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Insurance Watch: What’s missing on our doorstep?

“You need life cover. But critical illness and income protection are expensive.”

For 15 years I have distributed or marketed protection products. Very recently, I found myself on the other end of it. It was odd, enlightening and hugely concerning.

I will back up. We have just bought a new house. Yes, it is as stressful as I remember it being last time.

At one of our meetings with the mortgage adviser the topic of protection came up. Our adviser seemed to be avoiding the subject, so it was down to me to prompt him.

“What protection products do we need?” I asked – he did not know where I worked at the time.

“Life cover,” he said, abashed and embarrassed. “But critical illness and income protection are expensive.”

I am ashamed to say I rarely role-play the customer nowadays. With two kids, a hectic schedule and a demanding job I wish I could escape into it more often.

Yet, here it was in real life with an adviser who started negatively and descended from there. It did not inspire confidence.

I am not saying our adviser is typical, hopefully far from it. We are forking out big on a mortgage but with enough disposable income to afford what we need on top.

So, it felt presumptions as to where we placed our value of our outgoings. To us, we already knew it was not too expensive, but he had already assumed it would be.

I am a protection person and a persistent advocate that people need cover to protect the families and the lives they are building.

The problem is that the majority do not know much beyond the basics about how crucial protection insurance can be.

Right now, some 40 per cent of homeowners with a mortgage do not have life cover. As much as 70 per cent do not have critical illness cover and 80 per cent have no income protection.

In many cases, buying a home is people’s first exposure to protection. Mortgage advisers often have the responsibility of introducing the lifeline of protection to families who simply do not know what they do not know.

If our guy’s apathy on our new doorstep represents even a small percentage then it is no wonder protection insurance gets a bad rap.

Protection is not a throwaway conversation or an annoying part of the process. It is vital.

If advisers reading this do not want to talk about it or cannot, for whatever justifiable reason, put a process in place so that clients can talk to an expert.

Families need to be asked to think about their position and be presented with relevant, comprehensive options that speak to the needs, ambitions and budget of the household.

Families do not naturally talk about taboos like death and money and contingency plans.

They need guidance and knowledge from the front-line, so they can think the unthinkable and focus on a decision that matters.

Our mortgage process fell short. We need to stand behind protection products, so our customers can actually pay these lovely big mortgages, no matter what the tide brings in.

Emma Walker is Chief Marketing Officer at LifeSearch

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