Posts Tagged ‘Financial Services’
I’m concerned about the recent delay in setting rules for the medical loss ratio (MLR) provision of health reform. With the implementation set for January 1, 2011 there is not much time for health insurers to develop their plans for next year.
Under the health reform rules, insurers are required to spend 85 percent on medical care for every premium dollar received from group plans, and 80 percent for premiums received from small group and individual plans. HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services) is charged with managing the development of the rules and guidelines. It has asked NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) for their recommendations on how to calculate and implement the MLR requirement. They have missed their target of June 30, 2010 to have rules in place. In their defense, it is complicated.
Because of the delay, a political fight is developing over the issue. Senator Al Franken is calling for vigilance to make sure the insurance industry doesn’t define medical expense as everything that is not profit. He has cited the recent announcement by Wellpoint to reclassify $500 million in administrative expenses such as health and wellness, nurse hotline, smoking cessation and weight loss programs as medical.
I’ve noticed in Comperemedia a recent letter to Assurant producers notifying them that, because of the uncertainty of the MLR rules, Assurant will reserve the right to change commissions for next year and is placing a temporary limit on first year commissions. With this uncertainty stretching well into next year’s planning cycle, I’m wondering if it is more than simply constraining planning or if it is having a material affect? More importantly, has the concern about MLR’s impact on commissions caused policy sales to slow?
Like all parents I teach my kids to always tell the truth. Honesty is important. Very important. At the most basic level, if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about remembering what you said. On another level, if you always tell the truth, then people will trust you in the future, accepting your word at face value. And of course, it’s nice to be able to look yourself in the mirror at night and know you did the right thing.
The media headlines these days are filled with tales of corporate dishonesty. The list is long, and the transgressions differ. But it all boils down to the same thing…important people who wielded an incredible amount of power have lied. Bernie Madoff. Eliot Spitzer. Jeffery Skilling. Kenneth Lay. Arthur Anderson. And for those of you in the tri-state area, Eddie Antar.
These days corporations seem to disclose things in itty bitty print buried in a revised terms and conditions document. My bank did this to me recently. They started charging me for online banking. (I mean seriously. They WANT me to do online banking. It makes me a loyal customer, remember?) I am sure they sent me a notice that I missed somehow.
Regardless, I don’t feel like they looked me in the eye and stated, “Susan, based on the type of checking account you have, we must charge you $4.95 per month to pay your bills online.” Turns out that the type of account that I opened, about 8 mergers ago, was no longer available and wasn’t eligible for free online bill pay.
However, based on my activity, and my relationship with my bank, I do qualify for free online bill payment. The bank had to “upgrade” the type of account I had, which from my perspective meant that they just had to change the name of the account. I’d feel much better about my bank if they had more proactively reached out to me and suggested some changes. Honestly.
Perhaps if banks would clearly and simply state what they are doing, customers would trust them more. After all, isn’t it about the customer?
Thank you to everyone who listened in to my webinar yesterday (July 22): “Beyond the New Normal: The Financial Services Consumer in Today’s Economy.”
I really enjoy presenting Mintel Comperemedia’s information on how people are reacting and changing their habits due to the economy of the last couple years. Many of you asked questions related to consumer trust, which I think is an excellent topic for banks and other financial institutions to think about right now.
If you missed the webinar, you can access the slides and recording here:
Here are my answers to some of the questions we didn’t get to yesterday:
Q. Is there somewhere that all of the statistics are posted? Some were mentioned that were not on the slides.
A. Please contact your account manager with specific requests for data. I will also be posting some data points from the presentation on the blog over the next few days. If you are not a Mintel Comperemedia client, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about subscribing.
Q. There seems to be a lot of contradictory information – consumers don’t want a relationship with a bank, but that’s the only way we’ll attract customers. If we need to build trust, how specifically do bank marketers do that?
A. Actually…customers DO want a relationship with banks and other financial services companies. I could write a book (actually several books) on different ways that companies could build trust with their customers, but it begins with a longer term focus, rather short-term strategies designed to maximize quarterly earnings, as well as openness with customers – being forthcoming with information about what to expect from the relationship.
As I mentioned during the webinar, it is not necessarily the fees themselves that are the problem, for example. Instead, the problem is that customers feel like banks are being unfair or even “sneaky” about how they charge fees to their customers. Same thing for privacy and the use of personal information.
The best way to think about it is to think about what factors into maintaining a long-term friendship, since customers are looking for the same things from a personal relationship as from a business relationship.
Q. What was meant by “control” in the characteristics people expect from banks?
A. We didn’t define the concept of control when we asked about the 12 attributes. That would actually be a good focus for future studies – to break down those attributes even further to gain an even better understanding of how customers define “trust”.
The question(s) as they were asked were:
“Thinking about what it means to ‘trust’ another person (financial services company), please indicate on a scale of 1-5 how important each of the following is in establishing that trust”
Top 6 for both:
Bottom 6 or both:
Reciprocity (receiving an equal or greater amount in return)
Q. Where will lower income customers turn for credit, given that alternative lenders (e.g., payday, auto title) are increasingly scrutinized?
A. Lower income customers have definitely borne much of the burden of the declining availability of credit. The regulatory changes will probably only exacerbate that situation. This is a huge market, however, and eventually (as always happens), new ways of mitigating risk, or new ways of offering credit that to these segments that have regulatory approval, will appear.
One way that this market may open up again is through the use of better risk assessment tools – above and beyond the traditional Fico or other type of risk score. That would allow lower income customers, who are not necessarily higher risk, to have access to credit because lenders will have better and more detailed ways of assessing credit worthiness.
Q. How do you see Bank of America’s move to eliminate ODP (overdraft protection) fees in the context of your presentation?
A. One of the best marketing moves a bank can make is to be proactive about eliminating or restricting something ahead of the game. It is a tremendous differentiation strategy that helps establish trust. The same is true for entire industries.
About three years ago I wrote a piece for the Mintel Oxygen website titled “Self regulate or be regulated,” suggesting that the credit card industry, which has historically suffered from a tremendous lack of consumer trust, might want to be proactive in limiting fees across the industry to improve general perceptions of the entire industry. That of course never happened, and sure enough, the CARD Act has accomplished much of that restriction of fees for them.
The result? People are still highly distrustful of credit card companies/issuers/networks, and their fees have been restricted anyway. It might have been better to get ahead of the game and at least have the additional bonus of somewhat improved customer relations.
This relates to my points about a short-term focus on quantifiable returns, rather than the longer term focus on building a relationship that improves perceptions of a brand.