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How do you achieve critical communication?

I remember a survey published at a protection conference in 2007. It reviewed the industry’s efforts to communicate the last series of changes contained in the ABI’s 2005 statement of best practice for critical illness cover. This is timely as we are about to embark on yet another series of changes including the total and permanent disability aspect of this product once the current consultation led by the ABI finishes in the coming weeks. 

That survey didn’t cover anyone in any glory. I checked back to see what it’s major conclusions were. Ninety per cent of advisers said they were offered no training on the changes that were being implemented. Eighty six percent of advisers didn’t know if the new conditions were easier or harder to claim for. Only forty eight per cent of advisers were even aware of the changes.  

Sometimes we make assumptions about our audiences. We assume they always read the trade press publications or websites. We assume they read all of our emails. We assume they read all of the snail mail we send them. We assume that the people who need to know what’s happening know about it. I remember a line from my project management training…. never make assumptions.

We need to learn from past failings. With the current consultation process drawing to a conclusion the need for this memory test is becoming more timely by the day.  

We have to be more proactive about this, and I think it would be great to see regular training sessions on such important changes in the market. The ownership of these communications should start with the ABI, but life companies and networks should make sure that the advisors are fully up to date with such important changes”. This comment was made by an IFA on one of the trade press websites following that survey in 2007 – and made at the end of the implementation period for the previous changes made to critical illness products.   

An important point to note here is that the ABI gives providers a year to change their products from when the statement is issued. It’s also important to note that Nick Kirwan and his team at the ABI don’t have the resources to deliver all of this by themselves. They need our help.

Could we create a proper best practice framework for how the communication piece of these changes should be addressed in 2010? That framework could suggest ideas for both the communication and training activity we should all implement throughout the value chain, from reinsurers, to insurers, to adviser organisations, advisers and finally clients. Could we do this at the same time that we announce the changes, and ask everyone with a stake in critical illness products to follow that framework? I bet those who are the first to follow it get the most benefit too? Or do we want to do what we did last time? And fail… again.   

Andy Milburn is head of marketing for Munich Re UK Life.    


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There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Great idea Andy.

    Why not use use the modern approach to sharing best practice within the industry – i.e. Social Media where changes can be communicated, discussed and debated in one central place online?

    Thousands of IFAs are already using social media to do exactly this at IFA Life (

    Philip Calvert

  2. A good point, well made.

    It’s worth remembering that IFAs get at least a dozen emails from different providers each day and most of them are poor attempts at marketing. Therefore, important messages can easily got lost in the mix.

  3. I run an underwriting and risk management consultancy. When my company has a difficulty of some sort we don’t contact our rivals to see if they are experiencing somethng similar and suggest we collaborate on making things better. My company solves problems itself. That way we end up better than our rivals. It’s called COMPETITION.

    If I ran a life company I’d spend time and effort improving only MY products and promoting the benefits of only MY products. If I had a great idea for promotion, why would I share it with my competitors?

    All this collective hand-wringing at the ABI is preposterous. All this collaboration over product design – and much else – is dangerously unhealthy. It stifles innovation, makes insurers lazy and leaves consumers worse off. The industry needs to shake off this cozy club mentality and go out there and COMPETE.

  4. Too many advisers are running to stand still and cannot dedicate sufficient (or even any) time to ponder on the changes within the industry.

    A bit like bathers watching a beachball when they should be learning to swim.

    Communication is a two-way process and advisers cannot be made to learn if they have scant interest in the subject.

    I despair of trying to communicate important matters to clients and it seems to similarly afflict providers when attending to advisers.

    Ultimately we all need to accept that you cannot take a horse to water and make it drink or, as one wag suggested, you cannot take a horse to Anfield and make it play.

  5. A quick update on this… The ABI issued a press release on 30/11 confirming that they WOULD be issuing guidance and sample items for providers to use once the final paper is out. This is good news and they should be applauded for listening! Now its over to us to do the rest!

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