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Game-changer? The term is often bandied about but almost as often reality fails to match expectation. But this time the game could be about to change – read on.

Modern consumers looking to buy insurance are sure to check out the Internet. A good place to start might be a comparison site where one can get quotes from multiple insurers and then buy on line. The process for, say, motor insurance can take less than 15 minutes – although one might want to spend a bit longer reviewing the options and confirming one’s choice.

However, if the modern consumer then thought about buying life, critical illness or disability insurance in the same, way then disappointment would beckon. While ‘quick quotes’ (based on age, product, smoker status etc) from a handful of insurers would be available, these would only be indicative, and subject to a formal on-line application process – which for obvious reasons may well deliver a final price higher than the original.

The same applies to an agent or broker working on behalf of a client, although the professional adviser can usually apply some years of experience and nowadays can use specialist tools in order to get a realistic idea of what terms are available from which carrier. But whether a consumer goes it alone or in the company of an adviser, neither pathway leads straightforwardly to a guaranteed offer that can be taken up there and then.

That is until now. In the UK a firm called UnderwriteMe is offering a comparison service for life and disability insurance. Via a portal. brokers or consumers can obtain firm quotes from multiple insurers based on the actual characteristics of the risk. Which means instant buying, no need to go right through each insurer’s process, much less time and effort and one customer journey.

UnderwriteMe says that its proposition:

  • Provides producers and consumers with a single journey across all insurers
  • Gives estimated and final prices with no re-keying on any device
  • Contains an adviser menu of products and insurers
  • Enables insurers to differentiate, in addition to price, on straight-through processing rates, product specification and market segmentation.

So far, six insurers have signed up and the service recently went live. A few others are looking to come on line but not all insurers like the idea. The service adds cost. There are systems integration issues, and how underwriting philosophy and process stack up against those of competitors is plain to see. Some insurers feel they are big enough and strong enough not to need to join the party.

In an industry where genuine change doesn’t come along very often this has the potential to be interestingly disruptive. Will it grow the protection market and close the fabled protection gap? It’s impossible to say at this stage. The concept would not appear to work in any environment, including ones in which underwriting outcomes are based on medical exams and lab test results. But in a world in which there is an increasing emphasis on direct-to-consumer dealing and simplified underwriting using automation, predictive analytics and the like, it seems like rather a good idea.

It could work anywhere, not just in the UK. We will be observing developments with interest.