Individual IP - Time to change gear?

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Owain Thomas finds that, sometimes, driving a Ford Focus rather than an Aston Martin is a good thing

By many people’s reckoning, the individual income protection (IP) market has mostly lived 2011 in the slow lane.
True, there have been moments where it has stepped up a gear with provider mergers and product launches and tweaks, but most of this was largely in the works 12 months ago. It seems telling that perhaps the events that sent the market into a spin came towards the year’s end with both Aviva and Unum launching consumer marketing campaigns around ITV’s popular programme Downton Abbey.More specifically, those campaigns actively promoted IP.

While discussion raged at the time about the appropriateness and consumer response to the adverts there was pretty much universal industry approval for the moves with the prevailing thought being that ‘any publicity is good publicity’.
setting priorities

Although Unum’s campaign was specifically aimed at promoting workplace income protection, Linton Penman, head of retail marketing at the provider, explained it was hoping to benefit the whole sector. “My philosophy is that for most working people, protecting their income should be their number one financial planning priority,” he said. “But as we know very few people have heard of IP. Part of the reason is because the industry has not done a good job of promoting itself in the past and the other part is because advisers see all these hurdles.

“So we, and others, have been trying to knock these hurdles out of the way. Anything that raises the profile has to be good thing,” he added. One possible solution to those hurdles identified by Clive Waller of CWC Research in his speech at the COVER Forum was more creativity from insurers. He suggested products such as pick and mix IP coverage along the lines of some private medical insurance (PMI) plans would be welcomed with open arms by the public.

Penman has an interesting take on this subject given his previous market experience. “It’s a really interesting idea but you come back to the idea of sophistication and trying to be very clever compared to the customer perceiving that as complicated,” he said. “I think most people would think the pick and mix a bit complicated.

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