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Independent view

When the Boxing Day tsunami shook Asia, I was on holiday in Bangkok, two days away from going to Phuket.

Although my holiday was ruined, I count my good fortune that it could have been a lot worse. Events like this put life into perspective as it is too easy to think that our own troubles are the worst.

It gave me immense satisfaction to see that the likes of Norwich Union had decided to waive some of the requirements to expedite death claims by distraught relatives. Our profession is attacked by many, including our own regulator, but our profession is helping to get the lives of widows and orphans back on track.

But where was this news buried in the press? In obscure columns on the business pages, as if the media were more concerned about the impact on the share price of these insurance companies.

When insurers deny claims, this makes lurid headlines but when they act in a humanitarian manner, it is not news. I guess this is nothing new. Scoop-hungry hacks are no better than commission-hungry advisers, both telling the story that suits them.

Where were our esteemed industry leaders in all of this? Where were the spokespeople making sure the public know the benefit of the products that only we offer? I am not suggesting for one moment that there should be a PR opportunity out of a tragedy,just that the public should appreciate the value of what we do.

The Personal Finance Society was born with the themes of “a single vision”, “a focused voice”, “unity is strength”, etc.

This collective voice was silent during this time, as was the ABI.

The activity did not neeto be aggressive, merely some strategically placed comments on how the life insurance profession was responding and recognising its responsibilities. Instead of insisting on AFPC qualifications for membership of the board, maybe the criterion should be business acumen.

My concern is that we are constantly getting too bogged down in compliance and technicalities and losing sight of our value to clients.

For example, in the inaugural issue of Financial Solutions, the monthly journal of the PFS, apart from a technical article on trusts, I struggled to find any mention of ilfe insurance or, indeed, the word “sales”.

Just as worrying, out of nearly 70 forthcoming regional meetings, not a single one has any sales or motivational focus. There are plenty of courses for technical skills but, appreciating the old maxim that life insurance is sold not bought, where are the courses to teach the requisite sales and interpersonal skills to the new generation of advisers?My assertion in a previous recent article that this was a takeover of the LIA by the CII seems to have come true distressingly quickly.

Protection is at the core of our profession and it appears to me too many people have forgotten this. We are getting correspondence debates about the merits of term insurance over whole of life, when the real issue is to get more people to buy more life and disability insurance.

It is a well known fact that the British public is grossly underinsured and it is our duty to do something about this. The FSA seems to have forgotten that one of its statutory objectives is to educate and raise awareness, we cannot rely on our industry leaders either as they give the impression of being too busy with their own agendas.

Last week, I had an opportunity to spend a day with some of the country’s leading practitioners, just exploring sales ideas, concepts those that would help in the psychology of the advice process. This was to collate the 10 best for distribution to UK members of the Million Dollar Round Table. You need to be a member to benefit.

MDRT members already understand that this profession is not just about technicalities but knowing how to explain these to clients, learning people skills, being motivated while retaining a bal- ance in life. MDRT strongly promotes the whole-person concept and has ethics at the top of its agenda.

Unfortunately, in order to learn cutting-edge skills and gain maximum inspiration from the value of making a difference to our clients, we have to travel halfway around the planet, as the UK organisations have virtually given up.

On the other hand, it is a great excuse to travel and meet 7,000 of the world’s very best advisers, with this year’s MDRT annual meeting in New Orleans in June. More details can be found at www.MDRT.org and do not forget that membership forms need to be in by the end of this month for reduced fees.

Bhupinder Anand is managing director of Anand Associates

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