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.