Technology-based intermediaries offering life insurance suggest the Asian tsunami disaster on Boxing Day may have prompted fresh interest in protection cover from UK consumers.
Online and telephone-based advisers Lifesearch and LifePolicies Direct say they have both seen an increase of around 40% in consumer enquiries for life insurance take-up than they would usually handle in January.
The phenomenon has been dubbed by some firms as “the tsunami effect” because officials suggest the natural disaster may have ‘subliminally’ sparked individuals to ensure loved ones have sufficient financial assets in the event of their death.
Kevin Carr, senior technical adviser at Lifesearch, admits although there is no concrete evidence to indicate consumers are buying life cover directly as a result of the tidal wave which hit South-east Asia on December 26th, the number of consumer enquiries for life insurance cover has risen dramatically in comparison to the level of business firms would usually expect to handle at this time of year.
During busier periods in January, staff within the Lifesearch firm had to re-allocated to additional duties to man the phones and process new business applications because demand was so high.
"We had all hands to the pump to handle new business enquiries - which included our managing director Tom Baigrie taking consumer calls and helping with literature," says Carr.
"We don't know for definite whether people were influenced by what happened in South-east Asia because we haven't been directly asking them, but subliminally the events and shock of the disaster may have made people focus on their own circumstances," he adds.
Jason King, managing director of LifePolicies Direct, says it has seen a similar increase in business in January, above that which it would usually handle at the start of the year.
While January is usually a busy period for life business anyway, King says although it could also be as a result of FSA regulation of the general insurance – affecting the protection sector - the firm received substantially more business enquiries than usual once the firm began trading again on January 4th.
“We have had more life business enquiries than we have ever had before. It could be a subliminal link in that the impact of the tsunami disaster could make [people] ask what would happen to their families if it were them. It might have made them question death and their protection in general,” says King.
According to life insurance providers and adviser firms, new business enquiries tend to tail off in December and then increase again in January.
However, it so far appears only the technology-led adviser firms, such as Lifesearch and LifePolicies Direct – which also advertise on the internet as direct offer consultants – have seen an increase in business.
An increase in life business is not thought to have been seen elsewhere across the industry, as take-up of life cover appears to match business levels expected for January, according to IFA services firm Sesame Group, protection providers and latest business figures from The Exchange.IFAonline
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