Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Welcome to Localventure 2018

Well looking at the stats is appears that it has been over two months since I last posted on this blog (wonder what happened to 'daily content' ????).

As I've talked about before it is generally other work issues that prevent me from having the time to log my thoughts and in fact I'm pretty busy today but checked in on the blog to ensure that the new data notice a la GDPR was displaying properly - it is so, no issues with my stealing your lovely cookies for nefarious anti-privacy purposes (give me strength).

If you're reading this as one of my business introducers, Welcome - now that tax year end has finished and the summer holidays are shortly to begin this is usually the time of year I get quite a few client referrals from my IFA's, general brokers and accountants - so please feel free to ping over your enquiries as and when - I'm here and ready to serve.

Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
07792 075748

May 2018

Monday, 26 March 2018

No claims discounts in personal medical insurance

It's a bit beyond the scope of this blog to explain the detailed in's and out's of pool risk in insurance (the idea that a group of people paying together carry the overall cumulative risk for all individuals with the pool as a whole, single unit - this being one of the basic premises of general insurance) but some insurers have chose to dilute or even divert this pure form element of their pricing model and offer clients an element of individual risk pricing for members either transparently or via a behind the schemes process of applying claims an individual makes to their renewal pricing on an on-going basis.

Insurers call this addition of risk pricing by several different names but the most common idea is one that people will be familiar with form their car insurance : No Claims Discounts or 'NCD's'.

The medical insurance NCD (offered by many insurers) is however subtly different to that offered by car insurers. At its most basic a client is placed at plan outset on an NCD pricing band and moves up and down these multiple price bands depending on their claims status for the year. In principle NCD is fairer. Creating a situation where individual clients pay more if they claim and the idea of low claimers subsidising their claiming equivalents is theoretically reduced.

There are though some significant drawbacks with this NCD model of pricing. Non claimers of course still subsidise to an extent, especially given that most insurers have a maximum NCD level - once you get to that point and do not claim you are still subsidising those who claim, although to a lesser extent. But also insurers tend to move clients down a higher number of bands when they claim than they move them up when they don't. This means that, especially in the early years of a plan, it can seem punitive in terms of increases following claims. In particular a punitive NCD regime can prevent clients from claiming for low level claims if they understand that the price can increase following the NCD being applied far more than the actual notional cost of the claim itself.

In other words you claim for a private consult and a couple of tests - total cost £ 200 but the premiums increase the following year by £ 30 a month - £ 360 total - £ 160 more than the claim itself. This example seems counter-intuitive that insurers would do this and expect to get away with it (in terms of clients not going postal following this situation). I can assure you that it does happen, regularly. Two factors prevent it causing insurers problems. Firstly people often don't check their renewal pricing very carefully (read other blog posts where I rail about regularly reviewing renewal pricing being totally essential). Secondly, if you've made a claim in the last 12 months it can be problematical to move insurers immediately following that claim. This means that insurers literally have their policy holders by the proverbials, cancelling the plan becomes an exercise in cutting off your own nose to spite your face when moving insurers is not an immediate possibility.

Some insurers have therefore either shied away from the strict NCD model (WPA, The Exeter) or offer a differentiated version of the same thing (Vitality's ABC version) in the attempt to either give clients an alternative to NCD mechanics or attempt to offer more transparent often through complexity.

My experience is that NCD are a bit like high street banks - every client has one insurers version that they hate/like and if you asked 10 clients whether they like the NCD or a different approach you'd probably get 10 subtly different answers. Certainly I speak to clients on this subject on a weekly basis and remain ambivalent about it myself as a PMI client in my own right.

My current view (from an advisory standpoint) is this. Like a lot of situations it's all about knowledge and applying that knowledge during and the following a claim. As NCD based plans tend to be set at a lower premium cost at outset as opposed to non NCD insurers plans there is an initial budgetary advantage in applying for this kind of product. For new and younger clients who are actuarially less likely to claim perhaps the NCD model works best initially. As clients age and therefore (in theory) claim more there is likely to be more pricing stability in a non NCD, traditionally risk pooled pricing model. This means though that those insurers who offer a traditional fully pooled risk product (Exeter as an example) tend to be more expensive - simply because they will have more older, sicker clients who are more likely to claim. This is also, in my opinion one of the flaws in the current implementation of standard risk pooling - those insurers who offer this capability will have to increase everybody's rate more often by a larger amount because their book tends to carry more claims - I've seen this happen a couple of times in recent years.

