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The MM Profile: Kevin Carr

Lifesearch head of protection strategy Kevin Carr fills a variety of roles for the company. He is the PR division, the company spokesman and he manages the media as well as sales relationships with product providers. He is also, according to some, “a rent a quote” and “overexposed”.

He says: “I am very focused and driven. I have been told I am arrogant but it tends to be from people I have criticised.”

Let us put the “exposure” into facts and figures. Carr claims that since 2000, when he joined the firm, Lifesearch has been mentioned in over 1,500 publications.

“I get paid to do two things – to know my patch inside out and to say what I think, whether I am talking to a client, a life office or the media. Every quote I have ever given has been factual, honest and consumer-driven and there is not enough of that in the financial services industry.

“We believe we have done more than any other advisory business to promote the need for protection.”

Carr says the firm has moved from being a relatively unknown niche business to being a leading voice in the protection industry.

“We punch well above our weight. There were 10 staff in 2000 when I joined and today there are 103, about half of which are advisers.”

He passed three A levels but decided against going to university. “I wanted to work, to earn money and to spend money.”

At the age of 15, Carr spent time on work experience at both Nationwide and NatWest. “Sadly I quite liked it,” he says.

But his first proper job was at Gateway supermarket (now Somerfield). “I started stacking shelves and two years later I was running a section while I was doing my A levels.” Carr worked full-time for six months at Gateway while looking for a job in financial services.

“I took a week off and walked around the City of London, around Bank, Moorgate, St. Paul’s. I went into every bank, building society and mortgage lender with my CV.” This excursion led to a job with Nationwide.

Lifesearch has always been a campaigning firm. It has lobbied for Icob regulation, regulation of pension term assurance, publication of critical-illness insurance claims statistics and it is currently campaigning against non-advised sales of protection products.

Carr believes that the protection market requires simplicity and a mass solution. “The industry has too many products and too many acronyms – we bombard the consumer.”

He also feels that innovation is needed in the critical cover sector. “The fact that 1.6bn has been paid in claims over the past five years means CI has been, and still is, a highly relevant market that meets consumer needs but how do you meet these needs in the future? Perhaps there is a danger that CI is getting out of date.”

Prudential’s recently launched severity-based product is certainly comprehensive bur Carr says it is also costly and complex.

He says Lifesearch has been working on delivering a mass-market solution for the past couple of years but he is tight-lipped on details and on the estimated delivery.

As for providers, Carr feels most of them are letting down advisers for many reasons but he stresses that advisers could help themselves as he feels some contribute to bad service by not carrying out the basics correctly, such as not explaining the underwriting process properly.

“Life offices need to reward quality and not just quantity of business and I mean business that is sold well, as in a treating customers fairly way, and business that stays on the book.”

He applauds any efforts to make income protection more sellable and attractive. “The two biggest issues that the IP market has are, first, the existence of payment protection insurance and second, that banks, building societies and mortgage lenders typically do not sell it.

“When it comes to financial knowledge, the majority of the population will get it from the company they bank with or borrow money from and neither tends to sell income protection.”

Carr is a big indie and punk music fan, who does, however, admit that he owns James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam and that he does not mind Tiffany, would probably not recommend that the likes of Babyshambles’ front man Pete Doherty buy his protection from a supermarket but he admits that at the same time Doherty would be a tricky one to advise.

“Well he is unprotectable with any policy that involves underwriting. Some policies do not need underwriting, such as PPI, so clearly it does have its place in the market.”

Born: London, 1975

Lives: London (via Ipswich and Chigwell)

Education: 10 GCSEs, 3 A Levels (economics, accountancy and IT)

Career: 1993-96: Nationwide Building Society, 1996-2000: Commercial Union, 2000-present: Lifesearch
Career ambition: To be as successful as possible from saying and doing what is right for the consumer
Life ambition: To be happy and to make those around me happy

Likes: Arsenal, Integrity, People who play their own instruments and writer their own songs, pubs with jukeboxes and pool tables

Dislikes: Manufactured pop, Ignorance, Spurs

Favourite film: The Italian Job (the Michael Caine version)

Favourite album: Technique, New Order (when I’m not listening to James Blunt)

Favourite book: Touching from a Distance, the life of Ian Curtis, by his wife Deborah

Hero: When I’m not busy admiring Tom (Baigrie), I would say Tony Adams or Paul Weller

If I was not doing this job I would be… “An international indie icon writing great songs in a great band, or more likely earning a pittance writing for the NME”

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