Choose life…

Sarah Scott  – Marketing Consultant, Royal London 

This month sees the return of Renton, Sickboy, Begbie and Spud in the sequel to the film Trainspotting.

Just over 20 years later, we return to see exactly how life treated the characters whose lifestyle was less than ideal back in 1996. Did they choose a job, choose a career, choose a family…. or did life have other things planned for them?

I’m sure we can all say that a lot has changed for us in the last 20 years.  Life was definitely very different for me. I’d just moved up to Edinburgh from Bristol in 1997, ready to start a new job on a 12 month contract. Young, free and single, I enjoyed the city as much as I could knowing that I’d be moving on when the contract ended. In what feels like the blink of an eye, but twenty years later,  I’m still living in Edinburgh but I’ve changed job (more than once), bought a house, got married and had children.

Choose menu…

At around the same time as my new life in Edinburgh started, new things were happening in the protection market.  At Scottish Provident, the first menu protection product was launched, revolutionising the market. Rather than the traditional approach of one cover per plan, menu protection allowed advisers to combine multiple covers in one plan. It reduced the time consuming application process for customers, and advisers were able to tailor protection more closely to their customer’s individual needs and budget.

Better still, these menu plans were flexible. Had I been looking for cover at the time, I could have taken out a small amount of life cover and critical illness cover, in just one plan. Then, as my life changed over the years with my new job, new home and family, I could have added to my existing covers rather than start from scratch with a new plan.

Menu protection hasn’t been the only development within the industry in the last 20 years.  Critical illness cover has gone through changes too.  We’ve seen providers take part in the numbers race, trying to maximise the number of conditions listed while maintaining a competitive price, to now offering better breadth and depth of cover for the most commonly claimed for conditions.

We’ve also seen an increase in the number of providers offering value-added services with their plans. Customers often need more than a financial payout when they make a claim, and the industry began to realise that emotional needs are just as important. There are second medical opinions, complementary therapies and counselling for customers coping with bereavement or long term illness if they have a plan from the right provider.

Choose a faster, streamlined option…

We also need to consider the fact that we’re now in a digital age.  Back in 1997, we were still just getting used to pocket-sized mobile phones. The thought of smartphones, tablets and internet speeds we now expect as standard was the stuff of science fiction. Applications back in 1997 would have almost certainly been paper-based.  Using the post office to deliver paperwork, and request further information took ages.

Today much of our processing can be done online, reducing both the time taken to get the initial quote, right through all the processing stages to getting an application on the books.  Some providers now offer immediate underwriting as well as an online trust capability.  Definitely not something we would have imagined 20 years ago.

Choose a niche…

So what do the next 20 years hold? Providers are currently developing more personalised cover options. For example, not everyone with a long term condition, such as diabetes, can get cover easily.  That’s why we’re developing a product specifically designed for people with diabetes. These improvements should lead to cover being more accessible to those customers, which can only be a good thing.

And, with advances in technology, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen.  We’ve already seen fitness trackers working toward reducing premiums, and data analytics improving the underwriting process. We can only imagine how technology will continue to benefit the industry, and in turn us as providers, advisers and customers.

Choose change…

So what about Renton and his friends?  It’s hard to imagine just what Trainspotting2 has in store for the characters.  I can’t imagine life has been entirely kind to all of them considering the point we left them at back in 1996.  And while there have been short clips released as part of the advertising campaign for the film they (unsurprisingly) don’t give much away. But I suppose that in itself could be a metaphor for life.

None of us know what’s round the corner, we just have to keep changing and be as ready for it as we can be.