The ground-breaking Seven Families initiative winds down at the end of this month. Since launch in 2014 the campaign has illustrated the reasons people need income protection through real life stories of families who did not have sufficient cover when they lost an income through illness or accident.
The families received a year’s worth of tax-free income, advice and support services to mirror the benefits they would have had from income protection. But with a budget of just £400,000 and people across the industry providing their services to the project at a discount or for free, Seven Families could not run indefinitely. So what has the project achieved and how can the industry build on the momentum?
“It is certainly not going to fizzle out,” says Income Protection Task Force chairman Peter Le Beau, who teamed up with the charity Disability Rights UK to launch the project. “We are going to try and ascertain what the industry wants to do after a contemplation period. If we’ve got enough budget left, we might do an end of the operation campaign.”
Le Beau says Seven Families has achieved a greater awareness of the value of income protection.
“The industry impact has been greater than the consumer impact but that is to be expected given the size of the budget. Given the budget we had, that it was the first time we’d done it and how big the challenge was to make this live, we’ve achieved a great deal and it’s had a significant impact on the families,” he says.
Many in the industry are speculating that the initiative may have contributed to the recent rise in income protection sales. Aegon protection director Stephen Crosbie says: “Swiss Re’s Term & Health Watch recorded an increase of 10.7 per cent in income protection sales across the UK and we believe some of that can be attributed to the work of the Seven Families campaign.”
There is also a feeling that a cooperative approach is the way to engage consumers. Carr Consulting & Communications managing director Kevin Carr, who has worked on the campaign since launch, says the collaboration he has witnessed within the protection industry has been on a scale he has never seen before.
“While it is healthy for companies to compete with each other to benefit customers, they need to collaborate to grow the market,” he says.
Zurich head of retail partnerships Peter Hamilton says: “It’s rare for the industry to collaborate in such a way, to work to grow the market rather than simply compete for share, and it’s refreshing to be involved in such an initiative.”
Hamilton adds the “emotional lens” of the campaign has been powerful. “For me, one of the videos is the most powerful I’ve seen in more than 30 years in the industry,” he says.
Although the campaign is ending, it leaves behind a range of material and case studies that providers and advisers can continue to use to build a case for protection.
London & Country Mortgages head of protection sales Lucy Brown says: “We were able to use the case studies to demonstrate that it is not just the payout received from an income protection policy that makes a difference but also the associated support that comes with policies today. Many of the seven families referred to the difference this made to both their mindset and recovery.”
Aviva income protection proposition manager Julie Higman believes the most valuable part of the Seven Families campaign was in highlighting the benefits such as Best Doctors and Red Arc rehabilitation services, which people taking out income protection may also have access to. However, she adds there is still so much more that can be done.
What happens next?
According to Carr, there are three options for what happens after Seven Families and the industry will decide which course to take after the contemplation period highlighted by Le Beau.
Carr says: “Option one is nothing: it did its job and that’s the end of it. Option two is doing it again but learning from the first campaign. The third option is that it could become more like Life Happens in the US: something that is funded annually by the industry and exists to promote income protection.”
Scottish Widows protection specialist Johnny Timpson has been following the US model for more than 20 years. He believes Seven Families could provide the foundation for a neutrally branded central hub to promote consumer awareness and education in the UK. “I think we should get more joined up around consumer awareness and education. As an industry we’ve been happy to let the trade press do the running and we could have done better,” he says.