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Phil Wickenden: Providers and advisers must engage on protection

Last week, I looked at how, despite some encouraging signs of adviser engagement with business protection since 2015, only 32 per cent of clients that advisers believe should have cover in place do so.

The real challenge is getting clients to associate more strongly with a mental image of the future that is much more vivid, concrete and focused on the specific problems that need to be solved. Advisers need to believe that the effort and skill required to facilitate this level of engagement is worth it, both for them and their clients.

So what is stopping them? As ever, the devil lies in the detail. When the problem is a coalescence of many factors that are closely intertwined, there is, frankly, no silver bullet. As the chart opposite shows, client interest remains the key barrier, with cost the second most significant. So it is more than just an element of adviser inertia getting in the way.

With advisers themselves recognising a protection gap, the industry must put its collective bonces together to explore how else it can support them in having the right conversations with clients.

Advisers are seeking the tools to engage and disturb but they also want providers to play their part in raising awareness.

That said, many forms of support already exist. While it is likely true that providers could be more thoughtful and strategic in how this support and material is shared with firms, it is perhaps unlikely such support will result in any significant impact. The industry needs to start thinking differently.

It is understandable that advisers tend to focus more on wealth management and retirement planning. Attempting to force protection into competition with these is not going to be an effective way of engaging them.

Instead, it will be much more effective to attempt to help advisers integrate protection into the process of the wealth management and retirement planning business they undertake.

Hard-wiring protection into the wider adviser proposition, while the most likely way to ensure it receives the prominence it deserves, is no easy feat. Firms are often wedded to their proposition and change brings with it a level of uncertainty that advisers do not like.

It is not something that will just occur naturally and there is little point doing the same things ad infinitum and expecting a different and better result.

Phil Wickenden is a consultant

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