Philip Roche - SPF Private Clients

Philip Roche answers our 2020 Adviser Interview

Why is protection important to you as an adviser and to your business?

To say 'protection' is important to me is an understatement. It represents 100% of my business and this business is my living.  It is important to me that I specialise in an area in which I feel confident the products will deliver and where the industry continues to evolve with our customers' needs.  I have worked in this industry for almost 30 years split 50/50 between claims and advice. In that time, I am fortunate to have also been exposed to protection markets in other countries.


Why are you successful as a protection adviser?

While reasons for taking out protection cover will always be more or less the same, the conversation concerning products and claims, in particular, is constantly changing.  I see my role as firstly to educate my client on how to review their protection needs and why it forms the basis of any good financial plan.  I do this by completing and providing them with a full assessment in all areas of protection with solutions attached.  It is then up to my client to make an informed decision as to how they wish to proceed. 

For me, it is not just the initial conversation that is important; it is continuing to have that conversation year on year. This means I ask my clients to engage in some capacity for 10/15 minutes on an annual basis.  This ensures the consistent adequacy of their cover in terms of meeting their needs, while also ensuring their premium remains competitively priced (especially now when we have a market where you can (in some cases) get a better price for the cover you arranged a year previous).  These reviews strengthen our relationship and nurture mutual trust between my clients and myself. My clawback rate is approximately 4% and after 7 years at SPF Private Clients, my review business represents a higher proportion of my overall business as each year passes.  My clients understand that protection is something you review annually and not when you get a new mortgage. This is a place where we, as an industry must strive to achieve.  


What do you want to see from insurers this year in terms of products and added value services?

With so many insurers now offering added benefit services to their policies, an insurance policy is now so much more than something that pays out money in the event of death or illness. These policies can now also provide medical, legal and vocational support to clients and their families.  This is particularly relevant with respect to Income Protection Claimants, however, that is another conversation.  I also consult in the Private Medical Insurance market, and the most requested benefit or added service I have found clients are looking to have included in cover is access to a Digital GP Service, which many of the main providers in PMI now include in their cover.  As far as products are concerned, I like where the Life and the Income Protection market is now as these products are very much the same whichever insurer you review. Personally speaking, these should be the first two products you look to discuss with a client.  However, Critical Illness cover is now so varied, with many providers having two plans (a standard and an upgraded plan), that maybe there is too much choice. Instead of having two plans, perhaps having one with different options (one you can build) may be something worth reviewing?  Whatever happens with critical illness, as I say to my clients, 'There are no bad policies in the market and irrespective of your choice, and all of them cover off the most claimed upon illnesses such as Cancer etc ”

Many customers do not fear exclusions or price increases, insurers do - I think it’s time to reassess our interpretation of ‘treating customers fairly’ and start treating customers like adults, who can make their own mind up on whether or not insurance is worth the price. Remember, if we decline to insure somebody we are excluding claims for all conditions, not just a couple.


What do you want from the Protection Review Conference this year, and from Protection Review in general?

With the Protection Review coming up in the next few months, I definitely like the idea of the Protect X, as I personally believe we should not be afraid to talk publicly about the things we do not do well as an industry.  While I feel the industry is going in the right direction and has taken massive strides in the last 20 years, we need to remember that the customer is always the key element, which sometimes may be overlooked. There are areas such as cost, and particularly claims, which I feel need more discussion as these are the two most important factors to a client when looking at protection. 


What’s the one major issue facing protection in 2020 and how would you like to see it fixed?

The one major issue facing protection in 2020 is something that has been an issue for a while and will continue to do so beyond 2020.  I am talking about changing the public’s mindset:  How do we get the public to see protection as a necessity rather than something they may or may not need?  When should you first talk about protection? Should it be when you start gainful employment?  One of the most interesting aspects of my career has been the public’s perception in the countries/continents I have lived/worked in with regards to protection.  While UK and Irish clients are getting better as we improve as an industry, I have found that European and US clients are far more engaging and proactive in this area.  While I appreciate there are different systems in different countries, it is more to the point that they understand that the conversation/assessment surrounding protection is a necessity, so they can assess their position in this area, rather than hoping that it will never happen to them or avoiding the conversation.

I think to change the mind-set, it is fair to say it will take time and a combination of factors rather than one specific approach.  However, I do feel employers can play a big part as they can offer protection clinics/health checks to their employees by giving them access to a Protection Advisor.  I appreciate there are Group Schemes out there that provide so much for employees, however, how many Group Scheme providers/brokers offer an individual protection health check for their staff to protect them and their families.  Something along the lines of what we saw with auto-enrolment on pensions.  Again, another topic worthy of industry debate.

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