Stepped vs level premium trauma cover
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Stepped vs level premium trauma cover

Are you still recommending stepped premium trauma cover to your clients? I was too, until my light bulb moment in 2007.

For 15 years between 1992 and 2007, I – like most advisers – was recommending stepped premiums to my clients for their trauma cover. After all, it was hard enough already to get clients to take out another product on top of their existing income protection, term and TPD cover without raising the bar even higher by increasing the upfront cost.

Then, one day in 2007, I attended a two-day living insurance conference organised by The Risk Store in Sydney. One of the sessions in the first day ended up making a huge difference to myself, my consultancy and my clients in the most positive way possible.

The presenter of the session in question was a gentleman by the name of Nick Kirwan, who was at the time the head of the Association of British Insurers, and he was talking about trauma cover in the UK. He informed us that in the UK, 25 per cent of the working population owned trauma cover. This completely blew me away as only approximately 2.5 per cent of the working population owned trauma cover at that time in Australia. I thought maybe he had gotten the decimal point in the wrong place and decided to confirm what I had heard.

During the morning break, I caught up with Nick and said, “That stat that you gave of 25 per cent of the working population owning trauma cover in the UK ... that’s pretty amazing, given it’s only about 2.5 per cent here in Australia. Tell me, what is the status of stepped vs level premiums when it comes to trauma cover in the UK?”

Nick looked at me as if I was from another planet and said, “What’s a stepped premium?” It turned out that they didn’t have stepped premiums in the UK. In fact, they didn’t even have level premiums as we know it. They only had guaranteed premiums i.e. once you had the cover in place, the premium was guaranteed not to increase for the life of the policy.


I immediately thought to myself, “Well, of course 25 per cent of the working population in the UK own trauma cover, because everyone who bought it in their 30s and 40s have still got it in their 50s and 60s as they are still paying the same amount of money for it.”

I realised that from that moment on I would have to recommend level premiums as the preferred mode of premium payment to all of my future clients irrespective of age and, furthermore, I had to go back to all of my existing clients who were paying stepped premiums for their trauma cover and recommend that they switch to level premiums.

As far as the clients I took on after that 2007 light bulb moment are concerned, the majority of them own some or all their trauma cover on a sustainable basis i.e. level premium, and I’m proud to say that all of my existing clients at that time converted at least some, if not all, of their trauma cover to level premiums. How much they converted was only ever a matter of affordability, with many clients opting for a smaller sum, assured that was sustainable to age 65 or 70 rather than a larger sum that they would have to abandon in the short term due to its unaffordability.

Chris Unwin is the founder and chief executive of Chris Unwin Training & Consulting Services

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