Wednesday, April 06, 2011

FSC Life Insurance Conference, Sydney 6 April 2011

Bruce Madden attended the FSC Life Insurance Conference held in Sydney today on behalf of BlueChip Communication


The Financial Services Council’s second annual conference dedicated to its life insurance members kicked off in Sydney today with some big numbers.


Suncorp’s CEO Geoff Summerhayes reminded us that the financial services sector now accounts for some 11% of our national economy, with plenty of upside for the industry in the downside story that is our nation’s lingering underinsurance problem.


With figures ranging between $1.4 and $1.7 trillion, the magnitude of the underinsurance problem is stark. Or, put in the context of another large number, the industry has before it an untapped market representing some 96% of the Australian population with dependent children who currently have zero or inadequate risk cover.


The big consumer challenges to overcome? Summerhayes suggests three: accessibility, affordability and trust. In other words, make it easy for Joe or Jane public to get hold of an insurance product, make it stack up for them in the hip pocket nerve, and prove that any genuine policy claims will be paid, simple.


Of course, this will be no easy feat, given the current focus of government and its multiple reform agenda which, as Summerhayes eloquently put: “is providing our industry with tailwinds, crosswinds and headwinds all at once”.


Buffeted by all this wind, the man from AMP Craig Mellor made the suggestion that the direct market for life insurance will arrive somewhere around 10% to 20%, driven largely by the savvy consumer with a mindset of “instant gratification”. So expect more internet distribution, online transacting and ‘instant conversation’ taking place.


One of the big questions facing the distribution thinkers in the industry is the impact of the upcoming FOFA (Future of Financial Advice) reforms, expected to be announced by Minister Bill Shorten just prior to Easter.


Few are expecting a swag of treats from the Minister, but all hope for sensible clarity around the contentious issues of commission payments in risk, volume bonuses in investment products, the opt-in proposal for advice in super and the fiduciary obligations of advisers to act in the best interest of the client.


This mixed bag of policy issues is proving a collective regulatory hot item – with much last minute discussion taking place in the halls of Canberra. Dangerous portents abound.  If the experience of UK-based Maggie Craig (she is acting head of the Association of British Insurers) then we can look forward to deeper government intervention leading to poor consumer outcomes, even worse standards of underinsurance!


Ms Craig reported to delegates that the expected outcomes of moves in Britain to ban commission payments from 2012 will result in fewer advisers (many will simply leave), more expensive advice for consumers, and a large gap between the full advice and execution only segments.


The ABI is lobbying hard to find an automated ‘simple advice’ solution to fill this middle ground, and, somewhat ironically, foresees the return of tied agents and bancassurance advice to help fill the gap!


If this all sounds like a turgid return to the future scenario you are right. Or, as one delegate put it: a timely reminder that our pain here in Australia is bad, but nothing quite like the torture – including the decree of the European Court of Justice to abolish gender specific pricing on insurance products – that is being endured by our British cousins.

Friday, April 01, 2011

@dmscott, @#PWCMBS ... Yes, it was a Twitterfest!

Last night I attended an event hosted by PwC as part of their Masters of Business series. We were very fortunate to hear from David Meerman Scott. As you may know, David is in Australia, and today hosted a Social Media Masterclass, which, by all accounts, was sensational. While I couldn't make it to the Masterclass, I was delighted to join PwC and more particularly, to watch the stream of tweets emanating from audience members.

Often when I tweet from events, and I almost only ever tweet from events, not from "real life", I'm often the only one, or one of a very few. It's not as odd as it sounds. Our business is a financial services public relations firm. So I'm tweeting, most often, from financial services conferences, seminars, presentations or other relatively arcane events.

Tonight was oh-so-different. And great fun! What else would you expect from an audience of business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, consultants, and other PwC clients interested in social media? A few of the key points that came out from David's presentation were this:

How to manage the popular employee
Employees having a strong following in social media can be both a curse and a massive advantage. It's up to the employing organisation to turn it into an advantage by sensible use of social media guidelines and enlightened HR practices.

Social media for crisis management
Yes, social media can escalate or help manage a crisis. A key point is to respond in the medium that you first learned about the issue, especially in a crisis. Take it offline if it's negative and about a single issue... maybe your online critics are just looking for attention.

If Twitter is "so 2006", is location the tool of the future?
It may well be that location is the key to new social media. Location, and in particular new forms of geotagging and social media forums such as Foursquare, which are based on location, may well be the Twitter of the future.

Do personal and business mix online?
David says that in social networks, the demarcation is breaking down. We're learning more, online, about the people we do business with. This is translating to a completely different kind of relationship offline. In fact, it may well be the making of far stronger relationships offline as we learn more about the whole person, and interact with people on a different level.

Ghosting... and when it's OK.
David is a big fan of bringing in journalists to ghost social content. As he rightly points out, in many countries there are many capable journos keen to adopt another career. And of all people, journalists "get" story telling. Story telling is, of course, the thing that compels people to read our content. If we are not gifted narrators, then we can not buy attention online. And who has trained their entire careers to be good at telling stories? Journalists. Who are the people most likely to aspire, before they were university trained or spent years inside content-creation organisations? Journalists. So who better to ask to ghost your social content, with appropriate guidelines around tone of voice and content themes.

How come tweeting is OK, but SMSing is rude in a group meeting?
Perhaps the question here is more about when did tweeting become OK, when SMSing in a meeting has always been inappropriate. Well, the rise of social media has certainly changed a few things. While it's still rude to take a call in a meeting, or in a presentation, seminar, conference or many other group settings, it's no longer regarded as a social offence to tweet. That said, it might just be the digital natives that think it's OK, because I can think of a few baby-boomers who are still distinctly uncomfortable with that kind of behaviour. Regardless, we are all in presentations, seminars or conferences these days in which people are tweeting constantly.

I'm certainly one of them, and for those busy business owners and consultants who were at the David Meerman Scott meeting wondering how on earth they could develop an online persona when they had already run out of hours in the day? Well my personal solution is to pick a narrow theme, block time in my diary for it, and to have a very restricted Twitter strategy. In other words, I only tweet, when in actual fact I should probably be doing something else, like listening to the speaker. Still, I figure the speaker doesn't mind a bit of extra promotion, and I get to keep my notes in the cloud.