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PPI is dead, long live PPI provided the regulator demonstrates real leadership.

There was huge rejoicing in The Wizard of Oz when the first of the wicked witches was killed. Similarly, joy seemed to be unrestrained after the demise of single premium PPI.

However, while this seems to be accepted as a Good Thing, I am concerned that in throwing out the bathwater, the baby has been flushed away too.

Consider the demands for SP PPI to be withdrawn that have grown louder in the past few years.

Not only was single premium PPI on trial but the whole market for protection. It is hardly surprising that intermediaries are reluctant to recommend this most important basic protection for fear that the witchhunt will start up again on monthly contracts.

Ironically, all this comes at a time when job losses and inability to work caused by the stress of managing growing indebtedness are building. The need for protecting the vital ability to repay loans and mortgages has never been greater.

And yet with all the signs over lack of job security, the take up of new policies is not brilliant, and in my view the regulator needs to come off the fence and reengage customers to ensure that they recognise the importance of insuring against inability to pay loans and mortgages.

Ideally, the regulator should be more proactive in providing leadership in setting TCF blueprints in the area of product design, rather than just in the selling process.

Clearly, one of the main problems in the past has been the unhealthy reliance by lenders and some intermediaries on commission to the detriment of premiums and policy benefits. It is going to take a major shift in emphasis to make tomorrows policies as transparent as other financial products, with easily understandable benefits linked to affordable premiums and simple acceptance of proof of illness or unemployment.

Leadership from the regulator, rather than simply reactive policing, is what is required.

If all new loans and mortgages were contingent on simple protection, the spectre of repossession and financial hardship would be significantly reduced. The FSA has the authority to rebuild customer confidence in the need for protection and promote the vital participation of financial advisers in the process.

Whether it can actually grow a proactive culture and put itself into unfamiliar territory remains to be seen. Current and past performance however, suggests that the bureaucratic mind is happiest acting as the nations financial traffic warden doling out penalties, rather than attempting to break new ground and lead from the front.


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