Politics and humour have a long relationship and the results are mixed.
From the immortal Churchill line: “Mr Attlee is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about” through to playground gibes about hair colour as attempted by Harriet Harman, humour is frequently the best device for getting politics on the agenda of the man in the street.
Recently, however, the man in the street has ceased looking to the political elite for reasoned thinking, as was shown in the US last week when over 200,000 marched in Washington, demanding an end to debate based on name-calling and manufactured ire. The catchy motto: “I support reasonable conclusions based on supported facts” was among the best emblazoned on their placards.
Therefore we should not worry about Mark Hoban’s lame comparison of IFAs and McDonalds’ workers. Quite apart from anything else, as Tom Baigrie’s tongue in cheek article pointed out, we have reason to be envious of our friends on the other side of the fast food counter and their equivalent FSA.
There remains a need for a specific protection exam since, apart from those specialising, product knowledge and advice standards can be woefully inadequate.
Even those who consider themselves keen protection sellers can display a worryingly tenuous grasp of the topic, as evidenced at a recent industry conference wherein, during a debate on multi-benefit plans, an audience member asserted he would not sell such a product until one was designed which allowed his clients to amend aspects of the policy as required in future.
Training will help us to reduce this knowledge gap but there will always be a danger it will preach to the converted and those doing the most damage to our reputation as an industry will stay at home, content in misconceptions that income protection is too complicated for people to understand, critical illness should be sold on cost alone and multi-benefit contracts are a neat idea but poorly designed and hard to arrange.
Add to this the growing swathe of non-advised protection sellers and the case for a compulsory qualification becomes stronger. A vast majority of these firms will be compliant, efficient and profitable but some will simply be out to make a killing and will do so, unaware of the regulatory requirements.
We know from experience these smaller firms will get less than the requisite attention from the regulator, which is galling for those of us spending time and money understanding and complying with superfluous rules such as total premium disclosure.
I suppose though, to refer to Churchill again: “If you have 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.”
Phil Jeynes is head of new business at LifeQuote, Direct Life and Pension Services