Now Reading
Emerald Life: the insurance company by and for LGBTI people

Emerald Life: the insurance company by and for LGBTI people

Many people might presume an insurance company that genuinely cares about its customers could only exist in a make-believe land.

A 2017 study found that only 50% of British people trusted insurance companies to pay claims.

But one insurance company which was originally founded to help LGBTI people, has changed all of that. Emerald Life is the only insurer in the UK to not ask people living with HIV (PLHIV) if undetectable when buying travel insurance. This helps greatly if they’re travelling to a country where HIV is criminalized or greatly stigmatized.

It also became the first insurance company to allow people to register their honorific as Mx. Also the first, to recognize surrogate children in the definition of family. Emerald Life also is still the only insurer in the UK that offers legal cover against any discrimination under the Equalities Act.

‘At its heart, Emerald is an insurance company that was designed to give back – in the three short years since launch we have worked with a number of LGBT+ charities,’ Emerald Life chairman, Steven Wardlaw told Gay Star News.

‘But that’s not enough – we aren’t a company that just sticks a rainbow flag up or has a LGBT-friendly employment policy.’

‘Disrupting the insurance sector’

Wardlaw argued ‘rights must be fought for, and when won must be protected’.

‘Companies need to be much more dynamic in reflecting the diversity in today’s society, and fighting for equality. No other insurer does that. We wanted to make sure that we did ALL of what we do at no extra cost,’ he said.

‘We aren’t one of those “specialist” insurers that you used to see where they would give LGBT+ customers policies but at an additional cost.”

Emerald Life has trained it staff in call centers and claim handlers in LGBTI issues so they can be more understanding. They also have a trans advisory group to make sure it is providing the best care for that community.

‘Our approach has always been simple – if the insurance sector charges the same premium to me as a gay man as it does to a straight man, why is my service always worse? Why am I always having to correct people about the gender of my partner? Why do I never see myself in an advert for insurance?’ Wardlaw said.

He came up with the idea to start Emerald Life along with his co-founder Heidi McCormack, after talking with friends. They all complained about the service they got from insurance companies because of their sexuality.

‘At our launch we did a survey that included a question to 1,000 non-LGBT+ respondents. Of that group, 49% thought that LGBT+ had a worse insurance experience precisely because they are LGBT+ – so one in two straight people think that the insurance sector discriminates against LGBT+ people,’ Wardlaw said.

One of Emerald Life’s inclusive advertising campaigns | Photo: Supplied

Terrence Higgins Trust & Emerald Life

Emerald Life is also committed to providing the best insurance for PLHIV. So it teamed up with HIV charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) on a unique fundraising campaign.

Anyone buying a new policy can assign part of the cost of their premium to THT. All they have to do is put in the code THT5 and that money will go straight to THT.

‘The THT partnership came about naturally,’ Wardlaw said.

‘There are a number of firsts in Emerald about how we treat PLHIV and as the UK’s most HIV-friendly insurer, and our new partnership is a direct way of allowing customers to ringfence some of their premiums for good causes.’

Emerald Life also set up a call center for customers to call and learn more about THT.

THT’s CEO, Ian Green said the charity agreed to partner with Emerald Life because it ‘has a strong track record of working with the LGBT community and their values are aligned to those of Terrence Higgins Trust’.

‘The company was also the first insurance provider not to ask someone to disclose their HIV status – something that we welcome,’ Green said.

‘We know that people living with HIV continue to experience stigma when trying to access some insurance products, despite there being clear industry guidance that this shouldn’t be the case.

‘That’s why our partnership with Emerald Life which is an industry leader in ensuring that people living with HIV can access insurance products is so important to us.’

THT and Emerald Life share common goals when it comes to ending HIV. Both are committed to ending new HIV transmissions by 2030.

‘I recently took part in an interview with their Chairman, Steve Wardlaw, who is also a long-standing LGBT campaigner,’ Green said.

‘We discussed the challenges that remain in order to help us get there, such as ending HIV stigma, ensuring there is proper access to anti-HIV drug PrEP and proper LGBT-inclusive Relationships & Sex Education for all young people.

‘The money raised through this partnership will make a big difference in helping us reach this goal.’