That said, neither type of product is perfect and insurers offering both can make pricing mistakes that require correction over time. Again this is simply the market in which they insurers operate - any broker claiming to offer guaranteed pricing stability to their clients is frankly making it up.

If you make a claim on your PMI plan, expect an increase is my advice - if you know the claims is going to be minor maybe consider self funding the first element of the claim and seeing where it goes (do check though that the condition, doctor and hospital are all covered just in case the claim needs to go further - any insurer will talk you through this element of coverage without formally setting up a claim on their system). If the claim is small and self limiting you haven't activated an NCD. If the condition is more serious you revert back to the private claim and will you likely be ok with an increase the following year anyway having used the plan and obtained value from it.

In the end NCD is actually a bit of a red herring. A product feature that whilst avoidable neither adds nor detracts from the efficacy of the benefits - large increases year on year are possible with any insurer regardless of the underlying pricing model they apply to their renewal and new business pricing. In the end I've worked in medical insurance since 1994 and have lost count of insurers who have needed to re-set their pricing following adverse claims experience and/or a pricing snafu. This is the market in which we operate and clients have to understand this. The best plan for a client should, in my opinion, be based not on the technical framework underpinning the price calculation but rather on the benefits package and the best (i.e. most comprehensive) version of this they can afford or are prepared to pay within their budget. If the price of a plan is initially fine but increases over time we need to review the market and consider moving insurer.

NCD is, in my opinion really only 'window dressing' the renewal pricing chosen by the insurer. It is not, or rather shouldn't be, a primary concern for policy holders.

Ask me to review your medical insurance plan if you'd like expert help or even contact me just if you want to know if you have an NCD built in to your cover - always happy to help.

Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
07792 075748
March 2018

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Dog Walking Discourtesy

I have a 22 month old CockerPoo who is still mid-training. He will come to heel when called but is excitable and when walking, for his safety (i.e. I don't want to lose him) I do not currently allow him off lead. I also have a 14 year old Cocker Spaniel who is now a very slow walker. With these two dogs looking after them on lead is a task that requires care and concentration.

On my morning walk starting at 7.00am I am not interested in my dogs playing with other dog walkers pets. It hypes up the CockerPoo and distresses the older Cocker plus frankly at that time in the morning I just need to get the walk done and ensure I can get off to work. Surely that is not an unreasonable position ???

The reason for this post is that I'm frankly sick and tired of dog walkers with all the time in the world in the morning allowing their dogs off lead to harass me and my dogs without taking any action. Last week I had to actually tell another dog owner to control his dog and take it away as he idly watched his dog drive my younger dog mad for over 200 yards as I tried to continue my walk being literally 'dogged' by his animal - as a result I was forced to cut my walk short as my Cocker was distressed - shaking and whining and my shoulder problem (a serious injury I received 10 months ago) was aggravated by the effort of keeping my younger dog from breaking off lead and being lost next to a main road.

This kind of ignorance is staggering from other dog owners and it would be great if people could respect the fact that :

1) I don't know you or your dog and have no interest in being friends with either - it's 7.00am in the morning I'm barely conscious at this stage !

2) if I wanted my dog to play with yours it wouldn't be on a lead.

3) read the body language - it's pretty clear that I do not want to interact from the fact that I turn my back and carry on walking.

Lastly my message is this - if you can't control your dog then don't let it off the lead near other dogs.

Monday, 19 February 2018

The core values of Renew - a new hope for centre politics in the UK ?

In my last post I briefly discussed how I felt dis-enfranchised following the increasingly hard Brexit stance of the Conservatives and the lack of cogent response from the opposition.

