The market for financial protection products has seen some great innovations over the last few years, and all to the benefit of the consumer! First of all, the cost of protection products in general has fallen, due mainly to advances in medical science helping to reduce claims and also the product providers competing keenly with each other on price.
In order to compete with each other today, the battleground for product providers has moved on from simply reducing prices to adding exciting and valuable features and benefits for customers. Long gone are the days of consumers simply deciding whether it is life cover, serious illness cover or income protection that they need, they now rightly demand access to the exciting additional benefits on offer. Today’s market presents a challenging (but interesting!) role for financial advisers to stay ahead of these innovations, to ensure that we continue to offer the very best cover to our clients.
So, as we put in place new cover for people and review existing cover for clients looking to save money and access new benefits, we’ve identified a few innovations in the Irish market that we think you might like to be aware of.
Underwriting has got more client friendly!
Long gone are the days of the perceived “default setting” being the requirement of clients to travel to a doctor for a medical examination. In many cases these medical examinations have been replaced with alternative methods of gaining the required information, but in a far more friendlier way for applicants.
Today if an underwriter requires more information than that provided in an application form or by the client’s own doctor, they may seek either of the following;
A nurse medical: This is where a nurse travels to your home or office and carries out the medical examination at a time and place that suits you. As a result, you don’t have to waste time travelling for a medical and enduring the inevitable wait in the doctor’s surgery.
Tele-underwriting: This is where the information is simply requested in a phone conversation with a medical professional. They ask all of the questions that you would have been asked in a doctor’s surgery, and of course still have the opportunity to ask follow-on questions where they need more information (this is hard for them to capture through a written form completed by you). Again it saves you the bother of having to attend a doctor’s surgery.
One of the providers that we deal with now offers a really exciting service to their protection customers. You can now access Best Doctors, which is a global organisation bringing the world’s leading medical expertise to you and your family, offering a second opinion when you need it most. In the event of you suffering a serious medical condition, a Best Doctors medical specialist will help to verify your diagnosis and treatment options, and will conduct an in-depth review of your medical files. The process can reduce potentially serious complications that can result from a misdiagnosis, and help you and your treating doctor determine the proper course of action.
Being diagnosed with a serious illness would be an emotionally overwhelming experience if it happened to you. You would have lots of questions and nagging doubts:
Best Doctors will help to assuage these concerns. It's also included as a benefit of the policy!
Income Protection Deferred Periods have got shorter and shorter
The deferred period on income protection policies is the amount of time from the date of accident or onset of illness, until the claim will begin to be paid. This traditionally was anything from 3 months to a full year. This frustrated some potential customers who reckoned they would be recovered and back at work before the claim would even begin!
We now see deferred periods as short as four weeks on offer. In fact, for professionals and other lower risk occupations, income protection cover can now be secured from the very first day of illness of accident – no deferred period at all! Now that is real innovation as a result of listening to the needs of customers!
Some great policy features
Some of the providers include some lesser-known but really valuable added benefits on their policies to make them stand apart. These include;
Rehabilitation support on income protection policies: For income protection claimants, recovery means a chance to return to work or to begin a new career. Some providers offer resources and assistance to help you get back into the workforce when you are ready.
Relapse benefits on income protection policies: There are policies available that will immediately restart paying your benefit if you have a relapse within six months of returning to work. There will be no deferred / waiting period in this case.
Partial benefits and career changes for income protection claimants: There are providers who clearly recognise the benefits both to themselves and to the claimant, of the claimants getting back to work. However the claimant may only be able to work reduced hours than before their illness or accident, or indeed may need to change careers to a less demanding job. Providers have financial and other supports available to claimants to help them achieve these ambitions.
Terminal illness benefits on life assurance policies: Many life assurance policies will pay out the full benefit immediately on diagnosis of a terminal illness, removing the financial stress at this very difficult time for a family.
These are just a sample of some of the great innovations available today. Unfortunately all of these innovations make your choices a bit more difficult. But that’s where we come in! It’s our role to stay abreast of these changes and to ensure that our clients have the very best benefits in place at the lowest cost. If you’d like to find out more about any of these innovations, please give us a call.