Aviva's Rahul Gumber, part of the CII New Generation Group which compiled the report into vulnerable customers, shares his thoughts.
When you think of the vital role our industry plays in society and the millions of pounds we pay in claims every day, it’s disappointing that we still sit somewhere between politicians and bankers towards the bottom of consumer trust surveys.
Restoring the industry’s reputation is central to the Chartered Insurance Institute’s (CII) purpose and should be a priority for all of us.
No single change will achieve this alone but one area that is certain to attract publicity is the way we deal with vulnerable consumers.
As part of the New Generation Programme, our group – representing the CII’s Underwriting Faculty – was tasked with completing a project or initiative that we believed could make a difference to the insurance profession.
After much discussion and with the CII’s central aim of building public trust in mind, the area where we felt we could drive positive change in the industry was on the issue of consumer vulnerability.
Vulnerability can come in many forms and it can, and probably will, affect most of us at some point in our lives.
There’s no clear-cut definition or indicator of vulnerability.
It may be that a consumer has a physical or mental illness, or is suffering from stress, or simply does not have sufficient understanding or capability to make an informed decision.
What is clear is consumer vulnerability is not a minority issue and one that is only going to grow with socio-demographic trends and the drive towards digitisation in insurance.
In our research, we found examples of some insurers serving consumers in vulnerable situations inconsistently, inflexibly, and, in some cases, unfairly.
The good news is that the issues we outline in our report are far from systemic across the sector.
The insurance industry is full of people that care passionately about making a difference for our customers.
We found some great examples of insurers forming links with charities, industry Charters and Codes of Practice to help consumers in vulnerable circumstances and pricing philosophies that seek to protect vulnerable customers from large increases in premium.
While all this is encouraging, negative news stories involving the actions of the worst will continue to damage the reputation of the best unless we take further steps to raise the bar across the sector.
The #InsCares campaign provides a great opportunity to share experiences and to work collaboratively to improve standards in the industry.
While overcoming the issues presents a challenge, insurers that adapt their practices to earn the trust of vulnerable customers will forge deeper, lasting and ultimately more profitable relationships.
With insurtech start-ups already targeting markets that have been neglected by some insurers, closing the trust gap with our customers and developing innovative propositions for vulnerable groups should be a key priority for all CEOs.
Rahul Gumber, senior risk manager at Aviva, writes as part of the Insurance Cares campaign.
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