Peter Le Beau issues a call to action…
The cynics in our industry might chuckle at the suggestion that 2014 is a year which may see a transformation in the fortunes of income protection. They would cite (sadly with good reason) a series of past clarion calls, some of them by the IPTF, to make the next year one where sales of the product broke through the plateau that seems to have been the level of industry production for some time now. Thus far those calls haven’t met with conspicuous success but even the most hardened cynic would have to admit that 2014 really could be different.
Firstly we have the likely impact of the Family Support Initiative. A chance for the industry to show the value of its products on a national stage and to help real people in a visible, compassionate and yet practical way. The opportunity to share the real difference that income protection and the services that go with it across the nation is one that we dare not fumble. Despite an understandable conservatism about high-profile initiatives it is truly heartening to see an industry buoyed by the chance to underline its real value to society in a tangible and visible way. Nothing moves and persuades the public more than real stories about real people and this is what the Family Sup port Initiative will provide. We believe it will be a breakthrough in terms of awareness and understanding of the need for insurance protection in an increasingly uncertain world.
Added to this, the Charter represents an important step forward in putting together a code of conduct that will reassure and protect the public and enable us as an industry to work to a highly desirable template that should ensure we aspire to strong ethical standards and produce practical affirmation of those standards.
The work on Means-testing that the IPTF has undertaken is a fundamental piece of research that has resulted in a simple-to-use set of questions which should prevent mis-selling and enable us to highlight the real need to protect income that so many people have. There will be no uncertainties about whether IP is a valid and appropriate sale and a chance to help people to appreciate their financial vulnerability much more specifically.
This is one of a number of better links we are attempting to build with the welfare system which enable people to understand the pinch points in their financial lives and the risks that beset them. Added to this we call on employers to issue annual statements detailing sick pay provisions for their employees, which should add even more clarity to peoples’ understanding of their potential vulnerability.
Within the industry work goes on to innovate, simplify and improve IP propositIons. That is vitally important too, as is the need to try to improve every step of the customer journey and to find ways to select quickly and accurately without the dislocation to the process we see so often where IP is concerned.
Surely these are reasons not only to be optimistic but to be proud of what we as an industry can do to help people re-balance their lives and salvage their self-respect. 2014 will hopefully be a watershed year in the history of the UK protection industry.
Peter Le Beau
Peter Le Beau is one of the best known consultants in life and health insurance protection; he began his career at British and European and in 1981 moved to Swiss Re where he was initially Head of Underwriting and later became Head of UK Marketing. He left in 2001 to set up an independent consultancy, Le Beau Visage, which focuses on differentiation in the Protection sector.
Since starting Le Beau Visage, Peter and Andy Couchman (Bank House Communications) have set up The Protection Review www.protectionreview.co.uk; he has set up a strategic discussion group called The-Net-Work www.the-net-work.org and in 2005 Peter and Clive Waller (CWC Research) set up the Income Protection Task Force to promote a greater awareness of the value of the product.
Peter is a non-executive director of Fineos, Red Arc, Health Claims Bureau and Exeter Family Friendly.