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Phil Wickenden: Protection procrastination remains a thorny issue

At some point circa 2014 I penned a sorry stanza to illustrate the problem of procrastination in the protection market. It included reference to small will-writing bears, estate planning ninjas and rappers with a penchant for relevant life policies.

Terrible as it was, it was my response to my father’s short verse sent to me after the birth of my son, enquiring as to the status of my relevant life policy application (FYI, the status was very much “on my desk”). That such creative lengths can be gone to and still yield no immediate results highlights the challenge facing advisers, for most of whom faux rap battles are not an appropriate means of client contact.

While there have been encouraging signs of engagement since 2015, across most of the more technically demanding protection markets covered in a study we undertook (wealth protection, inheritance tax protection, business assurance and employee cover), only 32 per cent of clients advisers believed should have cover in place did so. Is this enough for those purporting to deliver holistic, joined-up plans?

Perhaps, being far more aware of the business cost of time, many are less keen to engage with procrastination. I can understand the frustration, having been the source of much of it for both my financial adviser and my dad. But is it acceptable? That is up to advisers.

There is no doubt more can be done but the real, and often unpleasant, challenge is getting clients to associate more strongly with a mental image of the future and focus on the specific problems that need to be solved. Advisers need to fundamentally believe that the effort and skill required to facilitate this level of engagement are, quite frankly, worth it – both for them and their clients. In this regard, it is telling only around half of advisers have business protection in place for their own firm. A slightly smaller number have a relevant life policy.

While advisers value providers that demonstrate commitment to the market and to raising the profile of protection, perhaps the job of persuasion starts with the adviser.

Our research shows, subject to the product being economically acceptable and the process to completion being smooth, there is a real opportunity for providers to more proactively engage with advisers, and in turn jointly develop the market through effective disturbance and solution creation.

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research

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