

We all want to be better and do better, and as providers, we have a unique platform to support that progress.


This article was originally published in Best Advice on 12/11/2023. You can access the original article here.