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'This is about collaborating to move the industry forward' - Claire Ginnelly on Vitality's new intermediary board

Published: 15/01/2024

We sat down with Claire Ginnelly, industry expert and chair of Vitality’s Health Intermediary Advisory Board, to hear how Vitality is collaborating with advisers to tackle the issues they’re facing and deliver sustainable healthcare fit for the rapidly changing PMI landscape.

The UK has seen significant growth in private medical insurance (PMI) demand in recent years, driven by ongoing pressures facing the NHS and shifting consumer attitudes to private healthcare.

As we move into 2024, there are both challenges and opportunities for the PMI market as we tackle rising demand and ensure the continued sustainability of healthcare provision.

We caught up with Claire Ginnelly (pictured below) to discuss how Vitality’s Health Intermediary Advisory Board is helping to drive greater collaboration and opportunities for engagement with advisers. We also reflected on the past 12 months in the PMI market and looked at what’s in store for the year ahead.

How did the Health Intermediary Advisory Board first come about?

“In Autumn 2022, Vitality contacted me to discuss chairing the newly formed Health Intermediary Advisory Board. This would be made up of a cross-section of intermediaries, representing the whole market from individual to corporate PMI.

“Given the growing demand for PMI and the importance of intermediated sales, Vitality was keen to listen to issues facing advisers and to understand how they can work better to support them and their clients.

“The forum would be an opportunity to create a space where issues could be discussed openly and honestly, in a more intimate setting. Vitality felt there was a perception that insurers don’t always listen to advisers and so were keen to demonstrate that wasn’t the case.”

How has adviser feedback helped shape the agenda of the Board?

“Prior to the first meeting in November 2022, I conducted research with Advisory Board members. The aim was to understand any concerns from advisers and get their honest opinions across all aspects of the Vitality proposition. This covered everything from product, pricing and service standards.

“The findings from this adviser research were then used to form an agenda for the Board meetings, held quarterly throughout the year.

“The aim was to cover each topic and at the end of the year be able to demonstrate that the issues raised had been addressed.”

What initial feedback did you get from the board?

“One of the consistent messages from advisers was a desire for more communications around PMI product benefits or information around clinical issues.

“There was a recognition as well from advisers that the Vitality proposition is unique in the market in offering a comprehensive programme of rewards and benefits, centred around prevention and behaviour change, but that this has to be balanced with consumer awareness of the insurance aspect of the proposition.

“I’m sure advisers will have been pleased with the approach to the latest Vitality Health Business Update, emphasising the proposition changes and enhancements that help to strengthen the PMI offering.” 

How has the board tackled consumer value as well as cost sustainability?

“Given the ongoing economic challenges and with people’s budgets tightened, a big concern raised by advisers was how products could demonstrate continued value and balance rising costs.

“Since the pandemic, consumers and employers understand the importance of health and wellbeing more than ever. PMI therefore is expanding to deliver far more healthcare benefits beyond just traditional private hospital care.

“This is especially the case with Vitality, given the focus on wellbeing, prevention, and more everyday healthcare benefits. The board discussed how this approach to PMI can help to not only unlock better value for consumers, but also better health outcomes and actually, in the long run, reduce costs.”

“With sustainability of PMI a key issue for the industry, particularly balancing premiums with rising claims and increasing operational costs, the evolving role of PMI and consumer value are therefore all closely interlinked.

“Vitality has set out to the Advisory Board various measures to address these issues. These include a more integrated approach to delivering healthcare benefits, as well as streamlining claims processes and making it easier for people to claim through more digitisation.

“Although I don’t think they would suggest they’ve arrived at the end point on this, the opportunity to discuss their thoughts with the market via the Board has certainly made it easier for Vitality to achieve it.”

What is the outlook for 2024?

“2024 looks like it is going to be a challenging year. The whole insurance industry is seeing increased premiums and for PMI in particular, medical inflation and increased claims incidence and continued demand is certainly going to create pressure.

“I’ll be conducting more adviser research with Board members again in January and I’m sure pricing and cost pressures will feature heavily. I expect sustainability to be another big issue as well, as we see the role of PMI expanding and claims increasing.

“Through the Board, Vitality wants to work closely with advisers in ensuring products continue to demonstrate fair value for their clients and deliver good outcomes, especially in the new Consumer Duty environment.

“Again, I’ll be using the adviser research findings to help shape the agenda for 2024, whilst also comparing against last year’s findings. This will help to see which objectives have been met and where improvements have been made, and what work is still to do.

“We’ll also be using the Board to discuss and take feedback on a variety of themes such as product developments and marketing communications.”

Any final thoughts?

“When I first started my role as Chairperson for the Board, it became clear Vitality wants to be recognised as an insurer that truly listens to advisers and works more closely with them.

“It appreciated there was sometimes a mismatch with how they were perceived by advisers, versus the enhancements they’ve made to the overall proposition. Although I think there is lots more work to do – a statement I’m sure Vitality would agree with – I’m pleased with the progress made so far.

“I’m looking forward to continuing the close industry collaboration the Board has successfully achieved last year and helping to strengthen the relationship with advisers going into 2024.”

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