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Scott Cadger


Written by Scott Cadger, Head of Claims and Underwriting Strategy, Scottish Widows.


It’s over 35 years since Dr Marius Barnard devised the first protection insurance, initially named ‘Dread Disease,’ which he developed having seen first-hand the financial implications his patients suffered following a serious illness. We were honoured to have worked closely with Marius to develop our own critical illness cover, and while sadly Marius is no longer with us, we made him a promise to safeguard his vision of creating accessible, affordable Critical Illness cover to support our customers when they need it most.

Challenges in the market over the last few years haven’t always made this an easy promise to deliver.  Product terms & conditions have become longer and more complex, making it less easy for customers to understand what they are covered for and when to claim. Considering that less than one in 10 (9%) people in the UK have critical illness cover*, we need to do everything we can to make what’s seen as a complex product easier to understand.  

Our Protection Director, Gary Burchett, sets out a clear direction in his article that we’re continuing to focus on the things that matter to our customers. One of these was a clear commitment to ensuring simplicity in our product and the language that we use.  I’m proud to say that the recent refresh of our critical illness cover delivers on this, and our promise to Marius.

In this refresh, we’ve concentrated on refining the definitions we receive most claims on while also adding in extra elements to ensure the cover is as comprehensive as possible.  This in turn will make it easier to talk about critical illness cover with your clients and explain the breadth of protection on offer.

What’s changed?

– Simplified conditions - we’ve combined some conditions and grouped 30 main conditions under 5 easy to understand headings and visualised these through the image of the body (PDF 2MB): Senses, Heart & Arteries, Organs, Brain & Neurological, and Cancer

  • A quick and simple way for clients to see what they’re covered for
  • Engaging imagery being used in product literature to display what’s covered
  • By combining definitions we’re cutting down on lengthy literature for your clients to review

– New condition - we’ve added heart failure as a new full definition. Whilst we already cover heart attack and cardiomyopathy which may lead to heart failure, there are lots of causes. By adding this new definition we are making cover for heart related conditions more comprehensive given it is one of the most common reasons for claim.

– Additional conditions - we’ve added 4 new additional conditions, providing pay-outs of up to £30k, to ensure our cover is as comprehensive as possible.

– Widened the scope - we’ve made changes to existing definitions which will increase the likelihood of a pay out at claim stage, for example widened the scope of cardiomyopathy, reduced the deafness decibel criteria, included criteria to cover spinal aneurysm and included thoracotomy within structural heart surgery.

– Children’s Cover - we’ve removed the wording “financially dependent on you” to avoid any ambiguity when it comes to making a claim. We’ve also increased the maximum pay-out for Children’s Cover from £25k to £30k.

– Booster payment - if you are 45 or under and are diagnosed with certain Neurological illnesses, we will pay 150% of the amount of your current cover.

– Advanced payments - we will make an advanced payment of the current amount of cover you have if you are on an official UK waiting list for surgery for specific illnesses.

While we’ve already made great strides in simplifying our underwriting and claims processes, as well as our online journey with the launch of the Adviser Dashboard last year, these changes are the latest in our commitment to embedding simplicity across our whole protection offering.

In addition, our new literature using a simple visual approach to explaining the 5 main headings covered by the product will be a great way to start the conversation about the benefits of critical illness cover with your client.

But we won’t stop here and are continuing to look at ways we can make critical illness cover and financial protection in general simpler for customers to understand and access.  For the time being though, I’m really proud of our latest development and that we’re delivering on our promise to Marius.

*Scottish Widows Research, 2018

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