Tom Conner - Drewberry

Tom Conner from Drewberry answers our questions in the 2020 Adviser Interview.

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

When we started Drewberry 10 years ago, we believed in the vital role protection plays in safeguarding families from the devastating financial impact that disability and death can cause. Coming into the industry fresh, we really saw the value in income protection in particular, even though it wasn’t, and still isn’t, as widely sold as critical illness cover.

Ten years on, after seeing countless claims, that belief in the value of protection has been strengthened considerably. I’ll never forget the first-ever claim for one of my clients who suffered colon cancer. I’ll also never forget the client who died from a brain tumour shortly after returning home from his honeymoon, aged just 21. We constantly try to drive home to our advisers that what they do it vitally important.

From a business perspective, our protection team is the bedrock of our business. We started out just advising on protection, but we now offer a holistic financial planning service to clients, but protection should always be the foundation to build on.


Why are you successful as a protection adviser?

Over the years we’ve improved a lot of what we do, but the overriding objective has remained the same, to combine being real product experts with five-star client service.

The starting point is to know the products inside out. We invest a lot of time in training. An adviser recently complained that there was too much training, having clocked up five hours in one week. Five hours may be a little excessive and isn’t typical, but there’s seldom less than two hours of training per week.

On the client service side, we want to try and make the process of taking out protection as easy as possible. The starting place with that is really investing the time with the client at the fact find stage to ensure they are fully aware and understand all their options. It’s not uncommon for a protection-only fact-find to last over 45 minutes. We want clients to leave that call feeling that they don’t need to spend any time themselves on research. Once we have a client’s agreement to proceed, we try to take as much of the legwork out of the application process as possible and always keep the client updated at every step of the underwriting process. The goal is to try and remove as much of the friction of taking out cover as possible.


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

Income protection is a great product but there’s scope to make it even better. In the group market, there’s a lot more focus on rehabilitation. I’d like to see IP providers take a more proactive stance of liaising with potential new claimants during the deferred period to provide support services. A whole host of positive stories could come from this on how the policy not only protects clients financially but also helps them to recover faster.

I’d also like to see more IP policies with a carers benefit. Having to take time off work to look after a seriously ill child is probably one of the most stressful situations we could ever face which really shouldn’t be made worse by money worries. The addition of children’s cover to CI policies is a very welcome addition but there needs to be more development in this area for IP. In addition to children, there also needs to be more development of plans that can provide financial support if the policyholder needs to take time off work to care for ill parent. We do get asked by prospective clients about these two areas regularly.


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

Every year some very worthy businesses and individuals pick up awards at the Protection Review dinner and at the following conference it’d be good to hear from some of those winners about the great things they’ve done.

It’d also be good to hear from more marketing experts on how we can better promote protection as an industry. Hopefully something like that might generate enough excitement for the industry to come together to fund a national campaign. Drewberry’s 2018 Protection Survey found that 17.2% of consumers had never heard of income protection, so there’s a lot of potential new consumers out there to raise awareness with.

Whether at the conference or via the Protection Review website (maybe in video form), it’d be good to hear from protection professionals in other counties, helping us to learn and adopt best practices from around the world. 


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

The industry still has a major issue with consumer trust. The last time Drewberry asked the public about payout rates was in our 2018 Protection Survey and we found that this national sample of 3,000 workers believed only 37% of life insurance claims are paid successfully. That’s crazy.

That was in 2018 and we’re now in 2020. Since then I hope there has been some improvement in public perception, but I wouldn’t imagine that it’s changed a lot. Changing perception is a war rather than a battle and will take many years or even decades to win. If we really want to grow the market, we first need to win the trust of the public.

We do so much great work but we don’t shout about it enough externally. It’s positive to see more providers making better use of their claims data, such as Zurich’s 99% campaign, and generating positive client stories but we need to invest in bringing that to national attention.

This naturally needs to be coupled with providing clients with a great service at the point of claim. That must be the bedrock to build on and an area we’ve not always made easy for customers. On this, it’s been brilliant to see 12 insurers sign up to the PDG’s Claims Charter, and hopefully, there will be more to follow soon. By providing a great service and shouting about it in the right way we will win the trust of the public sooner rather than later. I’m feeling positive for the future.

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