Archive for the ‘Investing money’ category

Insurance Customers are the Big Winners

September 22nd, 2008

Competition has increased in the online life-insurance industry, and the big winners are consumers.  People who get life insurance can firstly use the web to collect all the necessary information to make decisions about their insurance, quickly and easily.The growth of online insurance advice has raised concerns with the authorities who regulate the industry. 

The consumer watchdog for the life-insurance industry, the Financial Services Authority, said insurance-comparison websites have helped consumers to find insurance information before making decisions.  But consumers still need to investigate and find the right websites for help.The FSA stated in a report: "Consumers should be provided with appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible format, so that they can make an informed decision about the purchase of insurance." 

Not all UK comparison websites were included in FSA’s review; however one of its outcomes was to identify the features a customer requires to make an informed decision.  The FSA is now addressing issues with individual businesses.Reviewing individual businesses could be difficult for the FSA with hundred of businesses providing insurance and many times that number operating as online "broker" selling insurance and leads.

In 2006, the Association of British Insurers reported that 262 insurers sold long-term insurance.  Many of these solely dealt with long-term insurance, while some dealt with both long-term and general insurance.  The ABI recorded that independent financial advisors were the main vehicle of long-term insurance sales.Since the ABI report, growth of the number of comparison websites has exploded. 

These services have been used to sell general insurance for a long time.  And as they continue to grow and prosper, providers are broadening their reach to other products such as long-term insurance.  

The FSA noted the rapid growth of this product in its latest review of insurance- comparison websites.A life-insurance comparison website works like a shop front.  It collects your information and shows available policies but the ultimate decision and contract is made by a third party who is sold the lead. 

Just like a shop front they offer some products but not all of the available brands.  In fact some of the bigger insurers are not marketed through insurance comparison websites at all.So what is the process? Most comparison websites make a series of assumptions about the user before delivering a quote.  These assumptions many include age, occupation and hobby (all of these qualities have an influence on a policy).  

Many of the life-insurance sites do not provide real-time quotes.  Rather comparison websites send the information to an insurance company which contacts you about life-insurance policies, or they have their own brokers who contact you for more information.Very few of the sites that promote themselves as finding cheap general insurance offer to find clients cheap life insurance

The FSA noted that some sites struggled to service customers:    "Providing the ability to compare products is at the heart of what insurance comparison sites are trying to achieve. However, our review highlights that sites are achieving this with varying levels of success.""Sites comparing a limited number of features, and in particular where comparison is only on the basis of price, should explain to consumers in a clear and timely way that the products being compared may have different features, and that features, other than price, should be taken into account before purchasing a policy."There is no doubt that comparison websites benefit the consumer, by offering a platform where customers can compare the life-insurance policies of various companies. 

The advantage of this system is that customers do not need to invest a lot of time into information gathering and they are more likely to check a few offers before selecting one.Customers have easy access to other information on the comparison websites and also from authorities such as the FSA if they have any enquiries about a life-insurance quote.  These services help customers to bring more demands to the table when negotiating a policy.   The main disadvantage is that not all comparison sites have every product available in the market. 

Long-term insurance can be a complicated process which means a company may make very general assumptions about customers, or they will not be able to receive a quote instantly.  Instead customers receive a call or email from an insurance "broker" to discuss policies.Regardless of the method of quotes, by offering comparison services and regulatory information in the one place, the customer has the advantage in negotiating any insurance policy.

Tags: life-insurance policies | cheap life insurance | cheap life insurance | life-insurance quote | life-insurance quote | get life insurance | get life insurance

Demystifying Life Insurance

June 19th, 2008

You don’t have to look far into the life-insurance industry to realise the huge scale of the market.
Life insurance is a long-term insurance and with death being inevitable is it any wonder that this form of insurance contributes a large part to the insurance industry.
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) there were 262 businesses authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to conduct business in long-term insurance in 2006. 
In that year, a total £17 million was paid out in death benefits every day.
It is a huge industry in the UK and, as is often the case with important investments, people seeking life insurance can find it difficult to access the right information and the policies. 
The ABI figures show that independent financial advisors sold 63 per cent of long-term insurance policies.  Financial-advisor sales contributed 47 per cent of total long-term insurance sales only a decade earlier.
In most cases people trust financial advisors to demystify life-insurance matters.  But insurance is a subject that should be understood by the individual who takes out the policy.  It is the only way they can be sure they have policies that makes them comfortable.
There is any number of packages available but the two basic options for life insurance in the UK are term insurance and whole-of-life insurance.

Term Insurance

Term insurance is simply a policy that will pay out in the event of the policyholder’s death within a set timeframe.  If the insurance policy expires then there is no payout.  Policies of this nature can be negotiated for 5, 10, 15, 20… years. They are very flexible and the negotiation of terms is necessary.
Length of expiry is not only the terms that should be considered.  For example, term insurance can also be written under joint names so if one of the policyholder dies the other will receive the payout.
There are also many other issues to consider and the FSA provide a comprehensive list, some of the more important conditions to be agreed upon are flexibility, cost over the life of the policy and payout structure (lump sum or income). 
For example, some term policies have decreasing life term insurance were the policy is cheaper the closer it gets to expiration, some policies increase in cost the closer they get to expiration. 
These are the basics and it is important that anyone considering term insurance does their homework.

Whole-of-life Insurance   

This form of insurance is more expensive than term insurance because the policyholder will be covered until death and the beneficiary will receive the payment.  However, there is flexibility in the execution of the policy if the policyholder has a fatal illness they can get paid out early. 
This form of insurance is becoming more investment orientated, with policyholder allowed to manage policy as part of their investment strategy.  There are also tax considerations so it is important that when taking out a life-insurance policy, the policyholder discuss the ramifications of that decision with a financial advisor.

Where to get information?  

There was a time that customers went to a life insurance broker but after the Insurance Brokers (Registration) Act 1977 and subsequent regulation of long-term insurance by the Financial Services Authority the role of the insurance broker has changed and life insurance is no longer commonly offered by a general-insurance broker.
As the ABI figures show there is an increasing number of customers who are relying on financial advisor to manage their life insurance.
There is another change to the insurance market and that is online brokering.  The advantage of the online purchase of life insurance is obvious.  A customer is able to compare policy to find the right one for them.  Whether it is a low-cost life insurance or one with more flexible conditions, a customer is able to evaluate the different products quickly.
In the early days of online brokering of insurance there was a push from insurance companies to simply develop a presence on the web and the rest would look after itself.  The brokers, who used the web to sell to clients or provide leads for insurance companies, quickly followed suit.
Now online insurance brokers are much more customer drives with tools available to define the best life-insurance policy for their needs.  Many online insurance brokers also provide a glossary of terms so that customers can better understand the policies they are interested in purchasing.

Even with the increase of consumer focus in the online insurance industry, a buyer should not blindly accept conditions and recommendations of an online broker but also seek out professional advice when decided on a policy.
This information is also available online.  The FSA provide information on what a people should consider when deciding on a policy.

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