Comment: An attractive proposition

Unisex rates and the gender directive could be a shot in the arm for protection

Start collecting names and personal phone numbers of younger female clients and prospective clients this very instant. Don't leave it a second more. Whether you are an insurer, a specialist protection IFA or a general broker advising on life cover or motor, you can do yourself a lot of good with this list of suitably attractive women.

Now before female partners start to get worried, male partners think you are changing sexual orientation or the editor of Health Insurance reaches for his censorship pencil, this is not some pervy article on how to find and chat up women (that's a shame - ed.).

Sorry to disappoint some of you but this is far more serious. It concerns the European Union Gender Directive – more commonly known as unisex rates – which comes into force on Friday December 21, the last day before the Christmas break. No matter how much some regret it, this is a done deal with no going back.

In just over six months, insurer discrimination on gender grounds is all but banned for new policies. A 30 year-old man and a 30 year-old woman in the same circumstances will receive the same quote. And no one can claim ignorance as the draft directive was published in December 2004.

The reason for collecting all those young women's names is that this is a moment that will fundamentally change premium quotations for both men and women.

So far, as LV= head of protection Mark Jones reminds us, there has been virtually no coverage in consumer media (and only a little more in the trade press where the Retail Distribution Review 10 days later has unsurprisingly overshadowed the gender issue). This should change as non-specialist media hit on the story.

They will want two things – the facts, and some fanciable females as case studies (although not necessarily in that order). It does not matter how compelling the issue might be to you, it will only run in the press, or on television if there is human interest and she has to look attractive.

Pictures make the story – look at the success of pet insurance where case study coverage is full of cuddly cats and adorable dogs with their equally loveable owners, or holiday insurance which is often an excuse for photos of bikini-clad lovelies on exotic beaches.

Most men like to see pictures of women. But so do most women (check the popularity of celeb magazines and websites).

The introduction of unisex rates produces winners and losers. These will need to be balanced carefully so if any insurer thinks they can get away with increasing premiums for the losers while leaving the winners unchanged they had better think again. This is a world of competitive comparison sites, always ready to monitor numbers and court publicity with a shock-horror rip-off press release.

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