I am not the only person in the industry who believes protection needs a bigger and better voice. At the moment we have a lot of very good people working in groups to bring about change but I am still dubious that our basic message – that people need more, and sometimes more appropriate, cover – is being heeded.
From time to time I feel slightly self-conscious about my obsession that our industry should be trying harder to sell its products but the problem extends beyond there.
I harboured hopes that Lord Turner might speak at the protection review. Trying to get a speaker from the FSA is quite a rigmarole. You send in a form and then wait to hear if your application is granted. Even if Jim at the FSA is your best mate, you can’t meet him up the pub and arrange for him to speak at your event. To his credit, I managed to get Chris Pond to speak at an event by emailing him directly. He came to talk about financial education and his passion and willingness to listen were hugely impressive and reassuring.
I suspect this bucked the system because after three weeks of attempting to get Lord Turner to speak, I received a curt email saying the FSA had no speakers available. Funny that, as last time I was at Canary Wharf it was teeming with people.
I replied in rather irascible fashion to the effect that I thought the FSA’s system and priorities need addressing. The next day I received a phone call from what sounded like a slick young communications executive who insisted on calling me Peter.
He explained that it wasn’t that there was no one to speak but that they had nothing to say about protection right now. This was before the release of the latest retail distribution paper, which has a significant impact on the protection market.
This saddened me and left me feeling generally bewildered. It seems inconceivable that a regulator does not have anything to say (good or bad) about an area that I think is as important as the protection industry.
I did express this view but slick communications johnnies have seen off better and more obstreperous folk than me and he used a neat close that put me in my place at the same time as wishing me well.
A few months later I am still puzzled. The protection industry desperately needs a dialogue with all relevant parties and it would be great to know our regulator wishes to engage in the sort of scene-setting Lord Turner can do so well. Still, if you have nothing to say I guess it is better to keep quiet – however surprising this may be.
Peter Le Beau is managing director of Le Beau Visage