He sees his current position as bringing together all his previous experience in a company that is not only a viable business proposition but could have a real social impact.
Following a four-year stint as a consultant for Alexander Proudfoot, Briscoe says a desire to get involved in running a business rather than advising on how to run a business prompted him to study for an MBA before joining American Express. “It seemed to be the most innovative and forward-looking company, so I joined it.”
Briscoe says he learnt a lot from American Express but what sticks in his mind is its emphasis on customer services.
He then joined Clerical Medical, where he helped to set up financial planning business Provision alongside John Edwards. “That was my first experience of creating a business from nothing. It was a case of starting with a blank piece of paper and defining the ultimate model of financial planning.”
Briscoe went on to work at Bupa and Centrica-owned Goldfish. He says his experience at Bupa was “an early sight of the problem I am now trying to solve. As people get older, their need for medical care increases. The problem that Bupa has – indeed, all private medical insurers have – is that they have to increase the premiums dramatically as you get older. What upsets people is that they can be paying into Bupa since their 20s and never use it. When they get into their 60s, they do not get any reward. That was an early insight for me. It was an issue to try and resolve.”
While he was at Centrica, the company bought AA Financial Services. “From that I got a really good understanding of how an intermediated proposition is almost by definition the most attractive proposition to consumers, if it is done fairly and properly.”
His next ambition was to create his own business. After he narrowly missed out on buying the Saga group, he was inspired to set up Life Trust.
“Saga is almost uniquely positioned as the brand for the over-50s. All the statistics show that more and more of the population are going to be over 50 but you have to dig behind those statistics to see what I think is more interesting and that is that people are living longer. Not even Saga is addressing that.”
Briscoe says a meeting in early 2006 with Laurence Heyworth, now one of the founding shareholders of Life Trust, led to the business being established. He describes Heyworth, a former JP Morgan chief equity analyst, as “one of those extraordinarily clever people”.
Heyworth described being at a conference in 1999. “What was clear was that the governments of the Western world had no real answer to this and were not prepared to find an answer. It was going to be one of those major issues that would creep up on the world and then become a major crisis.”
Heyworth came up with the idea of people investing their money in a scheme that pooled the risk of them exceeding a certain age, in which case the policy would pay out an escalating income for the rest of their life. If they died before reaching that age, the policy would pay out their original investment to their estate.
“The real beauty of it is that people are sharing their risk of living too long. If you are one of the people who reaches the age you have chosen, you will not only get returns from your investment, which has been invested offshore so you get gross roll-up, but you will get your share of the money of those who did not survive. If you are one of the people who do not make it to the age you have chosen, your estate gets the money back, so in a sense you do not lose.”
For the full benefits of the longevity income plan to work, Briscoe says more work needs to be done to raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation. “What we really need is a figure like Al Gore, who has taken climate change from an almost non-existent topic to the world’s most important topic. It is driving governments and it is driving all of us as individuals.”
Life Trust last week launched the Life Trust Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness of longevity among the public and encouraging responses from business and government. In the Al Gore role will be Chartered Insurance Institute chairman Lord Hunt of Wirral.
“Hopefully for the UK market, he is going to raise awareness and get the consumer press and consumer broadcasters to talk about this. It is a very serious issue but it is a very positive issue. Instead of thinking that you have got a maximum of 20 years to enjoy life when you stop work, the truth is that you could have the same again.”
Briscoe admits that the foundation will have its work cut out as people underestimate what income they will receive in retirement, particularly from the state. “The danger of the state pension is that it is of little value but it is one of the things people believe will be there as a safety net and it is not.”
Briscoe says Life Trust has more products lined up to complement the longevity income plan but he cannot give any details at the moment. “I am not allowed to talk about that now but they are all going to sit under the umbrella of providing income in retirement.”
He says the company has grown faster than expected and has signed up 150 distribution partners. It will now concentrate on training and ensuring that service standards are up to speed before expanding further.
He believes the company can make a real difference to people’s lives. “There is real social need behind this and there is a real market. If we can create awareness of this and take Laurence’s idea to meet this need, we will be doing something we will be pretty proud of.”
Born: Walton-on-Thames, 1960
Lives: Frensham, Surrey
Education: Berkhamsted School, Essex University, Cranfield School of Management
Career: American Express, Clerical Medical, Bupa, Goldfish, AA Financial Services, Life Trust
Likes: Theatre, opera, history, rugby, golf, parties, skiing
Dislikes: TV talent shows, queuing at airports, litter
Drives: Mercedes SL 500
Favourite book: Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Favourite film: The Man Who Would Be King
Favourite band: The White Stripes
Life ambition: Do more good than bad
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… A TV historian