Tom Baigrie: The income protection turnaround has started

Tom Baigrie

Great news. Income protection – the most important yet least sold personal lines insurance policy in our market – was bought by 10 per cent more consumers in 2015 than in the previous year. Never mind the embarrassing base level; the turnaround has started. This has happened because a few passionate experts decided to ignore industry defeatism and the myriad conflicting corporate and individual agendas, and just go for it.

The wise old owl, the underwriter with an endless appetite for detail, the heroic IFA and the talented publicist together created a truly new style of social media awareness campaign. They ran the innovator’s real risk of failure, weathered being written off at outset by the professional sceptics and fought through the endless prevarications of insurers keener on market share than market growth.

They raised as much as they could, found seven families they could help with income protection benefit and showed us all what a difference that product makes to real people in the toughest of circumstances. The level of diligence needed to avoid the infinite pitfalls the naysayers could not see past, and the communications skills needed to achieve the tremendous and positive publicity across our market, cannot be underestimated.

I know their efforts worked because I watched as their magic reached my own team of advisers. We were proud of the amount of income protection we wrote but we now write double that and our whole business talks about it all the time.

I think we now write more of it than any other UK intermediary but, in truth, it is still only a small percentage of our overall output, despite a genuine intensity of focus that would normally achieve much more. The reason for our frustration in this area is that almost none of the consumers we raise the subject with have ever heard of the cover. That ignorance makes consumers trust our words far less and makes our job hugely harder.

That makes the next step obvious. You see, the Seven Families geniuses focused on bringing income protection alive for intermediaries and the media. The tiny budget that its sponsoring insurers afforded meant its ability to reach consumers would always be limited. It did way better at this than   hoped but the next job must be to make income protection something of a household name.

Interestingly, the Americans have showed us how to do just that and I hear some of our trade bodies are considering following their methods. I will tell you as soon as I know more but, the key need we have to address is to educate and make consumers far more aware of the good that IP can do. And that’s much more credibly done if it’s done in an objective way. And creating that is surely something all those who would profit from a flourishing IP market should invest in.

Tom Baigrie is chief executive of LifeSearch