ADVO Group Magazine interviews Andrew Apps, Director at ALC Health

ADVO Group interviews Andrew Apps, Director, ALC Health

ALC Health has been providing international health insurance for over ten years and currently provides coverage across over 140 countries! In the latest in our exclusive interview series we interview Andrew Apps, Director of ALC Health. We discover how the business has grown over the years, Andrew’s predicted market trends and much more.

About ALC Health

For more than a decade, ALC Health has been looking after and protecting the health of individuals, their families and international companies from across the world with a range of flexible and innovative international health insurance plans that reflect the lifestyle of today’s expatriate international traveller and global citizen.

With many of our employees having been expatriates themselves we understand perhaps better than most what it’s like to be living far away from home or in a country where healthcare treatment may not always be readily accessible ensuring that you have complete confidence in the support and care when you need it most.

We also realise that no two individuals or organisations are the same, which is why we take a more personal approach for each and every one of our clients.

ALC Health reflects the diversity and uniqueness of our clients, combining a wide range of language skills with an extensive knowledge of regional cultures and the protection our clients need. Our highly skilled claims team has handled cases in over 140 countries during the last decade.

Our aim is to ensure that you experience a more dependable and accessible service that makes the most of our local knowledge and global support by being different.

What is it that makes ALC Health unique ?

We never forget that iPMI is at the end of the day a people business first and foremost and we understand how important our clients are to the success of our business. Our products, the way in which we look after our policyholders and our flexible approach to finding the right solutions for each risk is perhaps what makes ALC Health that little bit different from the larger brand iPMI providers. With a wealth of in-house industry experience and a real understanding of what it is like to be an expatriate (many of ALC Health’s staff have lived and worked overseas), we know what difficulties that have to be faced when living in an unfamiliar country so are able to work from experience when supporting our members.

In the past 12 months we have added to our existing online capabilities by introducing a number of new web based options

ALC Health has operated for over ten years. How has the company evolved over that time? Has the focus of the business shifted to any different or new areas or markets over that time?

From our humble beginning, ALC Health has always followed the mantra of doing what it does best rather than trying to be something that it isn’t. This has allowed the company to build a reputation for service excellence combined with product innovation that reflects the lifestyles of our members.

As a mid-sized iPMI provider we are better able than most to adapt to market changes and the needs of the expatriate and international traveller so enabling ALC Health to deliver a quality proposition across our chosen markets as they emerge and develop.

The growth areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America are starting to take over from the traditional centres of Europe and the Middle East where over-capacity is starting to see a change in the way in which iPMI is sold and delivered.

What direction or increased specialisation do you see ALC health taking in the future? What are the future plans for the company?

For many expatriates the internet is their ‘window on the world’ and which is going to have an increasing importance to the iPMI industry as the demand for greater online capabilities takes hold.

In the past 12 months we have added to our existing online capabilities by introducing a number of new web based options to enable our members to submit their claims online, arrange for pre-authorisation of in-patient hospital treatment and enquire about an existing claim, with plans to add additional complementary services over the coming months.

New regional products are currently in the planning stage and with an annual review of our core products, our aim is to keep our products and services fresh, affordable and innovative.

What future trends do you see emerging for the international health insurance market as a whole?

Without question the market is changing and fast. The demand for iPMI has never been greater as an increasing number of state healthcare systems start to buckle at the sheer cost of providing medical care to ever increasing populations. iPMI is starting to be linked to expat residency visas in some countries and this is something that is likely to increase as it offers governments a cost effective way of passing the burden of providing medical care for non-nationals away from the State.

With this new demand, so is the need for more flexible and innovative product solutions, and the old adage that ‘one size fits all’ is no longer relevant. Regionalised product design will become of greater importance and with an increasingly cost conscious world, so will the demand for ‘comprehensive’ become less attractive.

But despite this, the number of specialist iPMI advisors remains confined to just a handful of players leaving the door wide open for anyone that wants to move into a growth market.

A recent article on the ALC health blog suggests that many employers lack a full understanding of the health insurance policy their employees have when based abroad. What do you think are the barriers that can prevent employers from understanding the policy their employees abroad may be on? How have ALC Health enabled a clear communication of the policy details to employers to avoid this problem?

For many employers iPMI is low on the list of priorities when it comes to sorting out the overall benefit and remuneration package of their overseas employees. As a result, we often see employers confused as to what they really need to offer their employees and what logistical issues needed to be addressed.

