COVER's founding editor and editorial director, Lawrence Gosling, discusses his take on the protection market since COVER's launch.
It is 20 years since we launched COVER magazine and as I look back it does seem like only yesterday and yet the industry has made huge strides and improvements.
At the time of COVER's launch, a survey from a major life office which was our inspiration - its research had said that protection was the fast growing part of advisers' business.
This made sense. The economy was coming out of recession, we were about to have a change of government from Conservative to Labour, pensions was going through one of its periods of over-complication and investment flows were still very focussed around the end of the tax years.
So ‘little old protection' was holding up many advisers' businesses and was proving a very good way to attract clients.
Looking back now why should I be surprised! Protection is the bedrock of the financial services industry - there is still a whole swathe of insurers that were found two hundred years ago on the basic premise of protecting us against those life moments we hope don't affect us.
Back in the 1990s while basic life assurance was a strong advice line critical illness and more sophisticated forms of cover were still not universally popular.
Complex exclusions against what are now sadly very common illness seemed to be rife and there was a broader perception that insurers dragged their heals on payouts, and many policies did not cover what was then the word on many peoples' lips - AIDS.
So in 20 years it is not hard to see how far the industry has progressed. Insurers quickly got to grips with the ‘risk' of AIDS and it became almost standard in policies as the medical profession began to understand it better.
Similarly cover for cancers, MS and diabetes became standard in many policies and a lot of this was down the hard work and lobbying of a small group of independent advisers who specialised in protection.
The insurers to the credit of many ‘stepped up to the plate' and in the last five years have been publishing pay-out information.
This is a simple but effective way of demonstrating that criticism of insurers dragging their heels was largely unfounded.
Similarly the combined industry has played a significant role in the wider discussion about improving the nation's health by linking gym membership and lifestyle changes to improvements in the cost and scope of cover.
I would argue the way that the protection industry has worked in a more ‘joined-up' way with the public, advisers, themselves, governments and academics is a model that the pensions and investment sectors should look at.
So as COVER looks forward to the next 20 years the sector is - excuse the pun - is very good health, but there is never room for complacency.
Simplicity of language in policy information will remain important - as will the under-appreciated role of underwriters which have arguably contributed hugely to industry improvement.
We thank the whole of the industry for its engagement and support over the last 20 years and we look forward to a healthy relationship going forward so we can all prosper and most importantly, more consumers are protected against illness and disease.
Lawrence Gosling is founding editor of COVER and editorial director of COVER's publisher Incisive Media
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