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Question time

Protection providers were candid about their current failings at this year’s Sesame Symposium in London last week.

Questions around dodgy 0845 numbers, the prospect of critical illness condition list books, and how the industry is working together to raise the profile of protection were put to the panel, with panelists admitting that standards needed to improve.

The panel, made up of Norwich Union’s Louise Colley, Axa’s Iain Mallon, Friends Provident’s Ed Stuart-Brown, Zurich’s Peter Hamilton and Sesame’s Roger Crocker, admitted to the failings that advisers have been faced with of late.
Panelists agreed more needed to do be done to raise the awareness of protection. Norwich Union head of protection marketing Louise Colley said while protection seems to have defied the recession, policy sales are still dwindling, blaming lack of consumer understanding around price and poor messaging for the slide.

Colley said: “When you ask consumers why they don’t buy protection, in the top four of those answers one is always affordability. As an industry we have failed at getting across the message of pricing. Still, customers have got no clarity around affordability and we need to address that.”
Research by Colley found the protection message hasn’t changed for 20 years, proving that the industry is “getting our messaging wrong to customers:. “The challenge now is to change those messages,” she said.

Likewise Zurich protection propositions and marketing director Peter Hamilton suggested using shock tactics to get the message out. Hamilton said time will tell if anybody is brave enough to use similar tactics as seen in the most recently broadcast seatbelt safety campaign. He said: “It could be something that is hard hitting, similar to the seatbelt campaign, that might actually shock people out of complacency.”

However, Colley said shock tactics work in some instances, but not all.

An adviser attending the debate questioned panellists on tele-underwriting and whether or not they could promote its usage more. He said not only does it protect advisers against non-disclosure but it also assists the sales process.

Axa director of protection marketing Iain Mallon said this is a process that Axa believed in. He said: “We’ve been tele-underwriting now for four years. It is a lot of work and painful, however, we have now got 99 per cent satisfaction. It’s all about getting that customer to disclose. It’s also trying to take some of the risk away from the adviser, and providing a better quality of product and service to the customer.”

However, Friends head of protection Ed Stuart-Brown said although tele-underwriting is an area where there has been important developments across the market, it is not a fully formed proposition yet.

Also brought to the table was talk of compulsory purchase and whether there was reason enough to bring it back. Further questioning was put about key-man income protection, something which an irate adviser said not enough providers offer, and whether providers will ever supply a list of illnesses which they are not interested in.
To finish, Stuart-Brown stated the obvious with: “I’m amazed at the lack of IP sales we see across the whole of the country.”

He said: “To me it is one of the fundamental building blocks with anyone’s finances. We talk about the recession that we’re in, I would suggest that from an advice point of view there is both a duty there and a huge opportunity to revisit customers who have previously got too used to not worrying too much about ‘what if’”.

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