The Renew party seeks, it seems to me, to redress that balance and on further reading here are their currently stated core goals :

A new opportunity program - creating a true skills and 'for all' education driven economy

Aggressive house building on brown field sites and using all empty homes

Enhancement to minimum wage laws and a nationwide universal living wage

An intelligent NHS - reliant on technology and innovation

Stop Brexit and hold a second referendum

Promote a Green Revolution

Read yourself ( and see if you think they're worth a punt ? It strikes me that 'centrist' policies can sometimes seem a little wishy-washy almost borrowed from the most liberal elements of both the Tories and Labour - but thinking about it, no one else is pushing the centre agenda and most people exist in the middle not the extremes of the political spectrum.

Certainly cannot hurt to entertain a sea change in politics - the way the world is going at the moment it feels like time for a change to me.

The launch of 'Renew' a new political party

I'm one of the 48% of people who voted to remain in the EU in the Brexit vote and one of more than the 48% of voters now who feel totally disillusioned and constantly lied to by the Conservative Party, UKIP and even to an extent the Labour Party who really, really need to get their act together on what is going to happen in March 2019 when we actually, finally leave the European Union.

Or do they ?

What if there was an alternative ?

This week the Renew Party launched and is trying to get to around 300 parliamentary candidates in any future general election specifically to allow a new approach to politics and Brexit. Presumably they are looking to undertake a Macron style coup of the political process and overturn some of the more demagogue-esque hard Brexit nonsense that very few sane people seem to support but which now seems to be the stated policy goal of the Tories. This of course despite every economic report stating the effects will be negative. Don't even get me started on how we can hard borders with European countries, unless they happen to have an Irish accent.

I wish them well and will be supporting them (assuming they turn out to be saner than the last new political movement/offshoot to achieve notoriety). Any party that actually tried to represent that 48% of remain voters in some way, as opposed to not at all is at least worth a cursory glance at ?

Here's their website :

Check them out, have a read, maybe volunteer or donate and lets see if we can at least make the debate around Brexit a bit less one sided !

A warning tale about Apple AirPods ... not for the squeamish

I bought my trusty Apple AirPods in October 2017 having held off ordering them following the initial announcement and finally caving after some review podcasts raved about how good they were.

These items pretty much immediately replaced some Phillip on ear blue tooth headphones I'd used most days and even for working out/running they were better, albeit a little quieter than my MPOW bluetooths.

I did notice that for one usecase, which was walking the dogs, when next to a main road I struggled after a couple of weeks to hear the sound on the 'pods above the traffic. Other than this, everything was great. Sure they occasionally lost linkage with the phone but to be fair less than other bluetooth devices so all was good.

Then in early January I managed to drop my left 'pod into a mug of water. Obviously I wasn't messing about trying to put them away one handed or anything, total accident. I duly fished it out (pun intended) without panicking whatsoever and towelled it off vigorously then whacked it straight onto a radiator to dry it out thoroughly. A few hours later they seemed to worked 'ok' but the volume on the left side ('wet pod') was virtually non-existent. The right also seemed to reduce too a little but was definitely the louder. I put this down to a balance problem or rather lack of stereo effect following the soaking.

This sound issue though now made the devices virtually unusable with any background noise at all to corned with so since the first week in January I've been messing about with the old white wired headphones in a draw near the door and my Phillips headset on an evening with the dogs and the MPOWs in the gym - total multi-device nightmare (yes, my diamond shoes really are totally first world). I even did a text talk with Apple Support to see if I could blag a new pair from them but because of the water 'incident' they were having none of it other than to charge me £90 plus for a replacement pod.

However this morning I was sat in the car in a supermarket carpark staring at my little white box because I swear the sound is getting quieter and quieter on them. I had my trusty Leatherman Juice with me as always so I idly had a scrape at the mesh of the microphone on the AirPods and disgustingly got a skin of muck off it with the first scrape. With a bit more work I managed to pull off about a millimetre and a half of nasty gunk and free up the sound output bit of them.

Two things to point out here. Firstly I don't think I produce any more than average ear nastiness - I'd just not noticed it building up overtime and secondly it transpires ear 'nasty' has a big impact on sound reproduction on AirPods - I'm now listening again at around 45% of maximum volume and having no issues with increasing volume to drown out average to high sound around me. I'm guessing that the 'wet pod' got worse either because the caked on dirt solidified as it dried to exacerbate the blockage or it may have been affected by the moisture more than I thought but has dried out slowly in the intervening weeks.

