I spent a few hours in Dublin recently at a protection meeting. I always enjoy visits to Ireland and there was a very satisfied feeling when I was there about the French exit from the World Cup. What is French for schadenfreude?
I noted some very positive things in the Irish market. There is a strong focus on protection following the collapse in property prices with its consequent impact on property bonds, etc.
I was intrigued to learn that taking out a mortgage protection policy is mandatory in Ireland when getting a house loan. What a sensible idea and one we might borrow here. Anyone willing to take this to the Treasury?
Ireland still retains that short-lived and much missed creature, pension term assurance, but sales are minimal. The reason appears to be unwillingness to use any of a declining pension pot to fund life cover.
I was also delighted to see a growing interest in income protection (well I would be, wouldn’t I). I noted market leader Irish Life has published a claims-paid rate for life and serious illness of 95 per cent, which is excellent, and they also have some of the most spectacular straight-through processing metrics I have seen.
Over nearly 30 years of travelling to Ireland I have noted many changes in the economic fortunes of the country. It is considered economically as one of the PIIGS (the problem countries using the euro) and, as a noneconomist, I always doubted the wisdom of a country offour and a half million people with a mainly agricultural based economy allying to a common monetary system with nations like Germany and France.
It has always had a creative insurance industry with good product development ideas and clever marketing but what encouraged me about my recent visit was the interest of advisers in selling protection.
I have used these pages before to bemoan the lack of passion in selling protection I see in the UK market and little has changed since I did so last.
In Dublin, there seemed to be a market buzz – and this was a morning meeting, not one fuelled by one of Ireland’s excellent products which most visitors to Dublin enjoy.
When I travelled to Dublin frequently, I used to envy the access that CEOs have to government ministers there, in fact, I found it quite easy to meet senior ministers myself. I always felt regulatory control and discussion was less adversarial.
Maybe we should appreciate that not all the best ideas come from the biggest foreign markets.
Peter Le Beau is managing director of Le Beau Visage