CEO on the road

Recently I've been out on the road meeting advisers across the country to better understand the challenges you face when speaking to your clients about protection.

For too long, many in the industry have seen protection as an add-on, secondary to a mortgage or investment sale. I strongly believe this needs to change. We need to move the protection conversation away from the product and towards a deeper understanding of a client's risk profile.

There's clearly a deep-held belief that protecting your clients properly is hugely important. Your ambition is to help them feel secure and confident in their protection policies. However, there was some uncertainty about how best to position the protection conversation. And many of you expressed frustrations with the industry – specifically with the processes advisers have to go through, the time pressures faced and the lack of trust among consumers.

I wholeheartedly agree that these are the things the industry needs to do better. When the core team first set about creating Guardian, armed with a blank sheet of paper, it was exactly these issues we wanted to tackle. Let's look at a couple of the things you mentioned.

How to position the protection conversation

For too long, many in the industry have seen protection as an add-on, secondary to a mortgage or investment sale. I strongly believe this needs to change. We need to move the protection conversation away from the product and towards a deeper understanding of a client's risk profile.

To date, most have considered risk profiles only in the context of what a client has to gain, applying it to investments and asset management. But a proper understanding of a client must also consider the downside – what can they afford to lose? When you think of them in terms of their risk profile, protection insurance for death or critical illness is not an add-on. It's a fundamental part of good financial planning.

A lack of trust

People who have been paying premiums for years find they're penalised as their policies don't offer cover that's as comprehensive as newer policies. For those who have had to handle this, you'll know it's not nice for the client or for you.

Which brings us to the second problem; it's difficult to have a protection conversation with someone if they fundamentally don't trust the industry. Two things have, in my view, contributed to this. First, for critical illness, definitions have been difficult to explain. A policyholder doesn't have complete certainty that they'll get a payout until the point of claim. Some of you may have had the deeply unpleasant experience of telling a client who's been diagnosed that they're not eligible. And many of you will have had experience of trying to explain complicated T&Cs.

Secondly, people who have been paying premiums for years find they're penalised as their policies don't offer cover that's as comprehensive as newer policies. For those who have had to handle this, you'll know it's not nice for the client or for you. For others, how often have you had to revisit a client's protection needs because providers have improved their cover but it doesn't apply to your client on their existing policy?

Both these things undermine trust and make your job harder. You could be forgiven for wanting the industry to be bolder and braver, to try to change these things. Well, at Guardian that's exactly what we've done. We've dramatically simplified our definitions, so we now rely on confirmation from a UK Consultant for the most common conditions. We've also committed to 'future-proofing' our critical illness definitions through cover upgrades. In most cases, we'll apply any new improvements to all existing policies at no extra cost, meaning your clients will automatically be on the best policy terms.

Probate delays

Another thing that gives our industry a bad name is the time it takes for life insurance claims to go through probate. It's true that trusts can help avoid the delays. But how many of you write all your life policies in trust, and how long does it take to do? If a client dies and the policy hasn't been written in trust, there's a long wait for probate to complete before the client's beneficiaries can access the funds. This leaves them at a financial disadvantage at the time of greatest need.

At Guardian, we've directly tackled this. We've designed a simple-to-use mechanism that's completed at the application stage. It's called Payout Planner. This allows us to pay the death benefit to nominated beneficiaries immediately, with no probate delay.

These are just some of the many innovations we've introduced to solve industry challenges. I would of course say we have the best proposition in the market. But I've also heard from many advisers in these last few weeks that you also believe this to be the case. What came across loudly from my conversations:

  1. Your strong affinity to the ethics and fairness of what we've built – our simpler definitions and unique features deliver quality and certainty for your clients.
  2. Where you've used us, how supportive we've been in helping you get your clients on risk – whether that's through engagement with our underwriters, BDMs or servicing teams – making it a less stressful experience.
  3. The ease of use of our systems and how they support you in taking less time to close the sales process.

We've had the unique opportunity to create a proposition from scratch, with the express ambition that every family can have protection that they truly believe in. We're here to help you build your business, and to support quality long-term relationships with your clients that are built on trust. If you haven't registered with us yet, then please do – it will only take you a couple of minutes.

Discover more at adviser.guardian1821.co.uk