Exeter Family Friendly is a multi award winning insurer with accolades such as being named ‘best customer service PMI provider’ by Which magazine. In our exclusive interview with Andy Chapman, the company’s CEO, we discover the company’s plans for the future, what running a company like Exeter Family Friendly entails and much more!
What is it that makes Exeter Family Friendly unique?
We do things a bit differently and are happy to talk about it. In an industry where you can barely tell one product, provider or policy document from another, we want to stand out.
Our simple, approach to product design means our customers and advisers know where they stand and they trust us to deliver.
What direction or increased specialisation do you see Exeter Family Friendly taking in the future? What are the future plans for the company?
Exeter Family Friendly has enjoyed great success and organic growth over recent years and we want to see that continue. We have forged some strong and robust relationships with advisers who seem to like what we’re about.
These relationships are fundamental to our success. We have asked advisers to play an important role in our development, by engaging with them on product development and service enhancement. I’m glad to say that the feedback we have received along the way has helped us sculpt what we’re about today.
What does that mean for our plans going forward? Quite simply, as an adviser focused insurer we will keep communicating and asking how we can improve what we do to deliver better outcomes for customers and better sales and relationships for advisers. After all, as advisers you are the real experts at the coalface, dealing with customers on a day-to-day basis.
|In 2012, I just don’t think it is acceptable to the general public for insurers to deliver complex and confusing plans, riddled with internal limits that leave them lacking in confidence and belief|
What future trends do you see emerging for the UK health insurance industry?
I think customers will continue to demand for more from insurers, for greater clarity, understanding and responsibility. In 2012, I just don’t think it is acceptable to the general public for insurers to deliver complex and confusing plans, riddled with internal limits that leave them lacking in confidence and belief.
From an insurer perspective, there are a number of challenges that may influence how the market evolves. Medical advances and improvements will continue to put pressure on claims costs and premiums, so insurers need to work hard to manage premium inflation, something I’m glad to say we have done successfully over recent years.
The changing landscape in the NHS will continue to drive further change in customer needs and therefore the industry. As the government and health reforms re-define the role of the NHS, consumers will need different things from PMI to help support and supplement the service. What does this mean for us? We need to be better at providing more flexible solutions that can be easily built to meet an individuals needs. However, it’s vital that flexible doesn’t mean complex.
What does your typical day at Exeter Family Friendly involve?
In a fast moving business like ours, there isn’t really any typical day; each can present a new challenge.
I’m glad to still be a pretty hands-on CEO, so I may be involved in a product development meeting, looking at the numbers with our Finance Director and Actuaries or reviewing our communications to make sure we are doing the right things by our customers.
Equally, my background in sales and marketing means that I’m never too far away from the sales statistics!
What part of your role at Exeter Family Friendly gives you the most satisfaction?
We’re lucky to be part of an industry that can make a really profound and positive impact on people’s lives.
The greatest satisfaction in my role undoubtedly comes from reading or receiving the thanks from happy customers, who couldn’t be more appreciative of our support in difficult times. Health is so important to us all, yet we often don’t appreciate it until our health takes a turn for the worse. To be able to help people through these difficulties is incredibly rewarding.
Exeter Family Friendly has experience going back an amazing 100 years. What do you see as being some of the milestones and key moments of change in direction or focus over this expansive period of time?
Over the years there have obviously been a huge amount of changes, which have had a massive impact on what we do.
Perhaps the most important development was the formation of the NHS in 1948. This obviously had a major effect on our business and the service we provide our members, as it did for all PMI providers. The NHS now forms an important part of our psyche in the UK and a massive part of our thinking as an insurer.
Equally important but over half a century earlier, one man played an important role in the development of the other side of the business, income protection.
George Holloway was a mill owner in Gloucestershire and is credited as the first man to develop the concept of income protection, for his own workers. This evolved over the years and led to the foundation of a number of Friendly Societies, including Pioneer with whom Exeter Friendly merged in 2008.
What are also some of the key changes and developments that have happened in a more contemporary sense, over the last few years or so?
In terms of recent history, two milestones immediately spring to mind.
Firstly, the launch of the Exeter Family Friendly brand in 2010, which was completed on the back of months (if not years!) of hard work in bringing two businesses together (after the merger with Pioneer) and a lot of research, product and service development. That was the moment that realised my vision of an integrated healthcare and protection insurer, one that remains unique today.
Secondly, the decision we made to focus solely on distribution through intermediaries again during 2010 is a key milestone and marker in our success today. Having previously sold both direct and through advisers, this helped us to rationalise and focus what we were about as a business. Equally, despite our products being some of the simplest available, they are still very much sold rather than bought.
Exeter Family Friendly has picked up some major industry awards. Were any of these particularly special or meaningful to receive?
Every award is special, particularly if voted for by advisers or customers; it makes it even more satisfying to receive praise from those people you serve and strive to deliver for.
I would struggle to pick out just one, so I would say being awarded both the Cover Excellence Award for the best PMI provider and the Health Insurance Award as the best income protection provider during 2011 comes to mind.
Firstly, for Exeter Family Friendly to be chosen ahead of household names such as Aviva and Axa really proves that advisers like what we stand for. Both awards were confirmation that our commitment to engaging with and listening to intermediaries was working and to achieve both in the same year, each praising a different aspect of our business indicates that we consistently deliver.
However, I am equally as proud of our being voted the best customer service PMI provider by the readers of Which consumer magazine. Even though it wasn’t an award as such, it was equally important recognition for us and our staff that work so hard day in, day out to make sure that our customers receive the service they expect.
What social media sites can Exeter Family Friendly be found on? What type of company or industry news can we expect to find here?
You can follow us on Twitter (@exeterfamily) and we are about to launch a new blog where you can get a bit more opinion and in depth discussion, we have too much to say to be limited to just 140 characters.
To read or sign up to the blog, just go to http://blog.exeterfamily.co.uk/ to follow our thoughts.
Do you believe brokers are embracing Exeter Family Friendly’s offering as much as you would like?
The feedback we get from advisers and sales have been very positive, so we’re delighted in the response so far, but are we satisfied? In a word, no.
I have a very ambitious and challenging vision for this business. As such we want to keep pushing; asking advisers analyse what we offer and how we’re different to the other insurers they deal with.
If we communicate effectively and continue to hone and develop our products and service in line with the feedback we receive, I’m confident we will achieve what we want. Which in turn will give advisers what they want, a credible, specialist alternative to the major brands.
Exeter Family Friendly is here to minimise the cost and impact of ill health for our customers and their families. We do this through our range of straightforward, innovative private medical and income protection insurance plans.
We know that insurance can be complex and frustrating, but we’re a bit different. We design simple plans, described in clear, everyday language because we want our customers and advisers to understand exactly what they are and aren’t covered for; the last thing we want is any nasty surprises at claim.
We’ve been going since 1927, but have links back as far as 1888 so we have years and years of experience in our field. Above all else this experience, together with our mutual status brings home the importance of delivering a seamless, yet personalised service to all of our customers and advisers. If you deal with Exeter Family Friendly, we want you to feel like your dealing with real people, not faceless call centres or automated call options.