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FIB? Let’s tell it like it is

How can we gain public trust when product names can be so misleading?

It wasn’t that long ago that I scoffed at one or two protection “specialists” who commented that the reason advisers were not selling family income benefit was because of its name.

I remain sceptical. Indeed, my own firm is now helping advisers to sell FIB to mortgage customers, with its name still intact, almost as often as they sell critical-illness cover, so the name isn’t really the problem.

Perhaps the real problem is a lack of training for advisers, particularly around how to position the product with customers. The other real problem, of course, is getting customers to sit still long enough to receive good advice.

Nonetheless, the more I become involved in the debates about criticalillness cover, its definitions, promotional materials, claims’ experience and non-disclosure generally, the more I convince myself that this product really does need renaming – and in such a way that the new name would pass the Ronseal test because then no one could accuse us of avoiding clarity.

Critical-illness cover definitely implies that the product offers cover for all critical illnesses, which we know it does not. Perhaps we would do better to call it “some critical illnesses’ cover” although, in my wilder moments, I am capable of convincing myself that the most appropriate name would be “cover only for the illnesses listed in the attached document (ref no 1234) subject to you passing our health history memory test”.

While we are about it, why not stop using the name life insurance for what is actually death insurance? Mortgage payment protection insurance could be retagged “maximum 12 months accident, sickness and redundancy payment insurance for illnesses or loss of employment where it can not be shown a pre-existing medical condition could have resulted in voiding the claim”.

Finally, proposal forms could become “proposal books” and “ordinary rates” could be “specially reserved rates for some applicants”.

Now, treating customers fairly are three words or a three-letter acronym that I avoid using whenever possible. It makes me cringe when I read commentators using TCF to justify their latest idea, their whinging or generally trying to promote their current business model as being somehow more consumer-friendly than their competitors. All our customers are grown-ups, so how about we introduce the above renaming policy (or exercise in honesty) as part of a move towards treating customers like grown-ups (TCLGU). Such an approach could lead us to put aside the hyperbole, marketing-speak and scary irrelevant statistics that make up the protection story and just tell it like it is.

The fact is that until all our products do exactly what they say on the tin, we will continue to suffer the mistrust, suspicion and derision of those on the outside looking in. Whatever our best intentions, we will never get to tell the full story.

Richard Verdin is sales & marketing director at Direct Life & Pension Services.

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