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Traditionally the role of the life company has been viewed as an end of life product provider. Whether this was to provide an income in retirement through pension savings or making a provision for dependents should a policyholder pass away, this view is a common misconception and one which it is important we work together to change. There is a lot more available from life companies and Financial Brokers than planning for death. Our role is to ensure consumers have the financial independence to live the life they wish regardless of what life throws at them.
Collectively, we need to ensure that the products and services we offer and their specific role is understood. Life companies offer a range of different solutions that provide an income either when an illness or absence prevents a person working or indeed at retirement. Our products are designed to help people in maximising the opportunities they have in life rather than planning for death.
Whether an individual decides to remain in work longer to keep active, stimulated and socially engaged or retire earlier or even is unable to work at a given time, we need to position our collective solutions as a means of providing the financial security to do this. Society needs to view ageing as an enriching experience, rather than something to be feared or denied. Lifestyle changes driven by illness or accident must also be viewed in a more positive way, a change of career due to the nature of an illness or re-training in order to remain in the workforce is not something that should be viewed negatively. Our collective solutions provide the means to continue living a particular lifestyle that otherwise would not be possible. They allow a person retain a sense of purpose, self-reliance and autonomy.
But all of this takes planning and education. It is important to remember that the first step is long-term planning and this does not come naturally to humans. We do not necessarily like to think about or plan for the distant future or for the “what ifs”. This is where the life industry must play an educational role in its contribution to society.
It is not only the cumulative effects of good daily habits, exercising and eating healthy but also putting in place financial security provisions i.e. saving regularly for retirement or putting an income protection plan in place that will ultimately provide for a good future. The quality and length of life rests squarely on the combined impact of these habits over many years. Failure by a person to invest in their financial future can threaten long term health providing its own set of ongoing challenges. The absence of this kind of planning can contribute to undue stress and concern on an individual resulting in further health issues.
Life companies and Financial Brokers should work together to contribute to society by educating consumers on the positive impact that their advice and products should have. Rather than being viewed as a luxury, our products need to be viewed as important to ensure a client benefits from good financial planning, regardless of what life might throw at them. This combined approach will ensure a far more coherent message is shared.
To that end, the Financial Broker initiative is an excellent first step towards this goal as we continue to promote the need and benefit consumers derive from independent and impartial financial advice from respected professions. This activity and campaign needs to continue this momentum in the face of competition from other distribution channels.
We can also go further than doing this with a purely commercial hat on. A number of initiatives, particularly in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) space, have shown clearly the power that combining our efforts can achieve. Friends First actively encourage and support Financial Brokers to participate in its CSR programme. Activities this year have included a Financial Broker and Staff skydive which raised in excess of €50,000 for the Irish Cancer Society and a group who covered 340 kms on the recent London to Mechelen cycle in support of Lessons for Life. These types of activities need to be not just central life company driven but should be both locally and nationally co-ordinated to highlight the positive societal impact our industry has.
In summary, by combining not just our CSR but also our approach to the positive promotion of good financial planning we can contribute in a very positive way to a better society.
This article by JP Hughes, Chief Commercial Officer, Friends First, originally appeared in The Financial Broker.