The workplace protection, health and wellbeing sector remains in robust form post-pandemic, with growth in the past few years across all the main products lines, and widespread optimism that even better times are ahead. GET A PDF OF THE ROUND TABLE SUPPLEMENT HERE
Providers and advisers attending Corporate Adviser’s House of Lords roundtable event said that figures published in the magazine’s recent Workplace Protection & Wellbeing report showed there was a real opportunity for the sector.
Aviva’s head of distribution Jason Ellis said “there was a real sense of optimism” looking at the figures in the report, particularly the significant growth in the group life market, where 10m lives are now insured.
Advisers and providers attending the debate said there was an opportunity to build on this progress. Canada Life sales director Dan Crook said: “This is the first time we’ve gone through a health-related pandemic like this. The sector has demonstrated that these products have delivered all they promised and offered additional benefits as well.”
But while group life products in particular have provided vital support to those worst hit by Covid, some advisers said that the industry still needs to do more when it comes to communicating the full benefits of these products. Delegates agreed this has become more critical with employers facing pressure on budgets, due to inflation and higher wage demands, which could impact benefit spend.
Davidson Asset Management (Dam) Good Pensions corporate benefits consultant Alex Keddie said: “During the pandemic employers have really seen the value of group life products. But it is sometimes harder to demonstrate this for other products such as group income protection. We are already having conversations with financial directors who are saying should I keep this, because I don’t see any claims coming through.”
He challenged insurers to provide more data on how products like GIP help employees back to work before a claim is made. “We are always talking about claims, but more information and statistics around early intervention services could be a really powerful tool.”
Ellis said providers offer this data, although not necessarily on a smaller scheme level, as this could identify individuals. “If you look at the return-to-work statistics you have 8 out of 10 people returning to work before the deferred period. This rises to 88 per cent when looking at long Covid cases and 92 per cent for those with mental health conditions. This is a real impact which is not only helping people back to work more quickly, but helping prevent a claim, which obviously has a positive impact on long term rates.”
Ellis said there is a lot of innovation going on in this market, including work Aviva has done with a small number of clients linking PMI and GIP benefits. This has helped more employees stay in work, ensuring a claim does not happen. But he added: “The fundamentals of these products exist to keep people well and protect them at the moment the worst happens. This is something that insurers have been doing brilliantly. But I do agree we sometimes struggle to get the message out to market in a way that can be compelling for clients.”
Towergate health, risk & wellbeing consultant Alasdair Brightwell said that CEOs, finance and HR directors were looking for benefits that would appeal to all employees, whether they were in their 20s and 30s or approaching retirement. He said he would like to see products like GIP rebranded to emphasise the range of wellbeing benefits, which help people stay in work, rather than the insurance which is only ever used by a minority of members.
“I’m thinking GIP needs to almost rebrand as more of a ‘personal assistant’ option, offering wellbeing support for employees within the business. Because the point at which the insurance kicks in is very late in the process and only really impacts a small number of individuals.”
There was discussion around whether these insurance benefits — and the various wellbeing add-ons — were as valued by smaller companies as larger corporates.
Big or small
Aston Lark director Sam Misty said it wasn’t just the larger corporates that had a focus on wellbeing. “There has been significant demand in the SME space. We are dealing with a lot of smaller business owners who are wearing a number of different hats and might be juggling both HR and finance functions. They are just trying to understand these products. They’ve really got to grips with benefits like the virtual GP service, and feedback we have got from them has been amazing. Adding this to a simple group life policy is very attractive to this market. It is cost effective and delivers tangible benefits for all staff.”
Broadstone head of proposition risk & health Susan Bourke said it is this kind of product innovation that has caused her company to review and re-broke schemes for clients. “We’ve actually moved aways sometimes from some very solid providers because they haven’t provided the same level of support and added-value services.”
Cavendish Ware associate director Roy McLoughlin said the industry needs to do a better job when it comes to communicating the tangible value of these products.
“As an industry we are not good enough about telling stories, in a way that is relevant and accessible to both clients and their employees.” McLoughlin said he would like to see some industry-wide action, similar to the ‘Seven Families’ campaign, that highlighted the benefits of protection in the retail market.
“To me there is far too much focus on claims. We need to tell better stories about the real benefits these policies deliver in terms of early intervention services and help with mental health. In my experiences there is a lot of nervousness among employers about potential mental health claims. They don’t know how to deal with it. But if you start explaining how these products work, and the support that is offered, you can see the relief on their faces. This is a very powerful story, particularly for smaller employers.”
Delegates at the debate agreed an industry-wide campaign could be helpful, although there were likely to be potential hurdles. Ellis agreed personalised stories, rather than dry statistics can be helpful in communicating the benefits delivered.
But Group Risk Development spokesperson Katharine Moxham pointed out that case studies can be difficult to source in the group market, as there obviously needs to be approval from the member, the company they work for, as well as the insurer and adviser.
“You’d think it would be a win win. We hear of so many good stories, where the insurance product has made a tangible difference to members lives. But getting people to publicise these can be difficult.”
McLoughlin said this is a challenge for both providers and advisers. “Perhaps advisers need to ask clients in a more positive way. We can see which clients have benefited from having these products in place. It’s pointing out to clients that if
they tell their story this could help others, that it’s for the greater good. Maybe this is the time to do that, because employers are now more paternalistic that I have ever seen them.”
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