Q&A: All Change
By Martin Schulthiess
BestAdvice (BA): What have been the traditional problems with accessing insurance products?
Martin Schultheiss (MS): From our perspective, there are a few key challenges that advisers are facing. The first one would be time. In my previous role, (Schultheiss was group managing director of Sesame Bankhall Group before joining Uinsure) we undertook an exercise that essentially worked out all that was required by advisers to do mortgage/protection/GI – to provide the full stack of advice. We got up to around 100 questions or pieces of data that had to be collected. And I did it myself; it took up three hours of administration and that was without actually doing the advice! It shows that the time it takes to do give full advice is a real challenge.
Advisers have to input multiple pieces of data repeatedly, often across multiple systems and with multiple passwords and then logins, completely rekeying all the time. It just takes too long, it’s not practical.
Secondly, particularly in the case of home insurance, is how challenging it has been for advisers to compete with price comparison websites. It’s well-documented now how price comparison websites and others have been able to win adviser’s clients by discounting new business premiums and then over a period of time raise prices by anything up to 50% over a 3-5 year period. This practice is often referred to as ‘price walking’, whereby the premium is artificially discounted in order to capture the attention of the customer, but the intent is to make up that loss by hiking renewal premiums in subsequent years.
So, with new regulation coming in that proposes to ban this practice, we should start to see a more level price playing field, I think now’s the time for the adviser to develop confidence and to get back to having the conversation with their clients.
From a consumer perspective, I would argue there is a level of knowledge and skill required for an individual to navigate their insurance needs if they do it themselves. Again on popular online sites, you’ve got multiple questions, multiple product providers, decisions on multiple features and benefits, so it’s not as simple as it might seem. Advisers have a compelling value proposition through their advised service and should be thinking about taking that hassle away.
BA: So, presumably that’s what drove you to design a tech-based solution for advisers? How are you doing things differently and what effect will it have on an adviser’s time?
MS: First and foremost Uinsure has been on a journey of moving from being a business that manufactures products which are accessed via technology, to becoming a technology company. Our rebrand comes after having made the strategic decision to deliver insurance technology that removes the complexity we believe exists today for the benefit of advisers and their clients. That’s not an easy thing to do, by the way.
We understand that time is key. So, in three questions, advisers should be able to search the market with Uinsure, and then provide a policy in less than 60 seconds. We use data and technology to do this, allowing advisers to give advice while cutting out as much administration as possible.
General Insurance give the adviser permission to engage with the customer every single year [as it is annually renewable], which to me is probably the greatest asset an adviser could have, particularly in a world with longer term fixed rates that are reducing the frequency of engagement within a client base.
Through our tech we deliver a single common policy, with a 5 Star rating; something that’s simple to understand and not complex and all our insurers then compete to deliver the best price based on that property risk. The key is that the price is fair for the lifetime of the policy, we also review this annually to ensure the customer has the most competitive new business price at every renewal.
We’re not the cheapest because we offer a high quality product and we have never offered introductory cut price offers with the intent to hike at subsequent renewals. In fact, we’re probably one of a very small number of companies that deliver negative premium reduction on an annual basis. I see this as a point that advisers should be talking to their clients about, in contrast to what they may receive elsewhere.
BA: What are the biggest pressures advisers face in the future and how can they address them now?
MS: There are two key things that are going on in the market right now. One is that customers are coming to advisers because they trust them and want to be guided through the process, which in itself philosophically places the onus on us to do a ‘full stack’ job for that customer.
Secondly, customers are giving price comparison websites an enormous amount of permission to harvest their data and, in harvesting their data, to use it to offer other products going forward, which in itself creates an enormous risk for the adviser and the protection of their customer base; those comparison websites are offering general insurance, conveyancing, remortgaging, critical illness, income protection, life cover and execution only mortgages, all of which form the product suite of an adviser firm.
So if nothing else, an adviser should be offering a fully comprehensive service to protect the customer and preserve the relationships of their customers. This is against allowing their customers to leave data footprints all over comparison websites that are getting them to agree to privacy statements that will clearly offer a clear and present danger to the existence of the adviser’s business going forward.
BA: When advisers are reviewing technology solutions, what should they be looking for?
MS: In the beginning of my career, technology meant the guy that came to fix my laptop when it wasn’t working. It wasn’t the essence of the core strategy. Today, for me, it’s now people, culture, technology and data; so, the first thing I would say is that it requires a completely new skill set.
Secondly, there’s a very big difference between traditional companies in manufacturing of products and services that claim to offer technology, versus companies that are technology companies which offer products and services. There’s some subtlety there, but it describes an enormous difference.
From a Uinsure perspective, it’s taken us the better part of three years to get to this moment [with the brand and new platform].
I would say to someone looking at a technology company that trust is fundamental. Make sure that the management teams of those technology companies are a combination of what we call “suits and trainers” – techies and people with industry knowledge. Make sure that there’s a good combination in the team of people that understand your business, understand the challenge you’ve got and understand what’s important to you and your customers. They should also have ‘been there’ and experienced it as well. There’s also whether they have leading edge technology capability inside of their management team to deliver.
In addition, there’s no such thing as a single answer to technology. For me, the most important thing is partnering with technology companies that have architectures that are easily integrated, so that you can combine a couple of platforms to formulate an end to end customer experience.
Advisers need to make sure that technology firms solve their problems and in a way that that gets what they need out of their business.