Rewriting the consumer duty narrative in 2023

Rich Horner, Head of Individual Protection, MetLife UK

The start of a New Year always brings the promise of opportunity, and, despite the obvious pressures we face, across the protection industry I see plenty! None of them without challenge, but I genuinely believe with the right product design and a keen customer focus, we can rise to the challenge of supporting our policy holders.

It is alarming to see reports of house prices falling and the cost mortgages rising, which then brings the question of affordability and access to the right level of protection for consumers sharply into focus.  

Part of our commitment as a provider in this market, is spending more time with customers to better understand exactly where pressure points exist. Then we can tailor our protection products and service offerings to best support their specific needs. In other words, stepping up to play our part in the new FCA Consumer Duty regime to deliver good customer outcomes – raising the bar to ensure high value for customers.

Touted as one of the biggest changes in the retail consumer regulatory landscape, the new duty aims to raise standards for consumers. I believe it represents a huge opportunity for the protection industry. It feels like a tipping point to shift the industry’s mindset and, instead of thinking how we can best tick boxes, truly consider what our customers' needs are and how best we can meet them.

Our ability to innovate and be flexible with our product offering is critical to ensuring people’s needs are met. We are all acutely aware of the financial difficulties facing UK families and the deep concerns many have about protecting themselves and, often, their livelihoods against any short-term shocks.

As people’s savings have had to be increasingly relied on to cover mortgage, rent and other household costs, there is a real need to show the value of having proper protection in place, especially among the self-employed, should they find, they cannot work due to illness or injury in the coming months.

To my mind, 2023 is all about making protection simple. This is where our tangible MortgageSafe cover – protecting monthly repayments from the first day our customers are unable to work, up to £1,500 per month for up to two years. Our unique product EverydayProtect can really help customers who want to protect against the risks they face every day. EverdayProtect provides lump sum benefits should our customers suffer a range of accidental injuries, broken bones, or are hospitalised.

And the level of engagement with these products is clear. In 2022, we paid out over 19,000 claims across our Individual Protection product suite, which relative to our market size was not only a real achievement for the business as we are proud to pay claims, but also demonstrates just how much of a need there is for these products. And we’re not stopping there. Along with regular enhancements to our existing products, we are also starting to develop an exciting new product pipeline for 2023, including new services that will provide additional flexibility to customers and their families.

So, while the outlook for 2023 may seem challenging, there are clear opportunities for all insurers and distribution partners this year. It’s about making protection as simple as possible, ensuring we can continue to protect the lives of our customers and their families from the moment they need support.