We’re living in a world of heightened scrutiny for the business community in financial services and beyond. This is why the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), created by the G20, has recently outlined its strategy for implementing its financial inclusion plan to reach financially excluded and underserved populations globally.
But why should we even care about financial inclusion for all? I think it is about protecting our profession’s most important asset. It can be easy to forget, but insurance has deep roots as a force for social good helping to put lives back together in the face of catastrophe. Having done all this, why not go a little further to secure the trust of the public, which is fundamental to the commercial health of our sector? To truly engender a strong level of trust in our profession we must reach out to vulnerable and at-risk groups and support them. We cannot leave them on the “too difficult pile.”
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The sector has made great strides already in the recent past, with Flood Re and Pool Re good examples of where solutions were found for those facing high risk and an unfairly inadequate level of cover or unaffordable insurance premium as a result. But there are still areas where improvements can be made.
Travel insurance is one such area where people go through the tough experience of being declined for having pre-existing medical conditions. They are left wondering why the decision has been made – especially if they are managing their condition and their doctor tells them they can travel. They need to know what they should do next, or else they are more likely to travel without essential medical cover. Is it really fair for these, often vulnerable, customers to be left without so much as an explanation as to why insurance was not provided to them? A situation like this is bound to leave a negative lasting impression about the value of insurance unless we provide the best possible service for such consumers. For example, some insurers have started to offer an expert medical consultancy service for people who have been declined travel insurance, which appears to be a powerful response to the problem.
Similarly, some life insurance policies include exclusions or significantly overcharge consumers who face mental health problems. Providing group insurance cover, for example through employers, can be a way of securing better coverage for bad risks more easily than to seek cover on an individual basis.
These are both areas where the standard ‘off-the-rack’ insurance product does not suffice for all consumers. We need to acknowledge that people live unique lives facing unique risks and that they increasingly expect products and services that are tailored to their personal circumstances and choices. We may need to apply more ingenuity to traditional policies – to reach the people who end up lost in exclusion clauses because they do not entirely conform to the terms of a policy. Customers expect this level of customisation, but it is also necessary to review traditional products and service levels to see if they are still fit for purpose and inclusive to all. We can’t let gaping inequalities and unfairness in society be an excuse for letting a significant number of people down. It is our responsibility to serve society as a whole. If we support those most at risk we can build trust in our profession that it stands for those at both ends of the spectrum, those most and least at risk.