In the future, society will expect us to reach for the ‘too difficult pile’

Sian Fisher, CEO, Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)

How can an insurer grow its business and make a positive contribution to society? There are, of course, a number of routes. Insurers can sell their products internationally. They can develop new products to meet new risks. And I believe that the insurance profession in the UK is making good strides in both of these avenues.

However, when we talk of enlarging the insured world by extending the protection of insurance to new sectors, we often forget a third route for growth, and that is British consumers who find themselves excluded from traditional insurance policies.

We will add value to British society – and improve our standing with consumers – if we plug these gaps. Claims, of course, have to be paid, efficiently and promptly. But effective claims operations are a hygiene issue, we shouldn’t expect a round of applause.

What customers do expect, especially in mature markets like the UK, is to be able to buy a product which matches their lifestyle choices or conditions. In short, they want customisation. Starbucks revolutionised the industry because they offered a huge number of choices when you buy a cup of coffee. Size, price, type. You choose.

We need to look at insurance the same way. How flexible are our traditional policies in adapting to our customers' lives? How many people end up excluded by a health condition, or by renting a room in their property or even a penchant for dangerous sports? These people are a missed opportunity in terms of growing premium. I also believe that, increasingly, society will expect us to reach towards the ‘too difficult’ pile and start finding solutions for people that are currently excluded from insurance policies.

In part, this is due to the trend towards greater customisation – whether it’s a Starbucks or an insurance policy. It also means inclusion for all. But there is also an ageing demographic which will want to travel, to own houses and drive cars as they grow older. Are we ready?

I don’t believe that the insurance industry should or could replace the welfare state. But it is clear that the state is increasingly struggling to meet protection levels – and those pressures will augment.

We can help. Group income protection policies already saving the state £192m a year and we believe that the take-up for these policies can grow substantially, which will further save the state coffers. We also need to be looking now at how we can provide solutions for those groups within society who are currently excluded from buying traditional policies. That will involve challenging traditional mindsets as well as revitalising traditional policies.

This is crucial to show that we are relevant to today’s society. A society where a third of marriages end in divorce (which impacts hugely on divorced women’s pensions prospects), where young people may only be able to pay mortgages by renting spare rooms and where a million people suffer from Alzheimer’s.

The CII’s royal charter instructs us to ‘secure and justify the confidence of the public’ in insurance. Many of you will know us as a professional body that sets standards and certifies practitioners. The most important standard is to start with the customer and their needs, to track their life journeys, identify the pressure points that might mean they find it difficult to access our products.

If we can get this right, our customers will gain access to the products they need, the state may not have to come to their rescue, and the industry will grow its premium. Three very good reasons to reach towards ‘the too difficult’ pile.

Our value increases when we refuse to accept someone is ‘too difficult’ to insure. For more information please visit