Trust is a valuable commodity in ever shorter supply in financial services. I received a salutary lesson regarding this on two separate occasions in recent weeks.
The first lesson was provided by PruProtect, which recently commenced a nationwide campaign of telephoning IFAs’ clients aiming to persuade them to add indexation to existing plans. PruProtect claims advisers were alerted to this by email, although I have yet to find anybody who can recall such a communication.
There are two issues here. First, should the insurer be making direct contact with IFAs’ clients? Second, seeking to add this benefit could be interpreted as suggesting the original advice was slipshod. Some years back, Prudential reneged on critical-illness premium rates, causing distress to advisers and their clients. I swore never to use them again. When PruProtect entered the market, they assured me they were different and would never treat advisers in such a manner.
My second lesson relates to CriticalIllnessInsider.com.
Readers will know that since July 2008, I have been analysing the likely incidence figures for the various critical conditions covered and have translated each provider’s claim definition into a rating that suggests the likelihood of a successful claim.
Last year, an ex-IFA suggested a joint project where he would design and operate a dedicated website and I would provide analysis and content. He came recommended by somebody whose opinion I value and I agreed to proceed. He selected the site name and purchased the .com and .co.uk domains.
Shortly before Christmas, he said the site was almost operational. I alerted my journalist contacts and they advised their readers of a January 2011 launch. At this stage, my partner went Awol for two weeks. Only my voice-message threat to end the partnership persuaded him to raise his head.
I persevered, finetuning the data and adding other pieces of information and analysis. Come March, the site was still not ready and once again he disappeared, this time for almost three weeks.
It was clear my partner was as much a liability as an asset. I looked at an alternative coll-aborator but time constraints made this unfeasible and a mutual friend implored me to give him one last chance.
On the royal wedding day, I received an email from said partner stating he was upset to read about my new website. He claimed the site was his, that he owned the domains and had carried out the bulk of the work. He suggested the research was his and that I had merely reviewed it. The humour within this statement is underlined by his website description of early-stage prostate cancer as being “an aggressive in situ cancer”. Finally, he suggested I could have 10 per cent of revenues.
Many of you will caution me for proceeding without a written agreement and I did make a number of attempts to position this but he managed to deflect the discussions.
I based everything on trust but it is not a mistake I will make twice and I wait to see how CriticalIllness-Insider.com is able to progress without my analysis and input. Another dedicated CI website will be up and running in a month or two.
Alan Lakey is partner at Highclere Financial Services