Emma Thomson: The protection fight against consumer apathy

Emma Thomson

A happy new year to you. But will it be a happy year for the protection market? Let’s hope so. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for us all to grab. The good news is consumers very much need what we sell. However, the problem is far too many do not know they need it.

Consumer awareness about the risks and options available is still far too low. Investment, creativity and dedication to do the right thing for clients is needed to create demand and win the war against that formidable opponent: apathy.

Because while we might all wish for more innovation in the form of better systems and wider product options to help us, the fact of the matter is, when customers finally come to understand their protection needs, we already have pretty good propositions to offer them that pay out when tragedy strikes.

To grow our market significantly we must improve consumer understanding through advertising, better information on our websites, and taking the time to talk to clients about their needs.

Simply improving products and processes will not achieve this alone. Not easy, I know. But if we can crack this, last year’s protection developments will help set us up for a successful 2016.

For example, the Seven Families initiative demonstrated our industry can successfully work together for the common good – a huge achievement in itself. It was never going to solve the issue of poor consumer awareness but it was a significant step forward, creating some great PR for our sector, promoting the advantages of income protection to both consumers and advisers, and, most importantly, positively impacting seven very worthy families.

The initiative will continue to help improve consumer awareness into this year and the buzz it created should help more firms focus on income protection going forward (an opportunity not to be ignored).

Meanwhile, Beagle Street has got the year off to a great start by launching a TV advertising campaign.

Protection is not promoted enough by providers compared with other products, so it is fantastic to see Beagle Street doing so. It will naturally generate consumer interest and benefit the entire industry.

I hope we will see more advertising campaigns this year and increased activity by intermediaries to ensure more clients and their families are protected than ever before.

Last year saw over 20 new initiatives, including product enhancements, provider launches and system improvements, meaning we have stronger propositions and a wider range of options for clients to choose from than we did 12 months ago.

The long awaited UnderwriteMe going live last year was another development that will reap rewards this year. It revolutionises how consumers buy protection by speeding up the time it takes to compare options, apply and get on risk. More firms are choosing to partner with UnderwriteMe, which will improve consumer, intermediary and provider experiences.

So we have lots of positives from 2015 that we can build on and I wish everyone a very successful year ahead.

Emma Thomson is life office relationship director at LifeSearch