The fieldwork involving 107 UK protection advisers (conducted between 9 and 17 April) found that the top concern was underwriting, such as challenges around procuring GP reports combined with insurers tightening underwriting limits and delays in decisions holding back new business.
More than 70% say they are “moderately to extremely concerned” about delays in completion of new business applications.
“Advisers want to ensure their clients are protected, and new business is crucial to their business,” said NMG principal consultant James Zhang.
“In a Covid-19 world, life insurers face big underwriting issues – especially around medical checks – but need to work hard to remove barriers to clients getting the cover they need. Over the longer term, technology will play a key part here.”
Flexibility and communication around premium holidays when supporting retention of existing clients was also found to be a key concern for protection advisers. As was general communication and their ability to service clients amid the frequent changes.
Some 35% of the protection advisers surveyed said that insurers need to improve in this area. “Insurers should be pro-actively communicating their position on premium holidays, and where possible, offering to help vulnerable customers,” added James Zhang.
The report also found that protection advisers typically prefer general communications in the form of short updates regarding changes via email/newsletters that can be digested in their own time.
When it comes to claims, the survey suggested that insurers have been effective at helping advisers serve clients despite Covid-19 disruptions to staffing and workflows. For example, 83% of advisers said coronavirus had “no or low impact” on how insurers were handling claims.
Zhang added: “Under difficult conditions, insurers have done a good job in servicing clients and advisers. The claims performance has been particularly impressive.”
The survey suggested advisers’ most immediate priority during this time was around servicing existing client base with transition into lockdown, with focus now shifting to placing pipeline applications and generating new protection business.
For customers, the most immediate concerns have been around income, which has led to a decline in life insurance applications, however attention is now turning to their life insurance arrangements, the survey found.
For existing customers considering their arrangement, the most frequent concerns were around whether they are covered and premium holidays to help with short-term affordability challenges.
The report also indicated early signs and optimism that Covid-19 will drive demand for life insurance, particularly for income protection, however affordability is likely to be an obstacle.
The research suggested that advisers are optimistic that business will return to normal quickly after Covid-19, with 75% expecting it to do so after three months. However, there is an expectation that the pandemic will have long-term impact on digital communications and those using face-to-face channels.
This article was previously published on Covermagazine.co.uk