My iPhone has revolutionised my life. With its endless array of downloadable ‘apps' I rarely use it as an actual phone, but it is my constant companion and friend.
I can listen to music or watch videos whilst waiting for a delayed aircraft at a snowbound Heathrow, or enable the WiFi connection and use Facebook to monitor my friends' reactions to the latest results on X Factor.
When Scot Rail recently decided it was a clever idea to send a train with only two carriages to cover the busiest service of the day - instead of the usually overcrowded four-carriage train - I was able to take a photo of the resulting cattle truck conditions. And a complaint email was winding its way to Scot Rail HQ before the train had a chance to start moving.
It's a fantastic piece of kit. But I guarantee Apple will probably have something even more impressive in development. There are rumours of the iSlate - effectively a notebook-sized iPod Touch - but I wonder what their products will look like in five years' time. These will already be on drawing boards having been born in the blue sky imagination of the world's most innovative product developers.
But which products are currently in the five-year planning cycles of financial services providers? How much blue sky thinking is currently creating revolutionary new protection products, products that will appeal to the imagination of the population five years hence?
Sadly, probably very little. Research and development is a relatively scarce commodity in the financial services industry. In the protection sector in particular, we rarely think more than a year or two ahead. Even then thinking is restricted to tinkering with term assurance rates, adding on the latest unpronounceable critical illness and electrifying another, often tedious, paper-based process.
I can hear you saying: "But this is protection, not mobile technology. You can't do an Apple when it comes to protection." But mobile technology is aimed at a generation who have grown up with the Internet. They have no concept of life without it or the many digital gadgets that can enhance their lifestyles. Term assurances and critical illness products are still predominantly paper-based (albeit with electronic front ends) and, on the whole, designed and marketed by people who did not grow up with the Internet and who are therefore not fully alive to the thought processes of the next generation.
If, in the depths of Silicon Valley, Apple was brainstorming a launch into the protection market, what would that product look like?
How would it make it mainstream so that it appealed to the digitally-minded? Perhaps we should try and put aside thoughts of tweaks to critical illness and income protection and get more into that mindset and imagine what could be.
Because eventually someone will come up with something that really does take our breath away. Something we wish we had thought about and developed.
Of course by then all we will be able to do is catch up.
Roger Edwards is proposition director at Bright Grey
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