Today's Protection industry is largely unrecognisable to that of a decade or so years ago, and yet some habits appear to die hard, says Nick Aumonier.
Distribution is no longer about an adviser sat with their client and a cup of tea of an evening, it's call centre and multi-site operations using streamlined processes arranging large volumes of policies month after month.
Of course the adviser and mortgage broker models still have their place and rightly so, but protection en-mass, when done properly, opens up the concept to more consumers than ever before.
We know that telephone based protection sales are best undertaken at times when clients are comfortable, when they have time and can access the information they need, which is often in the evening.
In fact, for us, the evening is one of the business parts of our ‘protection day'.
So here's a good idea then, lets shut the life offices at 5pm. No, wait, that's just daft isn't it?
We should applaud Ageas who plough a lone furrow in this regard and have dedicated telephone support up until 8pm Monday to Thursday.
It's evening service includes pre-underwriting, by far the most vital phone call an adviser will make before agreeing a product with a client. In fact, it is unfair to call it an ‘evening' service, it's not. It's the normal service, but up until 8pm. Perfect.
We see the same scenario each evening. An advisor completes a fact find with a client, medical conditions are discussed and there is the need to find out the underwriting consensus from the insurers.
But wait. Its 6.30pm, doh! The Ageas hotline it is then. Again.
The same is true for the IFA and Mortgage Adviser. They see far more clients in the evening than they do during the day, when on home visits and currently agree a mortgage package but leave the client with the "I'll have to come back to you regarding the protection" line.
Madness. ‘Here's your bed, but I'll have to come back to you about the mattress.'
It would be interesting to see what volume of business Ageas transact between the hours of 5 and 8pm and would suspect that it writes more protection than anyone else here, purely by virtue of being able to answer the phone to distributors who, in many cases, are operating at the busiest part of their working day.
In a time when a consumer can seemingly get a price or buy just about anything they want on-line within minutes, our industry must wake up to the fact that speed and efficiency, most importantly at a time that suits them, is essential.
Ageas we salute you, the rest must do better.
Nick Aumonier is managing director of Clarity Financial Solutions