It is not quite a case of poacher turned gamekeeper.
But it is a slight change of focus for Alain Desmier (pictured), once head of a lead generation firm. He now runs Contact State - set up last year to help insurers and intermediaries avoid unscrupulous financial promotions, or lead generation companies that dupe consumers searching online into thinking they have clicked on a legitimate financial website.
The companies tend to promise rates and quotes that are neither real, nor representative of the insurer or intermediary whose products they are promoting.
“Right now we are working with a number of insurers and intermediaries to essentially regulate the marketing partners they work with,” says Mr Desmier.
“It is a bit of a Wild West now. If you wanted to set up a lead generation firm tomorrow or today even, you could go and buy the name, design the website, put a few ads up and almost immediately you could start selling regulated leads.”
Prior to setting up Contact State, Mr Desmier ran a lead generation business called E-Finity Leads, which was sold in 2018.
He set up Contact State to address the problem that is also now of concern to the government and regulator.
Every day thousands of people go online looking for insurance.
But in recent years a rogue element has entered this chain: a small number of mainly offshore lead generators have been producing fraudulent advertising as well as mishandling and reselling consumer insurance data, according to a report co-authored by LifeSearch and Contact State in June this year.
The report explained: “If a consumer today responds to a life insurance advert, there will be as many as six different platforms and companies involved in managing the mechanism of the transfer of that data.
“As well as being potentially porous, the process is opaque and members of the chain are largely unaware of each other with very different expectations and metrics for success.
“A consumer may have unknowingly already interacted with three different platforms and businesses before they enter a regulated environment where the actions of advisers are scrutinised. This raises the problem of data broking and the security of valuable, sensitive personal data; there is no single way to prevent data being sold more than once.”
As a result, a consumer not actually in the market to buy protection yet is also being routinely targeted and retargeted with adverts that suggest that life insurance is a cheap, disposable product.
At a time when Covid-19 has made people more vulnerable to scammers, this issue has become a big cause for concern.
A key part of Contact State’s business model is that any lead generation company that wants to sells leads to an insurer or intermediary that is partnered up with Contact State has to integrate its system into Contact State’s technology.