Lesson learnt. I shall clean the things every three or four days. I love my (newly cleaned) AirPods again.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Areas of referral for IFA introducers to concentrate on for Medical Insurance reviews

Happy New Year, it's time to consider medical insurance for your clients.
Medical insurance continues to be a market where there are business opportunities because either the technical issues around setting up appropriate cover and/or moving clients between insurers is complex for IFA's to undertake in a straightforward manner. With this in mind my specialist medical insurance practice is designed not just around finding the right medical insurance solutions for clients but more specifically aiming those solutions towards clients of my IFA introducers. In other words I aim to make my advice on medical insurance work around your approach to clients, solving problems for your client base whilst adding value to your practice without asking you to do extra work beyond the initial client referral.
This year have a think about the following potential classes of medical insurance client you might refer :
Your existing SME clients who don't have cover in place - new medical insurance plans for small corporate clients are an awful lot cheaper than most clients think, there are therefore very few barriers to purchase.
SME's with a current PMI plan that hasn't been reviewed in a while - any company plan which hasn't been properly reviewed in the last year or two needs urgent assistance in my opinion. Many of the larger national PMI brokers (and some big regional specialists) often don't bother to even contact clients at renewal and when they do it is a largely impersonal and inflexible service. Lots of 'low hanging fruit' to acquire out there.
Individuals with : BUPA, AXA PPP, Aviva or Vitality Health - legacy personal business is relatively easy to acquire and move to a lower cost proposition. Client with these large insurers are likely paying too much.
Older clients whose prices have rocketed upwards - there comes a point where pricing is simply too high for older clients. This is not insurmountable and in many occasions we can help clients up to the age of 79 plan a move of insurer to 're-set' their pricing at a lower level.
If you would like to discuss any prospective cases with me or need general advice on medical insurance - just call or e-mail me.
Kind Regards
Phil Knight

Independent Healthcare Consultant
(Part of Premier Choice Group, FCA No. 312878)
T. 07792 075748

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Happy New Year blog readers

Hope everyone had a great Festive period and is now hard at work in 2018.

Just a quick bit of housekeeping on the blog. Came across someone attempting to use the comments section to advertise for free on the blog today and even worse it was a competitor to my business. Worst of all it was a very unprofessional and inept attempt. So I've instigated a new zero tolerance policy, if you try and slip some spammy advert onto my blog I will invoice you for the time it takes to remove it.


Have a great year.

Friday, 1 December 2017

My Professional Introducer Christmas message for 2017 and beyond

OK, hands in the air it has been many weeks since I last put 'pen to paper' here at the blog. I can only apologise, managing a growing business is far more important in some requests than writing fun blog posts although I still think that it is important to include my thoughts on current market events and so forth when I have chance.

What I wanted to do today was put up some of my thoughts about my PMI business over the course of 2017 along with some important information on changes to the data protection regime in May 2018 which will, potentially, affect my industry moving forwards.

To all of my professional introducers. 2018 has been a busy year and I've had both fun and challenges working with you and all of your clients. My business now works in such a way that I essentially don't really market direct to either personal or company clients any more. Other than referrals from existing clients virtually all the business I look after comes from my team of professional introducers - IFA's, general broker and accountants plus a smattering of other professions. So thank you to you all and I wish you and yours a fantastic Festive period and of course a succesful 2018 for us all.

As always I've learnt a lot as the year has progressed and been able to put in place some excellent medical insurance solutions for many of your clients. Life is never dull (although of course insurance most definitely can be!) but I am of the opinion that once we stop trying to actively learn from experience both personally and professionally we are always the poorer for it.

One of the biggest themes I have noticed in the medical insurance market over the last year or so has been on-going larger increases in insurers renewal premiums which along with the enforced increase in IPT of 2% which has prompted me to review many more clients this year and in many cases move them to alternative lower cost insurers products.

I would stress that my automated renewal process never begins with the pre-supposition that the client needs to be moved to another insurer but I see time and again the need to intervene, review the market and move clients. This is never ideal as I prefer stability and being loyal to an insurer who carries a vital risk for my clients and I feel that, over the piece, that it is important to allow insurers the chance to make a profit on a case over time - in other words I strongly feel that when things work well the relationship between insurer and client is a mutually beneficial one allowing the insurers business to make a decent profit whilst giving the client the right cover and thus peace of mind without their having to over-pay. In some respects one might characterise this relationship at present as a little bit uneven in the UK medical insurance market.

