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An eventful year ahead for protection

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Our advisers began voting for the Lifesearch Protection Awards earlier this month. They are voting on, among other things, which new protection initiatives have been the most significant over the past year

Last year was rather eventful. We saw many product enhancements, product launches, new entrants to the market (British Friendly, innovative advertising campaigns (Unum and Aviva) and, of course, the birth of Friends Life.

PruProtect has shown once again that innovation is possible if companies put their mind to it. The brand new education cover and its unique twist on family income benefit certainly give new options to those wanting to protect their families. Its improved Vitality programme gives a real incentive to customers to keep their cover in force, and it would be great if there were more initiatives like this available. If customers can get something positive from their protection plans, apart from the claims triggered by tragedy, they are more likely to keep paying their premiums.

Aviva and Unum showed both courage and brilliance with their television advertising campaigns. We should not forget to praise Zurich which advertises too, but Aviva and Unum raised the bar in terms of creativity. Whether you liked their ads or not, you cannot knock them for trying to get more people thinking about protection and, in particular, income protection. More please.

We had a whole host of providers making improvements to their critical-illness propositions (LV=, Scottish Provident, Bright Grey and Aviva), with particular focus on increasing the number of ABI+ definitions and partial payments. These improvements are welcomed, although there are debates about how valuable the changes actually are and whether they are just adding complexity to the product. The debate will surely continue but one company that did something slightly different was Ageas which once again made its enhancements available to existing customers, and reviewed previously declined claims to see if they could now make payments given the new definitions. That is treating customers fairly.

Income protection saw improvements too. Unum and LV= were just two providers that took steps to increase the number of customers who can have own-occupation cover. A very welcome move and, with the options offered by the friendly societies, there is no reason why any customer should not have this level of protection.

I would now like this positive focus on own occupation to shift to total and permanent disablement cover so that we can get a few more claims paid on this troublesome product.

Emma Prescott is head of life office relations at Lifesearch

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