Lucy Brown: The value you bring to protection advice

The life-changing impact good protection advice can have continues to be underestimated by many

Reminding advisers of the responsibility they have and the change they can bring about by providing protection advice well is an ongoing necessity. This has recently been emphasised for me as we’ve been notified of so many customers sadly having to make a claim.

Over the course of June and July our customer care team received calls from 28 families who had made, or needed to make, a claim. This was a claim call almost every other day for two months and given not all providers notify advisers of claims, there were probably more.

The claims were made up of 15 critical illness claims and 13 life claims with the youngest CI claim for a 31-year-old female and the youngest life claim for a 32-year-old male. While we are all familiar with statistics that are published by providers, when they are your own customers it really does highlight the difference advisers can make.

First and foremost, the fundamental reason for always ensuring the protection conversation takes place with every customer is to try and get as many people as possible protected. We know there is a huge gap between the cover required and what people typically have, so our first responsibility as advisers is to highlight the risks of not taking protection.

Ensuring people are aware of the financial struggle that can result from death or diagnosis of a serious illness is something of a duty of care. People rarely wake up and decide that making sure they are adequately protected is the priority for the day so when we have the opportunity to raise it alongside arranging a mortgage or reviewing other financial affairs, we should grasp it with both hands.

As well as ensuring customers remain able to pay their bills we can also emphasise the added value policies have today. No longer is protection something you set-up, file away and hope you never have to refer to again. There has been significant development with the range of additional benefits made available to policyholders. These range from round the clock GP services, nurse help-lines, counselling and legal advice to early intervention services like physiotherapy and, importantly, mental health support. Through these it’s possible we could make a difference to the support families have throughout the term of their policies, even if they never have to claim.

Finally, there is the benefit an adviser can add at claim stage. Many question whether it is in fact the adviser’s role to become involved at this point, but we’ve found it’s welcomed – particularly as the quality of providers’ claims processes vary widely. Ensuring our customers know they have someone else they can talk to to provide clarity on the next steps and highlight those support services has made a huge difference to many. This may become less of a necessity as industry groups such as the Protection Distributors Group, work hard to improve claims journeys but in the meantime, we think it’s invaluable.

Amid the many reasons for advisers to seize the opportunity to talk about protection, these three stand out for me at the moment – highlighting the need and ensuring we arrange protection, adding value by setting up policies that provide day to day benefit, and lastly, being there at one of the most emotionally and most challenging times our customers will ever face. It’s all too easy to accept an objection or move on to the next task without remembering the real difference we can make.

Lucy Brown is head of protection at London & Country

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