The idea of inde¬pendent and unbiased protection training has been called for, and talked about, for pretty much as long as I can remember.
In-house intermediary and network training is typically good, although it can be costly for small businesses to deliver and keep up to date and while good life office training is widely available, it can sometimes lean towards product push, perhaps unintentionally, without really helping the audience to fully understand the market and grow their business.
Many advisers have provided feedback along these lines and, having attended hundreds of training sessions myself, I can empathise with how intermediaries may sometimes feel.
Protection Review, the independent protection expert established in 2003 by co-chairmen Peter Le Beau and Andy Couchman, is now looking to team up with the Personal Finance Society to provide independent specialist protection training aimed at improving knowledge and understanding of the industry at all levels.
We have been discussing our initial plans with a range of insurers and reinsurers in recent weeks and we have been really pleased with the positive response so far to support this initiative.
We hope to deliver sessions across the UK and wherever they are called for.
One of our key aims is to deliver training from inde¬pendent experts, including intermediaries and reinsur¬ance underwriters, with the core purpose of improving knowledge and understanding of the protection market, without promoting any specific products.
Why now? We are seeing the gradual transfer of risk from Government and big organisations towards individuals. We have seen it with pensions and we are now seeing it with insurance too.
For many, protection is the bedrock of financial planning and can be more important than any investment or savings portfolio.
In addition, intermediary research, as well as our own experience in the market, tells us there is a gap in the protection market for independent training that picks up on all important areas from products and market background to sales, claims and overcoming objections.
The training will cover all aspects of the market on a very interactive basis including products, underwriting, claims, regulation, sales and technology and will make relevant reference to any current or future protection qualifications. As the leading professional body for financial advisers, the PFS is the ideal partner to work alongside and move the initiative forward with. They help drive imp¬rovement in professionalism and are always keen to support initiatives designed to improve the quality of advice.
We will also look to cover current issues and changes in the market, such as new products, changes to state benefits, critical-illness sales scripts and any changes to total and permanent disability.
We are discussing and build¬ing both the content and for¬mat and we are open to ideas and feedback. As well as cover¬ing the life, critical-illness and income protection markets we also plan to inc¬lude private medical insur¬ance, employee benefits, health cash plans and dental plans.
With the financial support of insurers and reinsurers, the first pilot sessions should begin early in 2011 and will be open to anyone to attend including intermediaries, paraplanners, non-advisers and life office staff. CPD credits will be included, where relevant, and although product providers will also be welcome to attend, they will not present nor influence the content of the training.
Early indications are that the half-day sessions will consist of two sections – the first covering areas such as market back¬ground, technical product details and consumer needs, the second focusing more on practical issues such as advice, recommendations and rebuttals.
Many intermediaries have admitted to us that protection business is not always to the fore when talking with clients. Advisers need to restore the issue of protection from both a business development point of view and in order to meet their clients’ growing and changing needs.
At the moment, many simply do not have the time to organise it but soon we hope that this initiative will help to overcome this issue.