Life assurance: dead in the water?

I don’t know how much the delegates tend to get out of my conference presentations, but I almost always get a lot out of the delegates. 

I spoke at a conference of life assurance people yesterday, giving a sort of life-assurancey version of my last blog entry – that is, speaking about how I think that all sorts of organisation have all sorts of increasingly-compelling reasons for paying fresh and serious attention to the opportunities of the direct-to-consumer (D2C) market.

I think this more or less held the delegates’ attention, and they laughed in the right places when I showed them a longish reel of TV commercials on somewhat tangentially relevant topics, but I have to say that I don’t think I won an awful lot of hearts or minds.

Protection sales are in long-term decline in this country, and looking around the room yesterday it wasn’t hard to see why.  The strongest emotion that people seemed able to muster was a sort of sullen petulance in response to the things that I and several other speakers had to say about ways to revitalise it (obviously not really the best-chosen word in this market).  People in this part of the industry stick doggedly to their long-standing belief that “life assurance is sold and not bought,” and that therefore there’s little point in worrying about anything much except what could be done to find more people to do the selling, and more commission to encourage them to do more of it.

What’s particularly depressing is the way that even some of those who might be regarded as enfants terribles – like Kevin Carr from Lifesearch, promoting the importance of advice in the D2C market, and Andy Milburn from Progress, talking about the importance of spending face-time with IFAs in the intermediated market  – are actually just as trapped in their own thought-processes as the men in grey suits.  Despite the steep decline in sales and a rather ridiculous statistic to the effect that something called a “protection gap” is now worth some £2.3 trillion, I didn’t see any sign of anyone being remotely interested in new or different ideas.

But then again, come to think about it, when a market is in steep long-term decline, the fact that the people responsible for the decline are uninterested in new ideas shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

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