Yes, Australia is one of the most underinsured nations on the planet - ranking 16th in the world for life insurance penetration and density.
Because, Joe suggests, people have dogged, ill-informed views of what insurance actually does - or doesn't do.
And we are wrong to focus on the facts, rather than the emotions around insurance.
Buying insurance is more than a numbers game - yes, the odds are you'll never need it. But the reason we want insurance is there's still a chance something will happen...and you have no safety net.
We've spent too much time, in financial services, on the analytics says Joe. What we haven't spent enough time on is understanding how consumers think. Accept this, says Joe...
1. The way people make financial decisions has not changed
2. The way we perceive how people make decisions has changed
3. Expectations matter....perhaps more than actual outcomes.
As we move from accumulation phase to distribution phase, it's reliability of income not return on investment that will matter far more to consumers.
What do we (as consumers) really care about? Well as time goes on, and our population ages and lives longer, investment return matters far less than having an absolutely certain income.
As an insurer Joe says what MetLife does is simply this: help people have certainty around their income. That may be by replacing it if they die or guaranteeing it if they are sick.
Stay away from the facts in the insurance sales process, says Joe.
Counterintuitive as that sounds, his research shows that finding out people's personal priorities is far more important than presenting rationale, fact based information showing the lump sum amount a policy may deliver. He presents a great case for actually never talking about the 'face' amount of a policy, but rather the income it will deliver, and at what cost.
Having voiced our personal priorities (looking after our family, paying off the mortgage, allowing an income for life if we couldn't work) we are far more able to estimate what we really need from our insurance...as an income stream, not as a lump sum.
Few, if any of us, can actually estimate the lump sum we really need.
So, says Joe, if you're going to sell protection products you have to develop a culture that's supportive of understanding people's real needs.
A culture where people are inspired by the great good that comes from insurance...and that passion will translate to better business results.
The simple purpose of insurance is to have the money outlive the people.
Culture should celebrate the impact these products can have on someone else. Everyone wants to celebrate the significance of what they do. And the significance of what life cover can do is literally life changing.
Focus your own people on that, and the business results should follow.
We saw a MetLife staffer via video crying about her client - the client she sold a policy to, then stayed the course while her client was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately passed away. The insurance payout enabled the client to die the way she wanted to - well cared for, having returned to her family in China and knowing that money wasn't a problem.
It's rare (apologies John Brogden - it's a great gig, just not life changing) for me to feel inspired, and to be almost bought to tears, at an FSC conference. But Joe got me.
Carden Calder attended the Financial Services Council annual conference on behalf of BlueChip Communication Group.
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