Income protection is “historically undersold”, with only 91,000 individual policies sold last year despite a potential market of 20 million people.
People are more likely to find themselves unable to work due to injury or illness but confusion over how much state benefits pay out in the event of unemployment has left IP sales lagging behind life and critical-illness cover.
London & Country sales director Michael Aldridge says: “The problem with IP is it is historically undersold. Sales levels for life cover and CI are around five times higher than for IP and awareness is probably the biggest factor in that.”
But the Income Protection Task Force is looking to go further.
The IPTF is putting together a campaign with providers to which it hopes will dramatically increase awareness about IP among consumers.
Income for a year
Originally developed as the Family Support Initiative, the campaign has been rebranded as Seven Families and will provide a monthly income for a year to families where the main breadwinner is unable to work due to illness or injury.
The payments will be treated as charitable donations but will replicate the effect of IP.
The IPTF is working alongside charity Disability Rights UK to select the participating families. The charity has a database of around 100,000 people suffering from illness or disability and each of the families will be selected from this list.
Disability Rights UK says it will aim to put together a cross-section of families across the UK to show the range of people IP can help.
Families will generally be on ‘low to middle-income’ salaries and will receive up to £20,000 over the course of the year.
The campaign hinges on securing the funding from providers.
So far, a number of providers have made a firm pledge on funds. If a shortfall does emerge, IPTF co-chairman Peter Le Beau says the strategy would be to either use a smaller number of families, or to ask participating providers to contribute more.
The IPTF is holding an official launch event next month.
Le Beau says: “What we must do of course, is guarantee the funding but we are very confident of doing so at the launch. We have several providers attending the event and we will be issuing our call to action.
“For that reason though, we are yet selected the families simply because we do not want to let them down in the event that we do not get the funding.
“But we are confident we will have a strong response.”
The IPTF is also working alongside a media agency to put together a marketing strategy.
Le Beau says: “We will have members of the broadcast media covering the launch and we will work with the media agency to talk about how best to get this campaign out there.
“We will have a YouTube channel set up and each of the families will post regular updates over the course of the year, to highlight how the payments have been helping them cope with their disability or illness.”
A spokesman for Disability Rights UK says: “We are really pleased at the reaction we have seen to the campaign so far.
“We hope it will draw attention and raise awareness around the challenges that individuals face in trying to maintain their livelihood when afflicted by a long-term health condition or disability.”
At the time of writing, several providers had confirmed to Money Marketing that they will participate in the initiative, with Aviva, Scottish Widows and Friends Life pledging a financial contribution.
Aviva says it will also provide support through its IP claims team.
A spokeswoman says: “It is essential to boost awareness of IP and we are fully behind the IPTF’s initiative, which we think is the most positive step yet to achieving that goal.”
Friends Life has also pledged financial support, with managing director of protection Steve Payne speaking at the launch event.
Zurich says it will be involved with the Seven Families project but has not decided whether this will include a financial contribution.
LV= says it is having discussions internally about “how best to take part”.
Ageas Protect will continue to hold talks about taking part in the scheme but remains undecided about its involvement.
A spokeswoman for Ageas Protect says: “We have obviously had discussions about the project, which we fully support.
“However at this stage we are not in a position to say if we will definitely be contributing to the initiative.”
A spokesman for Exeter Family Friendly says: “In principle we are looking to be involved, however we are awaiting the launch event with the IPTF later this month before anything is finalised.”
Aldridge says: “Often advisers do not give the full pitch for IP because the underwriting can be more complicated. Unfortunately, sometimes it can come down to the fact that IP does not pay as much in commission. This kind of campaign can only help get consumers starting that conversation themselves.”
Plan Money director Peter Chadborn says: “IP is an important form of protection people should be made aware of.
“Not many people can confidently say exactly what the state payout will be in the event someone is unable to work.
“IP offers that security and peace of mind for people who may face illness or injury during their working life – which could be any of us.”
What the providers are saying on their involvement in the Seven Families project
Aviva, Friends Life and Scottish Widows
Pledged to make a financial contribution.
PruProtect, Zurich, LV=, Ageas Protect and Exeter Family Friendly
All in discussions about their involvement.
The thinking behind ‘Seven Families’
When industry consultant Karin Lloyd proposed the idea of the Family Support Initiative some seven months ago, it was one of those ideas that immediately caught fire.
Like all good ideas it was not yet fully formed, but the kernel of it was so clear, so important and so exciting that all of us at the meeting immediately felt this was something we had to make happen.
Of course it has changed a lot since then. For one thing it has been renamed ‘Seven Families’ for the simple reason that we are going to focus on helping seven families where the breadwinner has been struck down with a serious illness or by an accident and cannot support his or her family financially.
We will be trying to provide financial help to meet the household expenses that can, if left unmet, create disaster. We will also be trying to provide the rehabilitation that is so vital at times like this that may be able to help someone get back to work, possibly in their old job or in a new role which they can fulfil more effectively given their disability.
One key point to emphasise is this is not just an initiative for individuals but for employers. We want to help them understand the provision of financial help and rehab can transform the life of an employee unable to work and can provide support to businesses where a key employee is suddenly taken out of the workforce.
Since that lightbulb moment, we have taken a number of actions to get the campaign rolling. We have worked with Disability Rights UK to create a way of sourcing families in need, we have recruited a media company who have great experience in videos for social media and we are in the process of selecting the digital agency to work with us to design the communications strategy.
Most importantly, we have approached the industry for funding. We will be formally outlining the idea to the industry on 21 May at Swiss Re’s offices in London. Several leading figures from the protection industry will be explaining why they support this and why they believe companies should commit to it. While believing in this passionately, we have tried to allow companies to make up their own minds about the value and impact of this initiative. Some companies got the idea over the first sip of coffee as I explained it while others have understandably and rightly challenged us on the rationale and execution.
What is clear is this has to be an exercise focused on the families, their financial vulnerability and the fight to get back to work.
This will not be accepted by the British public if we try to plug insurance too overtly. The need and the message will come through without sales messages cropping up on a regular basis.
This will be our chance as an industry to prove that what we do is profoundly worthwhile.
I hope and pray that we can seize it.
Peter Le Beau is co-chairman of the Income Protection Task Force