Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Common questions about private medical insurance (PMI)

When speaking to my professional introducers (mainly IFA's and Accountants with the odd general commercial broker thrown in for good measure) I come across two common themes/questions very regularly :

1) Isn't private medical insurance expensive (and by inference therefore, won't clients avoid buying it) ?

2) Which clients should I approach for medical insurance - I look after older clients and high net worth (HNW) people (who tend to be older) and I assume that cover would be expensive or previous health would prevent us helping them ?

Looking at these queries in turn. Well anything can be 'expensive' obviously. If you go for the top level of cover and no excess then yes the cover might be expensive. There are however a lot of factors at play here. Firstly, what are the clients expectations - if they think PMI cover is going to be £ 30 a month then anything over £ 40 is likely to be unaffordable. I think though that most people probably have more realistic expectations.

Clients buy medical insurance for several financial and lifestyle reasons (although individuals and companies tend to have a different buying profile) but they also buy because of life experience with the NHS, past medical history, requirement to choose when/where/how they are treated medically and so forth. In point of fact pricing is really only the first element that we need to consider. Sure, if cover is prohibitive in terms of cost then the 'sale' falls through at the first hurdle but there is a lot more to medical insurance advice than how much the plan costs and that is a part of the discussion, the 'painting of the picture' with clients that I undertake. On balance though I think PMI is actually cheaper than many people expect. Certainly for new cover my experience is that individual purchasers overestimate the cost by around 30% on average. {urchasers of company paid cover will likelybe even more pleasantly surprised as PMI cover bought through the business can be considerably cheaper per capita than individual plans. As a general rule I would suggest that two directors looking to buy cover for themselves and their family would be significantly better off putting together a two employee plan rather than considering two single plans by a factor or several hundred pounds.

The second  of the questions posed at the beginning of this article (which clients should I approach) is simply a marketing/segmentation issue. Who is likely to want or need cover within your client portfolio. Broadly those advisers with older or HNW are still very much ok to become involved in the PMI market.

My experience is that older clients are more likely to have the cover in the first place and to be paying too much for often outdated cover. As a general guide if the client has not undertaken a review of their cover in the last 24 months I would advise considering at the next renewal if better cover can be obtained at a lower cost. The chances are, that subject to some basic checks on recent health we can move the client and save money or take over the agency of their plan and reduce costs by negotiating with their current insurers - either way, ensuring their medical insurance plans are fit for purpose.

If an older or wealthier client doesn't have cover in place at the moment we can easily put newly underwritten cover into position for them. There is no loading based on previous health so they will just be looking at standard, age rated cover which is easily ossible to put in place well into their late 70's or 80's.

So in essence, whether they have cover in place at the moment or want a new plan we can certainly help many older clients. My personal PMI clients tend to be over 40 and mostly professionals and HNW imdividuals plus a smattering of directors who for whatever reason are not on a company based plan I look after.

There is a complication though. When IFA's or other other advisers want to help more financially aware clients on private medical insurance there are complex insurer products and previous medical histories to juggle when speaking to clients on this subject. If a review of cover is needed the insurers have a range of medical questions and transfer criteria that not only affects the ability to move clients around the market but also the price at which we can do so. The client might need a comparison of the plan options available between two or three or even more insurers.

All of these factors are why many IFA's and accountants would choose to work with me, a specialist in the medical insurance field to provide the advice on their behalf as an introducer to my PMI practice.


I hope that this article helps with some context if you are involved or considering how to get involved in PMI advice - I am always happy to speak to new potential professional introducers. Just e-mail me on : philknight@pch.uk.com or call : 07792 075748.

Changing the way we work, physically

People who know me well will tell you that as well as working hard I like to train hard, keeping fit and healthy is as important to me as working hard and being successful. Over the years I have tried to combine both pursuits, obviously with a range of success.

One of the drawbacks of having an advisory/largely sedentary job is obviously the amount of time spent at a computer screen which cuts down on physical activity during the working day and early evenings. I have tried to make my day healthier by stopping regularly for breaks and also walking rather than driving for more local chores over the last year or two. This has enabled me to, fairly successfully, embed fitness into my working day as well as my social life.

One change I am also trying at the moment is to adopt use of a 'standing desk' workstation. As I work from an office in my home it is relatively easy to create a suitable area. In fact I've been able to create several areas at the right height both in my office and also around my home to allow for a 'change of scenery' as well if I'd like.

I did some reading on the subject of standing desks and use of multiple workstations plus also the opportunity to sit and work 'as usual' are all recommended so as to end up with the right balance of increased movement whilst maintaining work efficiency. In actual fact I am finding that working this way is almost like doing a different job : working in a different place/position sometimes in a different room. It all mixes up the work day/flow and makes for more interesting and challenging day. I'm also finding that I can concentrate a bit more intensively - think it has to do with keeping moving more and then when I do sit down (as I usually do for more intellectually intensive tasks) I am more focused, wanting to get straight on with the job and finish as quickly as possible to move on to the next thing.

