My thought was we should reverse the decline in the sales of protection insurance by getting the public understanding that they need cover against personal financial catastrophe caused by losing their income through death or disability or unemployment. How I wish a politician would stand up and tell the public that state benefits are miserably low and only likely to shrink in the future and that anyone who does not protect themselves against the financial effects of physical disaster is barking mad. But I suspect they will consider such honesty to be electoral suicide so it must fall to us who sell protection to get consumers thinking that what we sell is not boring and irrelevant but important and virtuous.
Well actually I wasn’t bright enough to coin the last line. That came from the creative director one of the country’s largest creative advertising agencies. He’s involved because the idea has moved on a bit and with, I believe, just one exception, all the providers and reinsurers that trade in this market attended a series of presentations that described the research undertaken and the resulting consumer campaign we plan; as Money Marketing described last week. They heard a well thought out case and learnt how this campaign will link up with the several other initiatives from the powers that be aimed at getting consumers to take more respons- ibility for the personal finances.
They went very well indeed, though the low point might amuse you. It was when one old friend asked why we wanted to grow the market when that would just mean more competitors would enter into it. I was too dumbstruck to ask what had happened to the thought that more people need what we sell, and when a growing market last produced less profit than a shrinking one. I just did a goldfish impression.
But there were many highs. The several who broke free from their executive caution to tell the meetings that we clearly must find the will to find the funds to do this and the many who have emailed to say they will be trying their damnedest to get their cash-strapped boards to stump up the monies needed, show me that though there are many, many arguments to be won, we might just do it.
IFAs and other distributors have not been asked to help fund the campaign, but will be key influencers of the pro- viders and through them the reinsurers who are being asked to invest. We decided early on not to ask the distribution sector and the industry service and support sector to help with the funding. Taking a case like this to 30-odd institutions is challenge enough, never mind taking it to many hundreds of businesses, but if we to get lift-off, and if the campaign is a success then all who trade and profit from protection sales stand to benefit from the growth and should join in the future funding. Would you be prepared to pay a levy of say 0.5 per cent of your revenue from protection sales to such an end?
Tom Baigrie is managing director of LifeSearch