A thought came to me recently as I watched a video about how someone could maximise their cryptocurrency returns. I had no time for it at all because I wouldn’t trust anyone guaranteeing a return on a commodity as volatile as cryptocurrency. It holds no value to me because I have no faith in the system it’s built on or the checks and balances in place.
Insurers talk a lot about value. We strongly believe the products we offer are excellent value. They can be bought for pennies on the pound, and come filled to bursting with non-financial extras that can be used every day. A lot of these can even be used by people who aren’t covered by the insurance – how’s that for value?
But as an industry, we don’t talk about trust, and there’s a good reason for this. Once upon a time, big financial beasts like banks, pension providers and insurers were trusted blindly and completely. You told your bank manager everything and left the door open for the man from the Pru to take his premiums off the mantelpiece.
Then came events that fundamentally broke the bonds of trust with consumers. The global financial crisis, PPI mis-selling and the LIBOR scandal all accelerated the erosion of these institutions’ reputations. Now bankers and business leaders just miss out on the bottom five trusted professions in Ipsos Mori’s annual “Trust in Professions Veracity Index”, coming in at sixth and seventh respectively (pipped at the post by journalists and politicians). The picture is even worse for insurers, who were the least trusted organisations in the Syndicate’s 2018 report.
For intermediated insurers, it can be difficult to get our message across to the businesses which ultimately buy our products. We don’t want to step on advisers’ toes, because our relationships with these partner firms are vitally important to us.
Those same relationships could be the key to building trust. Trust is not necessarily logical, it is driven by emotion. Advisers (hopefully) have that trust in place with their clients, or are well on the way to building it. That puts them in an excellent position to vouch for insurance companies – the “friend of a friend”.
Talk to almost anyone in an insurer’s administrative team and they will have a story about a time they bent their own rules to achieve a great customer outcome, when they could have dug their heels in and followed the letter rather than the spirit. A lot of the time it is seen as simply part of doing business, “relationship management” with friendly advisers or profitable clients.
That is partially true, but it owes a lot more to a culture of putting customers first. The customer comes first across our entire industry, and this is certainly the case at Canada Life. There is a reason so much stock is put in adviser-voted service awards, and new events and awards are being created all the time to spotlight and recognise exemplary customer focus and care.
What we need is for advisers to take those day-to-day experiences to their discussions with clients and make a more emotional case. The client is a person at the end of the day, and so is the adviser. That can easily get lost when dealing business-to-business. We put on our hard-nosed business heads, but that human element never goes away. We do our best to humanise our clients to help us make fair and reasonable decisions. What we need is for advisers to do the same for insurers to prospective clients, bridging the divide and forging a chain of trust between all parties.