A collaboration between the University of Nottingham and law firm Browne Jacobson LLP has led to a “transformational impact” on how the firm drafts insurance policies. In 2018, it was revealed by the two organisations that eight out of 10 people cannot understand UK insurance policies.

The University’s Linguistic Profiling for Professionals unit, which specialises in providing vital information on how the public use and interpret language depending on their levels of education, literacy, age, gender, ethnicity and social class, was commissioned by Browne Jacobson to enhance its policy drafting services.

The company teamed up with the University to find out what makes a policy document easy to understand, what impedes understanding, and share findings to improve practice across the industry. This followed recognition that the clarity and readability of policy wordings in the insurance market could be significantly improved.

A unique academic study examined the readability of a cross-section of insurance policies from across the market. The University’s linguistics researchers used eye-tracking technology to understand how people read policy documents in practice, analysed the reading difficulty using seven widely used readability metrics and applied its own further analysis, and tested readers’ understanding with comprehension surveys.

They then worked with Browne Jacobson to rewrite policies with repeated testing and analysis to test improvements to readability and comprehension. The findings were presented to a roundtable of industry participants with a series of five key drafting principles identified to improve effectiveness of policy drafting in the market.

With the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) having released a directive for insurance firms to provide clearer and more transparent policy wording, the project has assisted in affirming Browne Jacobson’s position as the market leader in this field.

“Our collaboration with the University of Nottingham has raised the profile of the issue, and our profile as a firm specialising in insurance policy drafting services, together with a potential solution which cannot be provided elsewhere – this has proven to be a real USP” said Tim Johnson, Partner at Browne Jacobson.