Sending staff a booklet about their cover simply isn’t enough. How many people reading this article have read their motor insurance policy documents recently? Very few I suspect, and the same can be said about iPMI documents. It is important that employees consider carefully how they get the message across to their staff particularly when there is a change of insurer at renewal and not just assume that nothing has changed, but the changes of which there will always be some, are communicated clearly and timely.

At ALC Health we provide many of our corporate groups with dedicated web pages, pre-cover information newsletters and webinar / on-site seminars to help explain what their new cover offers, what to do when they need to make a claim and what to expect from the group health programme.

What does your typical day at ALC health involve?

I wish I could say there was a ‘typical’ day but the very nature of our business is that the nature of iPMI is that we are dealing with different things each day, often unscheduled. That said, much of my time is spent working with our global network of broker partners, providing information on our products, preparing quotations for group risks and continuing to develop the ALC brand.

What part of your role at ALC Health gives you the most satisfaction?

The two years that I have been with ALC Health has been a whirlwind, with the company having achieved significant growth and increased market presence and whilst I am delighted by what has been achieved, I am particularly proud of the way ALC Health is now (and rightly) being seen as a key player in the iPMI industry. As a company we continue to innovate and lead by example whilst never forgetting that without our clients, we would not exist. We do this because we care.

ALC Health has handled cases in over 140 countries worldwide. What opportunities or exciting elements has this provided? Has it also caused any barriers to overcome at any point such as with regard to the multitude of languages?

Our business by its very nature is about ‘health’ and ‘peoples lives’ and with that comes both excitement and heartache. One minute there is a high of sending out a ‘Huggie’ (ALC Health’s teddy bear that is sent out to each new-born child as a way of saying ‘welcome to the world’) and the next dealing with a member who has been involved in a life threatening incident on the other side of the world.

Each case is different and it’s important to be able to quickly adapt from one event to another. After all, for most people, requiring medical treatment comes at a point where they are at their most vulnerable, perhaps in a state of stress because they are far from home and it is up to us to make sure that not only things go according to plan but that we are here for them when they need help and support.

Languages can play an important part of the treatment journey and whilst we are lucky in one sense that English is widely spoken, being able to communicate with local doctors and medical service providers in their own language can make all the difference and help to speed up the process of approving a particular procedure and settle claims quickly.

ALC Health has a strong social media presence across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. What type of company or industry information can we expect to find on each of these?

Ten year ago, even five years ago the idea of social media was something that few could have predicted and even for those of us who have been ‘around for a few years’ the continuing growth of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has been staggering.

ALC Health have found that these new channels to communicate with our members and potential clients to be a highly effective way of getting our message across to an audience that is spread across the four corners of the world. After all, for most expatriates in particular, the web, e-mail and social media is their platform for finding out what’s happening, where and how so it makes sense for iPMI to adopt and embrace the media.

Our online news blog which is available via our website, via twitter and via Facebook has proved particularly effective in getting information about health warnings and what to avoid when travelling overseas, straight to our members in a concise, easy to understand and no nonsense way.

ALC World provides our members with a free, instant online via PC, Mac or web enabled mobile phone to the very best medical facilities and resources from across the globe including carefully researched doctors and medical facilities in more than 175 countries, destination profiles covering over 1,500 cities worldwide, useful medical terms and phrases translated into a choice of widely spoken languages, cross referencing of country-specific brand names and generic equivalents for over 350 medications and all important security and health news from around the world.

As a former expat, I know what it’s like to be living in an unfamiliar country and having access to information that you can trust really can make a difference.

Why should brokers place business with ALC Health?

Well this of course is the $64,000 question.

Everyone has a different reason for choosing a particular iPMI provider. Some may see ‘brand recognition’ as being important, others perhaps ‘cost’ whilst for many it might be a combination of cover and service delivery.

For ALC Health, much of what we are about can be found in our name ‘a la carte healthcare’ where we place a great emphasis on giving our clients more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Our menu driven plans have been designed to offer flexibility whether an individual or part of a group scheme.

But as importantly it’s all about service and how we look after our members. The insurance industry as a whole has for many years whether it is to do with medical, car, property or some other part of the mixture, has not been seen as particularly user friendly by the public in general, so this is something that we addressed from the beginning by creating an environment that we as policyholders would want. One of being there for our members when they need us, by developing products that reflect today’s lifestyle. By offering a level of service that few other providers can match. To put it simply, by being different.

It is always difficult in a market where there are a few dominant players to stand out from the crowd, but at ALC health we have made it our mission to do just that by giving our members what they want. We may not always be the cheapest (nor would we want to be), we may not be the largest but we have a real understanding of what we do, what our client needs and how to deliver a truly VIP service.