Emma Thomson: Advisers vital to boosting protection awareness

Emma Thomson

I had a very humbling experience recently that has made me even more determined to help consumers understand the value of protection.

I visited one of our clients, a lady who was diagnosed with breast cancer and who subsequently claimed on her critical illness policy. Spending a morning with Marie, hearing the emotional story of how she faced her cancer, how grateful she was that she was told about critical illness cover in the first place and how much the money, together with the support our in-house claims team provided, helped her cope with such a devastating experience, underlined to me yet again just how vital the work we do is.

Marie would not have known about critical illness cover had she not received advice. She is just an ordinary lady on a very average salary who had a relatively small budget. Yet an adviser was able to ensure she had cover that enabled her to focus on her recovery, rather than worrying about money. Her budget? Just £15 a month. Yet the £30,000 plan she had with Aegon has made a huge difference. The great news is Marie is now back at work and looking forward to a future with her family.

Marie wants her story told so other families can have the peace of mind she did. She agrees too many people speak to an adviser about their mortgage, their pension or even life cover, yet are not made properly aware of their protection needs. Advertising, the Money Advice Service and Government support will certainly help improve awareness, and we should continue to strive for improvements.

However, it is adviser firms that can make such a huge difference to ensuring people like Marie are properly protected. All firms should take responsibility to either help clients themselves or ensure they have a process in place so they can receive protection advice from a specialist partner.

We clearly need improvements and innovation in our industry to make it easier for consumers to buy. Efficient processes, e-signatures and better products are all on the list of needs – and rightly so. But what is far more important is ensuring consumers are made aware of what they should be buying so that there is a financial safety net in place for when illness and death strikes.

A key priority must be to encourage more intermediaries to advise on protection. Unfortunately, too many ignore it, often through not having the expertise or resources. Sometimes they just do not value it or, worse, prioritise more lucrative revenue streams. There is training available from providers and networks. However, if that is not the right solution, there are plenty of specialist protection intermediaries who would be very happy to work in partnership with firms to ensure their clients have that peace of mind.

So let’s collectively work together and focus on raising protection awareness across the board to ensure more British consumers, like Marie, have the cover they need.

Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at LifeSearch