At the moment I am using temporary desks and other means to increase the height of my laptop for example but I am planning to revamp my office in the not too distant future and a permanent standing desk is definitely on the cards.

Friday, 18 March 2016

New office set up

On the basis that a tidy desk signifies a tidy mind I spent an hour I didn't have on Monday clearing my desk and doubling down on a new paperless office system.

Here is the result :
Mac-Tactic tidy office layout - March 2016
It is a slightly more spartan working environment but being tidy just helps.

I also have a space with no work station in the office for me to simply sit and consider business issues quietly, a much over-used phrase at the moment is 'mindfulness' but sometimes I'm finding it invaluable to just use five or ten minutes to plan an approach to a problem or situation that banging away at computer keys simply doesn't work for.

Mindfulness Zone - 2016

The new workstation has been a challenge insofar as I have gone from a hybrid workflow system part paper and part computerised to a wholly task manager software based system and am still losing the odd 'to do' item as a result - nothing important so far but will need to keep on top of it.

The best thing, apart from the inherent tidiness of it all is coming back to the desk from a client or introducer visit and not having to root through the usual mess of paper and bits and bobs of rubbish inhabiting my office.

A tidy desk is indeed indicative of a tidy and well organised mind.

Winding down for Easter - NOT

This year Easter falls early at the end of March and as such is a funny one, usually for schools for example the two Bank holidays : Good Friday and Easter Monday form part of the actual two week Easter break. For Leeds City Council run schools though some schools are splitting the break - taking the two 'actual' holidays of Easter then going back on Tuesday the 29th before breaking up again the following week for a fortnight. Some are taking the end of term from the Thursday before Good Fiday for two weeks. For those of us with kids in schools doing one of each it is an extra long and complex break to manage.

Point is though that around the country Easter could be a long break this year with lots of people off work at odd times.

I mention this because holiday times, especially those with Bank Holidays tend to be quieter work-wise simply because there are fewer clients and introducers at work as many with kids have to take time off.

For me Easter, the end of July and Christmas are the three quieter times of the year. As a general principle I take these lulls in activity as an opportunity to up my marketing and social media work to ensure that May and June are busier to make up for the quieter time in April.

For IFA's and other professional introducers I'd suggest a word of caution around private medical insurance (PMI) at this time of year too. Firstly I know many will be busy with tax year end and so on. It is however worth noting that a lot of small group and high net worth individual clients personal PMI plans will tend to renew at this time of year. There is therefore a danger with ignoring PMI in late March through April in so far as although it might seem there isn't much happening but there are clients out there that are simply auto-renewing their plans without input because clients are away on holiday, off work with kids and of course because the professional introducers are tied up with Spring Budgets, tax year end and so forth.

Many of these clients won't have had proper reviews in years because of when their broker or direct sales person set up their plans and if they are on legacy plans which have not been regularly looked at then they are almost certainly paying too much for inferior cover - we can help them but we need to take action !

With that in mind my marketing campaign for the next month will be aimed at highlighting some of the PMI opportunities that are out there and trying to rise them with my current and prospective introducers - if you get a call or an e-mail from me it might be worth thinking about getting back to me so neither of us miss out on clients to help and income to generate !  

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

#oneeyeddog - an update

Life is busy, then you die.

At the minute I'm pretty snowed under with work in a good way. I'm also busy at karate with paperwork from the club as we have a few new members and a grading pending at the weekend. To cap it off my little, one eyed dog : Jasper has been poorly again in the last 24 hours so just had to make time to get him to the vet to get sorted out.

Always the way and I'd rather be busy than not, especially as it can help to take your mind off the problems.

I posted here about my dog a few weeks ago and please feel free to go back and have a read and look at some of the cute (and not so cute) pictures I posted at the time. Unfortunately with chronic cardiac failure we are now in the end game for him so every day is precious. His breathing has been failing and getting harder but fortunately in himself he is still in good form. The vet is happy to up his medication to help out with the short term problem and hopefully we can have him back to normal in a day or so - fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

BNI Meeting in Pontefract

Not sure if I have talked business networking at any length on the blog. Here, raised by my attending a meeting tomorrow are some thoughts on business networking and why it may not necessarily be for everyone.

Tomorrow morning I am going to a BNI chapter meeting in Pontefract to support a new IFA/General Broker contact based in the Wakefield area. I am going as a guest though, rather than a prospective new member - as I note below, joining a networking group is not something I would, at this stage in my business want/need to do.