In 2018 and moving forwards I see no sign of this pressure on costs decreasing especially taking into account the on-going effects of Brexit. Whether one agrees or disagrees with leaving the EU it is true to say that the UK financial services industry is facing a time of great change and potential upheaval. The uncertainty that exists within the markets will drive I suspect more and more medical insurance clients to seek to contact costs on personal insurances and employee benefits and that in turn that enables me to demonstrate the value to you of having a proactive specialist in the medical insurance field working with your practice. In other words, in the same way that I succeeded when I set up my business in 2010 in the thick of the financial recession I also feel that Brexit marks an opportunity for our businesses moving forward. One just has to be canny, professional and transparent with clients.

2018 was also a year of reasonable stability in the medical insurance markets with limited insurer and broker consolidation. However things are on the change and we may well look back on 2017 as a bit of a haven in time or perhaps the eye of the regulatory storm. The advent of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) the new EU data protection management regulations which despite Brexit will still become law in May next year will I suspect have long term impacts on the sector. Given the level of sensitive information handled by both medical insurers and specialist brokers like myself I would make the following predictions. Firstly that some less professional intermediaries will leave the market unable to handle the nuance of the new rules and the associated increased regulatory burden. In turn GDPR will make Private Medical Insurance even less appetising for non-specialist intermediaries and thus I feel that a level headed and professional approach to this new data handling regime can only benefit my practice and the introducers that I work with.

In short those of use who can see the opportunities within a more heavily regulated sector and are poised to take advantage will once again reap the benefits.

If you need assistance with any aspect of medical insurance marketing, sales or administration please feel free to get in touch. Even if we don’t end up working together on cases I am always delighted to help other industry professionals with their PMI queries.
If you would like to discuss any prospective cases with me or need general advice on medical insurance - just call or e-mail me.

Phil Knight
December 2017
07792 075748

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Sales Update - October 2017

Hi there blog readers. 

It’s been a while (several months I think) since I last put up a post her talking about work with my current and prospective professional introducers. This has been largely down to the success of previous mailings and posts having made me so busy.

But in late 2017 I wanted to drop a note out there to my many introducers and friends (and subscribers to the blog) thanking them for their support and of course asking them to continue - I carry on receiving many excellent leads from my bank of professional introducers and together we are able to drive additional revenue for our mutual businesses but most importantly help their clients set up and maintain the right medical insurance plans for their families and businesses.

As we near the end of 2017 (and cannot believe that I just typed that - where does the time go ?) there are some important issues that I wanted to raise for my introducers which hopefully can help them target PMI business effectively for the rest of 2017 and into ’18

These are several key areas where I find (through working with various introducers and clients) that I can add value, drive more revenue and assist with preventing future problems for them and their clients. In particular some of these various issues have happened recently and whilst they're fresh in the mind I thought it was worth noting them down on the blog as well.

Here's the breakdown :

Dates of PMI renewals - most insurers will send renewals between four and six weeks prior to the renewal date. Don’t rely on insurers to automatically send these out though - always set up your own diary system. My experience is that for every 20 renewals one comes through either wrong or doesn't turn up at all and has to be chased from the insurance company. The one that turns up late or wrong though is always going to be THAT client - the one with the lowest tolerance for admin snafu's or the one that has had claims issues with the insurer that policy year. Incidentally there is often a relationship between lost/delayed/inaccurate renewals and live admin issues during the plan year - often when a plan is dealt with in a non-standard way it can fall away from the automated renewal process and is often late or mis-routed - one massive advantage of working with a specialist broker is that I'm very likely to be aware of and involved in those non-standard issues for the client and I keep a special watch out for their renewals as I'm far more likely to undertake a full review for them as well.

I've had introducers who've lost cases because an insurer mis-routes documents (two for one account in the last six months) - sometimes this is down to the ideosyncracies of the insurers systems, again something I can help with.

