As we approach the fireworks season here, I've been reflecting on some fond memories of times spent in Malta and in particular at the village festivals. These events would be dominated by rival marching bands, who would start their journeys at opposite ends of the village. Their eventual union in the village square would trigger mayhem, celebrations and of course fireworks. Except the fireworks were a real disappointment, one huge seismic upfront bang with a trail of smoke and then nothing .... finished.
That was a good couple of decades ago. Valetta, the capital of Malta, now hosts a two day International Firework Festival every April. The the rivalry is amongst local firework producers with the aim to create a memorable, noisy but importantly adding colour and sparkle to the experience.
So what's all this got to do with financial planning.....
Here are five ways in which the life insurance companies have used rivalry to evolve and give you more bang for your buck.
1. Full corporation tax relief. Jerry Bayman former head of Business Protection at Bright Grey are credited with developing "relevant life policies". By exploiting legislation from the 2003 Income Tax Earnings and Pension Act, small limited companies can now provide life assurance to directors and key employees by way of death in service benefits, with full corporation tax relief, no interference with the pensions lifetime allowance and without inclusion as a P11D benefit in kind.
2. Free weekly cinema tickets, coffee and iTunes. Vitality Life, the rebranded collaboration of PruProtect and Discovery Life in South Africa, rewards its policy holders who engage in their health. Discounts on bikes, discounted health checks, free weekly cinema tickets, coffee and iTunes are some of the rewards available in return for exercising and getting regular health checks. Full use of the rewards may be greater than the actual premiums you pay.
3. Children's cover I can't be sure, but I believe BUPA were the first company to offer children's critical illness cover as an additional definition, warranting a payment under a critical illness policy. Payment is a percentage of the overall cover, is paid as an extra which leaves the policy owners cover intact. BUPA subsequently merged with AXA Life who then merged with Friends Life. We've recently had a successful payment for a client, who's daughter is now recovering from hydrocephalus.
4. 24/7 Health Support Line In conjunction with my network we are very proud to offer this service from Red Arc for free, at the point a client needs it and for as long as they need it. Losing someone you love, being diagnosed with a critical illness or suffering an injury that prevents you from working can be made easier to bear when there is expert advice and a listening ear. As well as taking care of financial aspects we want our clients other worries looked after. The service is run by Red Arc for all clients, independently from the insurance companies.
5. Rehabilitation Cover It was possibly Friends Life who first offered this as an integral part of their income protection cover. Its not often published but it makes sense really for an insurance company to do everything they can to help get someone back into work after an illness or injury. It reduces their claims payment but importantly lets clients get back to work and enjoy life.
The price rivalry with life assurance, critical illness and income protection is over and all companies now publish their claims statistics online.
What counts now are the "add ons" to the policies. I haven't mentioned them all and I haven't even mentioned the importance of trust documents ( that can be saved for a later post ) but this is where an adviser with enthusiasm and knowledge of the different policies out there, can really make a difference.
An adviser will listen to your needs and goals and help you navigate the various company propositions and importantly will be around to help any clients through a claims process.
Its not about price anymore, it's about quality of experience and securing our clients financial future in the best way possible. So
So, if you've got a policy in a drawer, a carrier bag or shoe box in the cupboard and you are not sure if it is a banger or a damp squib please don't hesitate to get in touch and take advantage of a review "on us".
Enjoy your fireworks