I am very relieved to see the launch of the Money Advice Service. It is the end-product or the latest product of the process that began with the Thoresen review and I know from remarks Otto Thoresen made at the Protection Review recently that he is very pleased to see the progress made.
It is vital that the public have access to simple, comprehensible and accurate advice. I think the penny has dropped on this one with the work by the Treasury on simplified products and the development of the website. Please check it out and see what you think.
Since the website went live, some people in the industry who understand protection well have contacted me to see what I think of it. My initial reaction is to give it somewhere between seven and eight out of 10.
I always have a dilemma when I am trying out websites. Should I register as myself with my pre-retirement issues or should I pretend to be the cash-strapped, downtrodden consumer with a large, young family and little idea of how to cope? The latter course is much more interesting and much more instructive and this is how I initially headed.
Criticising something as generally worthy as this site is a bit like complaining that you are taking an inferior type of bottled water to a disaster zone. In the greater scheme of things it does not really matter but I reserve the right to be picky.
I would like a greater emphasis on income protection. Here he goes again, I hear you say, but I make no apologies for pointing out that although the creation of an action plan is an excellent methodology, when you look at the advice for cash-strapped families there is little mention of IP in the action plan but lots on mobile phone insurance and identity theft insurance. An actuarial friend of mine pointed this out and he is right.
While I am at it, I think we should be looking at primacy of need when outlining protection cover. The list on insurance does not do this. In fact, in the section on insurance it goes straight on to motor insurance but when we come to personal protection it features critical illness first. Why? It is not an alphabetical list and it describes payment protection insurance without referring to the serious issues that have beset the product, although it does point out some of the potential pitfalls. Life insurance comes last in the list.
People need to be told what their priorities are. The first is normally to protect their key outgoings, not the payments on their i-Phone, and to ensure they protect their family against the consequences of premature death.
Nevertheless, this is much better than nothing and is an acknowledgement that most people need protection cover, not just an elite few. Let us hope we have enough companies left to sell it to them.
Peter Le Beau is managing director of Le Beau Visage