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Advisers need to lift their game to help clients

Advisers are often being told to just stick to what they specialise in and refer everything else to other people. Jon-Paul Hale takes a different view and says a good life insurance adviser should be asking questions and doing more with their clients. 

Monday, April 23rd 2018, 9:13AM

by Jon-Paul Hale

Reflecting on the last three to four weeks, with claims, new clients and general chatter in the industry about change, the question that raises its head is; Are we doing enough?

If you listen to what's going on, what the business gurus tell us and the messages in both the legislation and education we have, you will hear the clear message, focus on your stuff and ignore the rest, or more specifically tell the client we are not doing those things.

To me, this is an interesting concept. If you are focused on insurance planning, then that is advising and arranging insurance solutions for our clients, and hopefully, you help them with their claims too.

However, is this enough?

I do not think so. We need to be better at ensuring our clients do not fall through the cracks. By this I mean it is one thing to state that a client should consult an investment adviser for investments, or a lawyer for their estate planning, it is another when you actively take control of that referral and ensure it gets done.

We hear it from the FMA regarding KiwiSaver and thousands of people being in default conservative funds, and we are also seeing it with lack of estate planning at claim time with life cover.

For example, I have a death claim with a client, very nearly wasn't a client, as the life and medical insurance taken was very much a spur of the moment thing, as is often the case with busy people and type A personalities.

Due to the circumstances, the client declined to go through the full process of needs and reporting and opted for a very limited advice approach.

On reflection, there's probably room for improvement, in reality, they have cover when they previously had none, which will become apparent shortly.

We discussed that Wills and estate planning needed to be reviewed, which got the typical cursory wave of it is under control. The clients comment to the probing was "If we have to do all that shit it is too hard, and we won't bother."
Now in normal circumstances, sometime in the next six months, we would schedule a follow up to pick at the pieces that hadn't been covered, and we would keep on at it.

The unfortunate reality is seven months into the policy; he did not wake up from his sleep.

This has brought into stark contrast the reality of the planning on the other side we were not able to be involved with. As an estate, there's potentially not a lot that could be worse for the surviving family to deal with.

Being an immigrant with the rest of their family based some 12,000 miles away, including adult children, he has left behind more than a few challenges.

  • Businesses with no replacement directors
  • A Will done some 15 years ago, that is signed on one of the two pages and isn't witnessed, let alone prepared by a lawyer. I am pleased he had that, even so, it only demonstrates intent.
  • A new relationship here
  • An old relationship here
  • Debt was floating around when I was told there was none both here and in their home country.

Frankly a lot of challenge for the family to deal with when they are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

A couple of them jumped on a plane at short notice and spent four days here to tidy things up and arrange some level of order to progressing and settling the estate. Moreover, they did well considering what they had to contend with in the time they gave themselves.

What I have been able to do is make life for the family that visited a little easier.

  • Providing information on local facilities to stay, understanding the geography to get around and reliable transport options.
  • Additionally arranging a suitable estate lawyer and firm to tackle the resulting situation. A possible intestate process, businesses to sort out and assets to sell and manage.
  • Getting the life claim underway and ensuring we covered everything needed while the likely executor was here.

For the family, I hope I have made a difficult situation easier to bear, though they still had to deal with the remains. They arranged the funeral director and associated funeral rites, and we have had the bill paid by the insurance.

Yes, far more than was expected or demanded as an adviser, but as insurance advisers, we sign up to help people and their families at the worst times of their lives. If this makes you squeamish, possibly insurance planning is not your calling.

What comes to mind out of all of this is the old cliche of horse to water. Moreover, that is very true a lot of the time. However, are we paying it lip service or are we truly putting the client first and ensuring that the things that really matter are taken care of?

In this case, I am comfortable and confident that I did all I could at the time. Could I have pushed harder, possibly, though that may have resulted in not having any cover in place.

On reflection, I did have a client who kept information close to their chest and didn't share that freely.

As the time since the proposal is so close, I have my concerns about the disclosure, I am confident that the medical disclosure was as good as I could get, they spent some time working through it themselves and also reviewing it.

What we do need to do as advisers is drive the things in clients lives that are outside the norm of their routine.

  • Wealth creation is the cure for lots of life cover.
  • Retirement savings to ensure that long-term disability claims that stop at retirement age do not leave the client destitute.
  • Estate planning and Wills to ensure families have the outcomes they expect without the cost and surprise of intestate law.
  • Business owners with POA and plans to manage sole director replacement when incapacitated or deceased. Ideally some idea of succession planning too.
  • Finance structures that drive better cash flow and reduction and repayment of debt.

We can do more, and it is not just about the sale, it is about having clients that we care about, people we help at the worst times of their lives.

Because at the end of the day, we are all humans, we are a social animal, and our job requires us to be compassionate and empathetic to ensure the plans we create are executed in the way our clients want them to be.

My challenge to you; How can you lift your game to ensure better outcomes for your clients, even if it is not in your particular discipline?

Tags: estate planning Life insurance

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