I recently read research from Aegon that found 56% of advisers feel value-added services make clients more receptive to protection1. This got me thinking about the progress the protection market has made in recognising the value of the extra benefits that come with protection policies.
My career started at Bright Grey in 2007, so my first experience of value-added services was Helping Hand – still going strong today under the Royal London brand. Helping Hand was much more than an extra benefit – the foundation of Bright Grey’s existence was to support customers at their time of need. It was a market-leading service which helped many beyond just the payout.
If Aegon had run the same research back then, I think the figure would have been much lower. In fact, anecdotal feedback from advisers at the time often led us to believe value-added services such as Helping Hand weren’t really on the radar when looking at protection. Let alone a belief that they could make a client more receptive to protection.
Back then, we were deep in the ‘critical illness race’, with providers adding more and more definitions to reach the highest number. This was seen as the true reflection of quality cover. And although the point of claim was at Bright Grey's core, the reality is it didn’t get the focus it deserved. Often it was just the final slide of a long sales presentation or a supporting messaging alongside definitions. Providers weren’t focusing on the claim, so it’s no surprise that value-added services were overlooked.
I think it would it would be fair to say that Helping Hand would never have been one of the top reasons for an adviser choosing us at the time. But should it have been? ‘How many definitions do you cover?’ was the question you’d hear most. Some say the definitions race is still running, but I’d like to think that’s no longer the case. And, at Guardian, we’ve made a point of avoiding the numbers race – it’s not a true assessment of quality protection.
I took a break from protection for a few years. Although things hadn’t progressed quite as much as I would have hoped while I was away (I’ve got every belief Guardian can help change that), one thing that had improved was the move towards value-added services that were of real value. That was clear at the first event I attended on my return to the protection market. I heard around ¾ of providers talking about their value-added services – refreshing to see and a big stride forward from where they’d sat on the list of priorities a few years before.
Having seen first-hand the benefits of Helping Hand, I know how important Guardian’s own value-added services will be. They fall into 2 categories; HALO and Guardian Anytime.
HALO is a support service that helps customers at point of claim. But what makes it different is there’s no ‘list’ of services. We like to think of HALO as a concierge service, completely tailored to the needs of the person using the service – the policyholder, or their family in the case of bereavement for example. We work with a range of partners - including RedArc and LegaCare - as well as a fully empowered claims team who will always look for ways to help.
Guardian Anytime is available to our policyholders from the day their plan starts, without having to make a claim. Policyholders can access a GP consultation from a UK-based doctor from their phone, tablet or PC - any time, day or night and from anywhere in the world. Guardian Anytime also offers our policyholders a second medical opinion.
I spent 2 days on the road with our claims manager recently, and his passion to do the right thing couldn’t have been more evident. HALO is in hands of people who really care. So yes, I believe it should be a reason to choose Guardian. The policyholder - or their family - will certainly benefit from the service for a lifetime.
I should mention that our 2 days were spent in Chester, with RedArc, speaking with nurses to fully understand the services they offer. With over 34,000 patients using RedArc for an average of 8 months2, the numbers speak for themselves. So, having had time to reflect on this visit, I’m glad to see that advisers in the Aegon research have a similar opinion to me.
The proof is in the pudding when it comes to HALO and Guardian Anytime. But it’s great to see a change across the industry, with providers and advisers alike looking at value-added services as something of real value, and not just a way to earn a few more points on industry research tools.
Which leaves me with one final thought. If value-added services truly make customers more receptive to protection, where will the market go next?