Direct sales - a couple of my introducers have recently lost business to clients going direct to the insurer. This is immensely frustrating as we all understand the value of independent advice for customers. In a PMI context I’m always happy to chat with your clients to reinforce the value of working with us both rather than with just one insurer. In the PMI arena independent advice is super important. The various insurers offer so many different variations and over time a clients needs will alter. I recently lost an international case where because the client went direct they ended up paying more than the other options I had put on the table. But they, the client, panicked and took the first offering from one insurer rather than waiting for the results of my report with nine insurers included. I could even have probably reduced the cost on the one they went with by giving them details of the market review but the client didn't come back to me until 11 days post renewal by which time it was too late..

This case also failed because of a late renewal going to the introducer - the case renewed on the 1st of October and I was first involved on the 28th of September. As I say we think the client panicked a little bit not realising we could backdate the switch of insurer even up to am month - hopefully we will pick them back up next year. I do expect though that if there are issues from the insurer for the client we will still get a call asking for help even though the client should just deal with the one insurer now.

Overall it is always better to look for independent advice - even if we recommend the one insurer you might have chosen yourself I am always there to assist with all aspects or admin and claims and of course, at renewal ensure the deal remains the correct one moving forwards.

It's really worth bearing in mind that one year an insurer product suits for the client but the following it may not. This is very prevalent in the small corporate market where insurers change pricing policy on (it sometimes seems) a monthly basis. In the personal arena I find that generally insurers set out their stalls to attract certain demographics of clients usually in terms of age or underwriting status.

For example, Freedom Health are competitive on younger (sub age 35 clients) whilst Aviva compete well for older people - say 50 plus. On the other hand AXA PPP have some blinding rates for switch clients at the moment - cheaper in most cases that their moratorium rates.

The up-shot is that IFA's and clients themselves are often in the dark as to which insurer on the face of it is going to suit and in particular if you obtain quotes now and take up cover direct with the insurer then you own't know in three years if the demographic price model still suits at renewal - guess what ? That's where an independent adviser comes in.

3) Filling in and returning forms - it still staggers me that clients forget to complete forms and then (despite constant chases) ring up to try and make claims - if you can help by putting an additional reminder in front of slow clients it’s always worth another voice telling them to return the application.

Sometimes clients change their minds about cover then change their minds again

The following actually happened last week. A company client asked to add an employee on the 1st of February. Then e-mailed me back on the 8th of the same month to tell me he'd changed his mind and now wanted removing.

Nothing was heard on this until last Friday - the same staff member tried to ring up the insurer and make a claim. He then called them again on Monday to try again - luckily I had the e-mail trail showing the addition and deletion (at his request) form February.

The staff member (genuinely I think) said he had forgotten he'd asked to be removed from cover. Regardless it really is an issue with lost or forgotten forms or something like this - clients can't claim if they've missed the relevant paperwork or indeed not paid their premiums.

Clients who’ve made claims - just because a client has made claims in the past doesn’t mean that (in either a personal cover or company paid context) we can’t potentially review the market for them and consider switching or making changes for them at renewal. Depending on exact circumstances (and I'm happy to spend some time with you or your clients fact-finding on these issues) there are things we can do to ensure clients don’t over-pay with an incumbent insurer - always refer a case to me if you think the client might want a switch especially if the plan hasn’t been reviewed for a year or two.

I have lost track of the number of cases I've written where the client has claimed in the last two or three years and is just renewing at exorbitant premiums with BUPA, AXA, Vitality or Aviva - there is a lot of legacy business out there that by virtue of being direct with insurers or with a non-specialist broker is just not getting properly service and we can make an enormous difference to peoples renewal costs for very little work on behalf of the introducer.

Also worth bearing in mind if the client is paying £ 400 or £ 500 per month on a legacy plan, if we switch them and even make a saving of £ 100 or £ 200 per month - it still is a very nice commission paying plan !

If you need assistance with any aspect of medical insurance marketing, sales or administration please feel free to get in touch. Even if we don’t end up working together on cases I am always delighted to help other industry professionals with their PMI queries.
If you would like to discuss any prospective cases with me or need general advice on medical insurance - just call or e-mail me.

Kind Regards


Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
(Part of Premier Choice Group, FCA No. 312878)
T. 07792 075748