To support vulnerable clients, it is vital that advisers know where to direct them when the help they need goes beyond the adviser’s capabilities.
Effective signposting is therefore key, as Chris Dunne, protection proposition manager at Scottish Widows, observes: “Signposting to specialists is a long-established practice in the medical, legal and other professions. And it should have an increasing role to play in the insurance market.”
Johnny Timpson, founder and chair of the Access to Insurance Working Group, who is also a commissioner at the Financial Inclusion Commission and a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, also highlights the need for signposting.
He says: “Signposting is particularly important where the client is vulnerable or potentially so. In certain circumstances, this can and does result in a need to collaborate with and/or signpost to specialist advisers, brokers, support services, charities and/or consumer groups.
"The adviser should first assess their client’s needs and signpost when and where appropriate."
He continues: “The circumstances where it would be appropriate to signpost to a specialist adviser, broker, support service or charity might be where the service required is not, or cannot be, provided by the adviser, as it is beyond their authorisation and/or their and their firm’s risk appetite or area of experience, or if the service required is specialist legal advice on a specific subject or area of law that the adviser cannot provide.
“In other circumstances it may be that the adviser cannot deal with the case due to their workload or personal circumstances; the case needs urgent action that the adviser cannot undertake; or the adviser thinks there could be a conflict of interest if they take on the case.”
It is important to ensure that clients are pointed in the right direction, as Timpson adds: “Where it’s to a specialist financial services firm, ensure that they are fit and proper, and able to provide advice.”
Help at hand
One factor that may require an adviser to signpost a client to a specialist is age – some providers will only offer a product up to a certain age limit.
But older customers make up a sizeable proportion of the population. According to Office for National Statistics, as at mid-2020, almost a fifth (18.6 per cent) of the population was over 65. This suggests there could potentially be many people experiencing difficulties in obtaining cover.
However, this problem has been recognised and action has been taken to support people in gaining access to cover where they have previously encountered difficulty, due to age or medical conditions.
In 2012, the British Insurance Brokers Association, the Association of British Insurers and the government entered into an agreement to help older people get the insurance cover they need.