John Bridge has his fingers in many pies. His day job sees him operating in the role of director of sales and marketing for income protection provider Cirencester Friendly and then, when most put their feet up and spend time with the family, he spends weekends juggling numerous financial services-related hobbies.
Having spent 38 years in financial services, many of which have been at building societies, his extracurricular activities include being fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a member of the Institute of Credit Management, roles he has held since 1990. And if that was not enough, by 1998 he had also become an industry compliance and expert witness, practising member of the Academy of Experts, an expert witness for The Law Society and a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
In his day job the biggest challenge currently facing Mr Bridge and his team is to promote the importance of income protection. He said: “One of our main problems is that while IP is an important cover, the people who buy financial products remain unconvinced.
“It is a concern to everyone that this is not considered an important cover, despite the fact that people still borrow large amounts of money and seek out mortgages to buy homes. It is also incredible how many people buy pet insurance but not IP. This is recognised by the industry and we all agree that the general population needs more education on its benefits.”
Whereas some IP figures blamed a lack of take-up on the negative image of insurance providers, Mr Bridge said the real issue was that most were oblivious that this type of insurance cover exists. However despite providers such as Cirencester Friendly publishing payout claims data for the past few years, Mr Bridge said that those who refused to circulate statistics should also be held accountable.
He added: “We are anxious to distribute our claim statistics, which have constantly been in the 94 per cent and 95 per cent mark, but there are some companies that are reluctant to publish figures. I cannot speak for them but perhaps that reluctance may add some fuel to the opinion that providers are reluctant to pay claims.”
Mr Bridge does, nonetheless, predict a positive conclusion to the goal of wider awareness and is encouraged by a few industry signs that point towards a brighter future. According to him, IP’s immunity from commission bans has seen a gradual increase in business from financial advisers and the mortgage market review will see even more advice directed towards the merits of protection.
Mr Bridge also envisions a great future for building societies, which will come as no surprise to those familiar with his career story and the profound respect he holds for mutuals. According to him, building societies recovered well from the financial crisis and have introduced a number of innovative products to complement the mortgage market.
He added: “Because of their flexibility and mutuality they survived the storm better than clearing banks. Mortgage lending dropped and many of them got out of the storm by specialising in buy-to-let properties. Now we see building societies being more innovative than ever with fixed-rate and specialist mortgage products.”