ADVO Group interviews Caroline Jordan, Director, Universal Provident

 

Universal Provident is a leading insurer that prides itself of being able to act quickly in the marketplace and provides protection across a wide range of areas. In the latest of our exclusive interview series, Universal Provident’s Director, Caroline Jordan talks to us about the predicted future trends for the industry, how the company has evolved and much more!

About Universal Provident

Universal Provident has been offering individual and corporate private medical insurance via intermediaries since 1994. It also offers income protection, MPPI, dental, travel, and long term disability insurance, plus Oasis, a hybrid medical expenses, critical illness and hospital cash plan.

Universal Provident is part of Personal Group, a leading provider of employee benefits and financial services, which provides benefits for 1.2m employees. It is quoted on AIM and as at 31st December 2011 the group had a consolidated balance sheet value of £33.37m (and a market capitalisation of £78.2m.). In 2011 it made a pre-tax profit of 10m on revenues of £27.5m.

What is it that makes Universal Provident unique?

One of only two companies to routinely share claims statistics with authorised intermediaries on request.

The first (and only) PMI provider to publish a breakdown of declined claims statistics and the reasons behind them.

All products (except MPPI and Travel) are underwritten in-house, which gives us greater control and flexibility.

A policy of paying up to the greater of 110% WPA and 130% BUPA fee scale, which means less chance of a shortfall than with many other providers.

Level commission of 15% (group business) and 22.5% (individual business), net of IPT, means we pay more than most providers over 3 years and all providers over 4 years (assuming other providers’ standard commission rates).

What direction or increased specialisation do you see Universal Provident taking in the future? What are the future plans for the company?

We are looking to enhance relationships with the intermediary market, a focus cemented by the recent appointment of Business Development Manager Christine Liggins. We have made some product enhancements recently with the launch of new modules, to include an EAP and Nurse Support service for those on claim, and there is much more to come in Q2 and Q3 2012!

 

Being a part of a smaller insurer (than perhaps some of our competitors) means we can react to things very quickly, get decisions made instantly and improvements put in motion in a short space of time

 

What future trends do you see emerging for the health insurance industry in the UK?

On the one hand, increasing cost pressures in the NHS represent a market opportunity for PMI. Equally, medical inflation will make it increasingly expensive for private middle income individuals. We therefore envisage increased penetration amongst the upper end of the income scale, but growing interest in products that provide more affordable cover elsewhere. These will include ‘waiting period’ policies, such as our own Choices A2, and major medical expenses policies.

What does your typical day at Universal Provident involve?

One of the best things is that no two days are ever alike!

Negotiating with reinsurers regarding product enhancements is a key element, presenting fresh ideas at Board level, fully interactive team meetings and recruitment may feature, to name but a few.

What part of your role at Universal Provident gives you the most satisfaction?

Being a part of a smaller insurer (than perhaps some of our competitors) means we can react to things very quickly, get decisions made instantly and improvements put in motion in a short space of time, which is very rewarding to be part of and to witness the results.  We still have the buying power of a large group, through other parts of our business, which we have been able to capitalise on to improve the UP offering.  For example, we have been able to add on the full EAP module at a fraction of the cost of other providers, creating further value for our members.

Universal Provident has operated since 1994. How has the company evolved over that time? Has the focus of the business shifted to any different or new areas or markets over that time?

In the early days UP sold most of its business either through Berkeley Morgan IFA group (its then parent) or directly. In recent years we have not sought direct business and now transact the overwhelming majority of our business through brokers and IFAs. Sales of MortgageCare (our MPPI product) have unsurprisingly reduced, whilst our new Oasis product has recently been launched.

Universal Provident has quite a comprehensive product range. What are some of the key policies you offer?

Choices Corporate and Individual (our PMI products). These constitute the vast majority of our new business.

DentalCare – our corporate and individual dental insurance plan.

TravellersCare – our corporate and individual travel insurance policy.

LivingCare – a long term disability care insurance product.

Oasis  – a hybrid product containing elements of critical illness, major medical expenses and a hospital cash plan.

How much business do you place through intermediaries?

99% of our new business comes via intermediaries. Occasionally individuals will approach us having come across our website or having heard about us through other parts of our group. We do not carry out direct marketing.

How do you envisage intermediaries helping Universal Provident increase market share?

We have a quick turnaround on quotes and pride ourselves on a good standard of service, so please feel free to put us to the test!  We have been paying level commission for years and with the advent of the RDR there is a move towards this on other financial products, so we believe we are ahead of the game on this. Our level commission means better sustainability of business for both intermediaries and ourselves, a stance recognized by PruHealth when they made the move last year.

Caroline Jordan: pictured below

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