ProtectionMay 9 2013

Unprotected view of our industry

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ByPeter Le Beau

I am going to be a little bit critical of the industry. But the reason I am doing it is because the criticisms are not mine but those of some wealth management colleagues who I asked to give me a no holds barred view of the protection industry. Sadly they did and in some respects it did not make easy listening, but their criticisms were constructive and they were largely true and relevant.

My first correspondent cited “systemic barriers to innovation”. I will elaborate on this shortly but another interesting feature was the feeling that there was absence of real consideration of protection in the financial planning process, which means that it is easy to forget about it. Tell me whether the British population at large’s biggest priority is wealth management or protection. There you have a real point of contention that I believe should be a focus of regulatory concern.

My colleagues also cited the fact that those advisers who do address protection needs have low expectations of the customer and adviser journey, which is lengthy, unpredictable and frustrating.

Added to this is the maintenance of indemnity or upfronting of commission, which means that protection has become a mass-market offering that is churned frequently – or it was until G-Day came along.

Others thought it was fair to say that the protection market had not kept pace with technology and service changes in the same way as other parts of the financial industry. They suspected that a person completing an application for a protection policy in 2013 would have a very similar experience to the person who did so in 2003 – just with more questions to deal with. Certainly we have not been as bold in developing the underwriting models of the future as I hoped we might be, but I do think that the ‘customer journey’ (as everyone calls it nowadays) is a little more enlightened. Having recently been to the US (where admittedly levels of cover tend to be, on average, higher than the UK) I detected virtually no attention being paid to this area. Far too much attention is paid in the US to the technical niceties of underwriting but this is not a piece about the defects of the US system but about perceived deficiencies of the UK protection market.