That is, according to Andrew Apps, Head of Global Healthcare at Bellwood Prestbury, when we asked why do global brokers, agents, intermediaries and independent financial advisers choose not to sell international private medical insurance?, at a recent IPMI broker round table.
The Round Table Business Forum spoke to leading IPMI C-suite executives at the heart of global PMI about IPMI distribution trends and how brokers may benefit by adding IPMI to their product portfolio.
Aetna International, Generali Global Health, HealthCare International and Wellaway also had expert IPMI broker advice for those seeking IPMI market entry.
The dialog was as follows:
Question: In your own opinion, why do brokers, agents, intermediaries and independent financial advisers choose not to sell international private medical insurance?
Andrew Apps, Bellwood Prestbury: As an increasing number of governments around the globe move to make medical insurance an integral part of the visa application process (no insurance, no visa), the demand for international private medical insurance (iPMI) has never been greater and there are no signs of this changing any time soon. So why is it that so many brokers choose not to sell iPMI? Part of the problem is perhaps fear of the unknown. A fear of local country regulations. A fear of something different.
The reality however can be very different if you work with the International PMI insurers. They have the knowledge and the experience you might need when facing issues, at least to begin with - with a little patience it won’t take long to become an expert so long as you follow a few basic rules:
- Just because it happens in the UK, doesn’t mean that it happens overseas.
- Never be afraid to ask a question of the insurers, no matter how silly it might seem. They want to help.
- Keep focused on your target market – don’t try to be something you’re not.
- There are some big schemes out there and it’s easy to become embroiled in a ‘bun fight’ with the local market brokers.
- Start small, get to know your limitations and look closer to home – the chances are that a number of your UK clients have staff working overseas and need international PMI cover, so start with these and grow you business organically as you learn.
Damian Lenihan, Aetna International: Compliance and training are two common reasons that prevent brokers from selling IPMI products.
Brokers can be concerned about falling foul of regulations in different jurisdictions when writing business overseas. Mis-selling and potential problems with client policies are additional risks that need to be managed.
Lack of familiarity with IPMI causes indecision about where to start, creating barriers to brokers entering the market. Other product lines may be seen as an easier option with IPMI often viewed as a more specialist form of insurance.
Stuart Leatherby, Generali Global Health: There are several reasons why selling IPMI can be problematic for brokers.
IPMI is much more complex than some other products advisers deal with and has many legal ambiguities, particularly when it comes to such things as portability. It’s also more expensive than domestic PMI and the extra cost requires justification. This means acquiring good product knowledge so that the differences and merits of IPMI over domestic PMI plans can be explained. This makes the selling of this product far less transactional than others.
Regulation is also a barrier. Each country has its own regulatory framework. This makes it difficult to determine where and how a product can be legally sold. And in certain countries, brokers need a specific license or permit to advise on and sell health insurance products.
Steve Gregory, HealthCare International: Based on conversations we’ve had with brokers I believe it’s a combination of factors. I think not understanding the market and concerns about the perceived regulatory risks play a part - and these are perfectly understandable concerns even if they are reasonably easily overcome. But equally some brokers have no great interest in branching out into something new. These brokers will often have an arrangement to refer clients who need IPMI to a colleague who specializes in this market. And then there are the brokers who have either not realized what a good opportunity this market presents to them or who simply don’t know where to start. These are obviously the brokers we try to focus our attention on because we can help them get into this market.
Griselle Chernys, Wellaway: This is not our experience our brokers sell our products.
ON THE FRONT COVER: Our intrepid traveller returns with a new business idea: an IPMI brokerage firm. Will he succeed, pass go, collect two hundred pounds or go bust and end up closing down due to BREXIT?
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