TAL general manager for retail distribution Niall McConville speaks with Risk Adviser about the benefits of tele-interviewing and how the insurer is encouraging advisers to use the service.
Advisers in the past have been against the idea of using tele-interviewing in their business. Why should advisers consider using the service?
Some are still [against it]. A couple of years ago when tele-interviewing started to get a bit of traction in the market place [and] the life offices didn't do it all that well, some of their clients might not have had the best experience. But we have become a lot better at it now and the experience for clients is a lot better, and advisers are starting to trust life insurance companies more to do their tele-interviewing. For some [advisers] it is a part of their process and it is how they develop a relationship with their client, so it's a really important part of it – so to let that go, it's a trust thing. But our tele- interviewing is growing, it is about 20 per cent to 25 per cent of all the business that we are writing today. As an example, in July we would have done about 4,200 applications for the month via the adviser channel and just over a thousand of that was through tele-interviewing. In August it was about 970 advisers coming on board.
There are a lot of benefits to it. The client experience is much better now and I think that is across the industry – different insurers are at different stages of the tele-interview evolution, but not everyone is in it yet.
When did TAL start focusing on tele-interviewing?
We've had it for years. I am pretty sure that when I came to TAL, five years ago, we had a form of tele-interviewing, but the take-up wasn't great. In the last couple of years we have put a real focus on it. We have grown the [tele-interviewing] team quite considerably as well as demand has grown.
What developments is TAL making around the tele-interviewing space at the moment?
At the moment, the adviser fills in the application form up to the personal statement then we take over. We are looking to evolve that to fill in more and more of the application process so the adviser, for want of a better word, can pass the client off a bit earlier. I’d like us to get to the stage where the adviser can decide what we do. I think advisers are looking for more efficiencies out of their business, and tele-interview is one way [to achieve that].
It is not going to be for every client 100 per cent of the time – but it's about options. It's good for clients who are time-poor. We do interviews up until 8pm and we've now got a tele-interviewer in Perth, who has been with us for six months. We used to only have the eastern seaboard covered, so clients in WA could only do it up until 2pm. But now we have someone over there and we are looking to recruit more people into tele-interviewing, and we will hopefully start to put them on into different states.
Are there any concerns that there might be a bit of growth in non-disclosure among some clients? I know a lot of clients feel more inclined to be truthful when they are face-to-face with an adviser, but when talking to an insurer they may not.
No, I am not worried about that. I think it would be ridiculous to say that there will be no non-disclosure, and people don’t always knowingly non-disclose; sometimes people just don’t disclose and forget. But because we position it where we call you and book in a time and have a check list, it gives people the opportunity to think about it. I don’t think there are any issues of non-disclosure.
I have heard some advisers might be concerned that clients will over-disclose at the application stage and then that will have an impact on them getting the cover in the first place. Clients should disclose everything. We ask the same questions that the advisers ask. I understand that advisers have said that it is a worry for them, but I don’t see it as a worry myself and we are now doing a substantial amount of tele-interviewing and we generally get fantastic feedback. I am not saying it is perfect – it never is – but, generally, it's a good experience for us, the client and the adviser.
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