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Thank you for the music

I write this column – my last among the ranks of intermediaries, at least for now – having seen, praised, criticised and occasionally influenced much of what our industry has done over the last five to 10 years.

Our collective school report might read: ”After a promising start, this student has fallen behind and needs to focus on increasing sales and closing so-called gaps while continuing to improve perceived issues around claims as well as overall communications.”

As such, the UK protection industry has often been the subject of dour, if not depressing conversation over the years.

Lifesearch has driven a number of well documented improvements over the years while the industry has seen improvements in customer-driven innovation and non-disclosure. Paid claim statistics are rising and being reported in the consumer press. At the end of the day, people will always get married, start families, buy houses and move jobs. These are the key drivers of protection business.

Sometimes, I think we get lost in the detail and lose sight of those basics.

On the flip side, there are concerns around lack of consumer trust and lack of consistency at the regulator. I wonder if these are related?

What else could we do better? Family income benefit – why are we still calling it by this absurd sale-destroying name? Total permanent disability – long overdue a revamp. Payment protection insurance – need I say more? Long-term care – its time will come. Standardisation and simplification – maintaining share of a shrinking market is a short-term strategy at best. Advertising – now that would be a good start.

Staying on the school theme, top of the list of things to change would be financial services education. I have always found it remarkable that some people leave school without knowing how to understand the numbers on their payslip, let alone interest rates, pensions and protection.

No leaving column would complete with a few unofficial awards, so here goes…

Best nicknames Speedo, Scoop, Magnum, Jockey, Baked Bean Dean – you know who you are.

Best night out The Association of British Insurers’ awards in 2003 when then MM news editor Corey Boles picked up an award. Let us just say it was a very, very long night.

Best poker player Aviva’s ex-HSBC man Craig Colton. 007 has nothing on him when it comes to a four-way showdown.

Best musician The wonderful Esther Shaw, who else?

Best pool player Ex-Lifesearch adviser Ammo Kambo, who played the best shot I have ever seen on a pool table.

Best lunch John Lappin at La Gavroche.

Best Out of Context Tom Baigrie to John Lappin at La Gavroche: “Welcome to the Lifesearch canteen.”

Best industry band The dodgy one I was in with ex-MM hack Phil Scott? Nah. It has to be Mr Winder’s numbernine (at least until Tommy Atkins hit the road).

Best karaoke performance John Lappin singing Abba with Hal Austin? A green-haired Richard Walsh singing My Way in the style of Sid Vicious? Mark Locke’s video link from the Edinburgh karaoke venue known to some as his bedroom? The MM boys singing Rehab while wearing skirts and wigs? No, it has to be the MM girls wearing tracksuits and bling while singing and, er, dancing to Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s 80s classic Push It.

I now look forward to taking a few weeks off before joining up with the excellent new protection team at Prudential. It strikes me that they are really starting to get serious about protectionKevin Carr is head of protection strategy at Lifesearch

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