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Aptitude problem

We recently came to the end of 19 protection sales workshops which we ran around the UK. These were free, half-day sessions, during which we looked at the protection market in general, some specific sales solutions and a selection of generic sales skills. PruProtect, as sponsors of the events, also delivered a presentation on its serious-illness cover and its latest innovations around the income protection product.

Over 300 IFAs, mortgage brokers, protection specialists and paraplanners came to the workshops and we invited each of them to give us their feedback via an e-survey.

First, only 7 per cent said that gaining the highest possible commission rates for protection was very important – 27 per cent went so far as to say that it was unimportant.

Convincing majorities said that things such as ease of quote functionality, short application (or tele-under-writing) processes and back- office compliance and admin support were very important to them and 85 per cent said the ability to quote and compare multi-benefit protection solutions was important or very important.

All good news then. Advisers are not money-motivated and bent on selling the simplest products from the cheapest provider. They are focused on offering well-rounded recommendations, with an eye on a smooth application process and excellent customer service.

Except that unfortunately, the numbers just do not add up. We know that most protection sales are for basic term insurance on a level or decreasing basis, usually without critical-illness cover. We also know that income protection sales are woefully short of where they ought to be and that family income benefit is so rarely recommended that many are not even aware that it exists.

So, as my first sales manager used to say, if the problem is not attitude, it must be aptitude. Coincidentally, two of our industry’s more high- profile commentators certainly think so, with both Aviva protection director Richard Verdin and Munich Re head of marketing Andy Milburn proposing a specific protection qualification to better equip advisers and give them the confidence and knowledge to give the holistic advice they realise they should.

In the long run, this would also improve public perception of our market. So often, protection is flogged rather than recommended. If, as some believe is likely (although personally I cannot see it), more advisers turn to prot-ection to boost commission income lost in the wake of the RDR, then this status quo is unlikely to be broken.

The appetite for training and development is there among the adviser communities, in particular, the mortgage market, where protection sales are rapidly becoming the main income stream following the demise of the sub-prime and buy-to-let sectors and the slow return of the prime remort-gage and purchase clients.

The timing seems right so now it is all about who will deliver.

Phil Jeynes is key account manager at Direct Life & Pension Services

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