Now as a general rule I have a little bit of a 'problem' with business networking. Not an idealogical one per se but rather on a practical level. I've never personally found breakfast networking to be particularly fruitful (although I'm sure it works for some businesses) and when I set up my business six years ago I had a very young family so disappearing off once a week first thing in the morning left the house a bit 'understaffed' so to speak. In essence then I found other ways of attracting clients and popularising/marketing myself to my key contacts. That's not to say I haven't tried formal networking sessions of one kind or another several times over the years and for some months a year or two ago I was part of an informal/on-line networking capability that ultimately burnt itself out and never really went anywhere. As a last thought I could also never fully commit to the idea of passing leads to people on a formal, regimented basis - i.e. once a week or two at every meeting etc.
I've always thought leads are something that happen when clients want help rather than me creating or co-ercing a situation to create them on demand. So this was one element of formal networking that as was, a concept I did really struggle with from an ethical standpoint a little bit.

On the whole though I am looking forward to attending (the early start notwithstanding) as the part of my job that I enjoy most is getting out there and meeting people, interacting with clients and other industry professionals - all the things in fact which as your business succeeds and moves forwards you tend to have less and less time to do with more resource been spent on admin, training and problem solving.

Here's to a good meeting and hope that the snow holds off !

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Brexit - post one

What is the Localventure position on the departure of the UK from the EU and the forth-coming referendum on the 23rd of June ?

Well I hate to disappoint because as it stands I have absolutely no idea. As a left of centre, libertarian leaner I suppose that I am instinctively in favour of staying within the EU but at the moment I simply do not have the data set to enable me to take a fully informed position.

My plan therefore is to listen to both sides of the argument, paying particular attention to not just politicians but rather those academics and professionals actively involved in the process to find out the facts and figures, pro's and con's etc. and then make an informed decision based not on ideology or polemic but rather based on evidence and cogent reason.

I'm sure this will not be the last post I make on this subject and hopefully in the coming weeks and months both myself and my readers will be able to make an informed choice, right for business and the UK more generally.

Episode Number 67 of PMICast for 3rd of March 2016 is now available on-line and on iTunes

Have just posted episode No.67 of my medical insurance podcast : PMICast - this one covers an important opportunity for directors in small businesses to save money on their Private Medical Insurance premiums. For more information listen on-line at - www.pmicast.podbean.com or search on iTunes or your favourite pod-catcher app for 'PMICast' - the only medical insurance podcast you will ever need !
Find PMICast on-line at www.pmicast.podbean.com

Five years, still going and (importantly) still growing !

Last week I realised that I have been running my medical insurance advisory practice (which I blog about here semi-regularly) for over five years, although planning and work began behind the scenes around a year before that, with business planning and meetings. Looking at whether I would be regulated directly with the FSA (this was pre FCA obviously), work with a network/compliance provider or even go into partnership with an IFA or broker - so lots of decisions, in that pre-set up phase to be made about marketing, route to market and so forth.

The five or six years that followed have then been quite a journey for me both professionally and personally as launching a business reliant upon sales/client acquisition from scratch was certainly a challenge. It's been a roller coaster for certain but over five full years in I would (without tempting fate too much) say that things have gone well.

What brought it home to me was a discussion I had with a prospective new professional introducer yesterday. This gentleman runs an IFA practice combined with a commercial general brokerage and is interested in working with me on the PMI side of things. We got to talking about how he had found me as, unusually, I really had no idea who he was when he called other than being vaguely aware of the business name from long presence in the market. It transpired he had googled and found me on the Premier Choice website and also Linkedin along with two other potential contacts in the medical insurance market. However he decided to work with me based on my on-line presence and age (he didn't want to work with someone a lot older than himself - we're both in our mid forties and at similar levels in our careers - which can sometimes help I think in terms of creating a 'like mind').

The point is not to blow my own trumpet (although he did talk about professionalism of approach with regards to both my on-line material and also how I handled the phone call) but rather to consider that after five years in the market and hundreds of hours of work on social media and thousands of hours supporting clients it is nice to feel that clients and introducers come to me not by direct effort but also they arrive indirectly through previous work, referrals and social media.

So overall I'm really pleased with how things are going. Would still like more introducers, clients and business of course - but who wouldn't !

2016 is an important year for me, with a growing client portfolio and the balance to be found between servicing my current clients whilst expanding my book of business.  An important and challenging year but still on balance it's been a fun journey.

I'm planning to be around for the foreseeable future, growing my business and working ever more closely with my introducers (thanks guys). If you would like to be part of the Phil Knight 'team' and are interested in either advice on your own, or your company's medical insurance cover. Or if you are a professional adviser of some sort (IFA, Accountant, General Broker et al) and want help with medical insurance then just call or message me and we can talk.

Thanks and heres to the next five years.