Protection and wealth CPD course  

Keeping vulnerability in mind when advising on protection and wealth

  • Describe some of the challenges of advising vulnerable clients
  • Identify what questions can be asked
  • Explain the approach advisers should take

For Mohammad Uz-Zaman of ADL Estate Planning, trust is vital. He says: “The challenge for a firm and an adviser is to foster trust quickly where new prospects are concerned, especially where there is a need for a prospect to act sooner rather than later.”

Uz-Zaman notes: “Existing client testimonials that have been independently verified, peer reviews and an excellent initial consultation would go a very long way.”

Roy McLoughlin, associate director at Cavendish Ware and founder of the Seven Families campaign, agrees: “The important thing when advisers are talking to vulnerable clients is to have empathy and understanding, especially with Covid and all the new situations it has brought along, [for example] increased anxiety and more mental health conditions (meaning these are no longer such a taboo subject), but this all creates a certain concern that people are not going to be able to get insurance.” 

A paradox

McLoughlin points to what he calls a “paradox” of protection for people with vulnerability. By this he means that openness about vulnerability can simultaneously create the anxiety that they they will be refused affordable protection, or still not be given cover at all. Something that should ideally be helpful to a client (being open), can therefore paradoxically lead to them being penalised, much to the loss to their adviser as well. 

Yvonne Braun, director of policy, long-term savings and protection at the Association of British Insurers, and a Gain endorser, recognises this paradox, while highlighting how vital and necessary it is for clients to be honest when disclosing conditions, for example, mental health conditions.

Braun notes that “the insurance industry has come a long way in improving access to insurance for customers with pre-existing mental health conditions. However, there is still more work to be done in this area including, importantly, to improve the dialogue around disclosure."

She adds: "Disclosure is an essential part of the underwriting process, which ensures that a customer ends up with a policy that meets their needs. Last year, our annual claims statistics showed that non-disclosure was the biggest reason for claims being declined. It is crucial that customers understand the importance of disclosure in the underwriting process to minimise the chance of this happening.”

Mental health is a particularly wide-ranging area, especially now resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lakey points out that discussing a client’s mental health can be very difficult for advisers, and might “make some advisers feel uncomfortable, but it is essential to ensure full disclosure and to avoid any future rejected claim”, he says.

Specific tools, methods and approaches are available to help advisers broach particularly difficult and sensitive conversations.