There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work, live, and interact with each other. The full impact of this once-in-a-generation (we hope!) crisis cannot yet be measured, but like everyone else, insurers have had to adapt to the unfolding situation.
Insurers have moved into a world of remote working, constant revisions of underwriting processes, cross-skilling teams to help manage surges in call and claims volumes, as well as ensuring they can continue protecting their customers during this crisis.
As for advisers, they have had to adapt to a new way of communicating with clients in order to meet their insurance requirements. It has been heartening to see advisers continuing to reach out to so many of their clients, particularly the most vulnerable, to help them navigate and stay protected throughout this extraordinary time.
Adapting to a ‘new normal’
It’s promising to see how swiftly the industry has been able to adapt to working from home. Insurance organisations of all sizes have transitioned into lockdown by ensuring the right technology is in place so they can continue providing business as usual service for their customers and advisers alike. It hasn’t been easy nor without issue, but I’m not sure we would have even thought it possible six months ago.
The new reality also means insurers have had to adapt their policies to be able to offer protection to as many customers as they can under their business model. These constant changes mean that advisers need to stay abreast of policy changes and exclusions to ensure their clients are fully informed of the options available. It is therefore vital that they continue having conversations with their clients to offer support and guidance at a time where reassurance is invaluable.
Understanding individual circumstances
The emergence of the coronavirus has caused anxiety and worry for many people. With businesses shut across the country and employees furloughed; many individuals are concerned about what this means for their income.
Every situation is different, and this is the case with insurers as well, so we ask advisers to keep talking to insurers about their client’s needs. While things may be taking longer than usual, all insurers are looking at ways to help and support their customers. Sometimes this involves lengthy process changes or spending time quantifying additional risk, but I’m confident that, as an industry, we are all focused on the same thing - helping our customers to get through this.
With Government advice and the situation changing regularly, it can be confusing to know what options are open to clients under the terms of their policy. This is where advisers play a vital role in understanding what each insurer is willing to offer and then sharing this information with their clients.
How The Exeter is responding
At The Exeter, we have seen an increase in income protection claims. We assess claims on a case-by-case basis, recognising that many situations are not black and white.
We were recently contacted by an adviser whose client needed to self-isolate and while he was certain there were no grounds for a claim, he called us to double-check. He was correct; under the terms and conditions this is not covered, but given the individual’s circumstances, we agreed to a pay an ex-gratia amount to provide a financial lifeline to our member’s family.
We are using the same approach for those who are struggling to pay their premiums as a result of the COVID-19 situation. We are committed to helping our members keep their insurance cover in place and will talk through the options available, all of which will allow them to remain insured should they need to claim.
Requests are being reviewed case-by-case and will depend on both the individual circumstances of the member and the type of cover they have. Of course, every insurer has a different approach, so those who find themselves in financial difficulty and unable to pay their premiums should contact their insurer as soon as possible.
Open for business
As the market changes, what happens to those who are looking for protection cover? There has been a raft of changes with regards to new applications, so advisers, as always, play a vital role in understanding what each insurer can offer.
The protection market is still very much open for business while looking for new ways to work and provide continuing access to insurance. For example, some insurers, including The Exeter, are piloting virtual medical screenings to allow application processes to continue where they might otherwise be put on hold.
There are also still a lot of product options available in the market for those needing insurance. At The Exeter, we are still accepting income protection applications for all waiting periods, with applications for Day-1 and 1-week being individually assessed to ensure we review all aspects during the current lockdown. We’re proud to still be able to provide insurance to those who are still working.
The COVID-19 crisis and its ramifications are not likely to disappear soon. The insurance industry must continue working together to ensure both advisers and their clients are supported.
Maintaining an open dialogue between insurers, advisers, and customers will not only help as many people as possible but will also mean that our industry emerges from the crisis even stronger and more credible than before.