John Joseph is a man who is very good at his job. Not only has he produced the third edition of definitive reference work The Guide to Critical Illness
, he has also managed to convince Health Insurance’s
sceptical photographer to buy a critical illness policy.
Joseph is widely considered to be the leading light of the critical illness industry. He set up John Joseph Financial Services in 1985 and has never looked back. Having watched his selling skills and witnessed his fervent belief ill the value of critical illness cover, it is not hard to see why he has sold more policies than any other IFA in the UK.
The fact that The Guide to Critical Illness
is in its third publication is testament to Joseph’s commitment to ensuring intermediaries are able to offer clients the best possible advice. Given the abundance of products currently on the market, it seems the need for a comprehensive guide has become a necessity.
Joseph regards the guide as an essential tool for IFAs and points out it is a unique undertaking: “It is the only product of its kind which covers 230 products from over 60 companies. It is something IFAs can have at their fingertips, wherever they go.”
The guide was originally launched in 1994/5 and receives an update every 18 months. At the moment, the guide only refers to individual policies, but corporate policies will be included in the next update.
Although it is supported by 10 life insurance companies, Joseph claims not everyone was keen to be included.
“Midland Bank did not wish to appear in the guide and made it clear they did not want to be included, but the information in the guide is public knowledge,” says Joseph.
Joseph goes on to explain that users of the guide can measure up the performances of of life offices in a series of comparisons which are easy to make thanks to the All Products Comparison section at the back of the guide.
The guide consists of 10 different sections but it is perhaps the All Products Comparison which will be of the most use to an intermediary. The cover provided by all the leading companies is easily comparable to all of the other 64 life offices, literally at the glimpse of an eye.
Everything from term with death, term stand alone to whole of life with death is scrutinised. Intermediaries can select the best policy for their client by analysing product specification, critical illnesses and conditions covered and product flexibility. And, as clear plastic sheets are provided enabling a comparison of any of the products from all the providers, nothing could be easier.
Joseph agrees the most valuable part of the guide is the ability to analyse the differences between companies and he acknowledges that that may not be to everyone’s liking.
He adds that the present incarnation of the guide is different to the format of the original edition: “The first issue included 40 companies, with product comparisons spread over three to four pages and it only included companies who agreed to abide by IFAA definitions.
“It wasn’t until the second edition that we compared all the insurance companies. Basically, we’ve incorporated minor improvements each time,” says Joseph.
The 1998 guide may have been created along the same fines as the 1994 edition, but an important element of the latest publication is the development of new sectors. Particularly pertinent to the modern intermediary is the Strategic Sales Ideas section, which will be sent to those who subscribe to the first update.
“Some of the industry leaders have agreed to give us sales concepts. They are ideas that have worked for all of us. They will be anything from simple drawings to complex study cases. They will enhance awareness of critical illness. By the end of the year, there should be 50 to 60 different ideas from contributors who are well known in the industry, people who are known for the amount of policies they sell and maybe some providers,” comments Joseph.
The remaining eight sections of the guide cover everything you ever wanted to know about selling critical illness, from sample rate comparisons and medical cover descriptions to life and health statistics. The breadth of information reflects Joseph’s own breadth of knowledge of the critical illness industry.
He began to sell critical illness insurance in 1990 and is perhaps most noted for his call for standard definitions seven years ago. Like a number of Joseph’s outspoken appeals to the industry, this proposal originally met with a lot of opposition. But Joseph was not to be deterred.
The introduction to the guide states: “His involvement with the IFAA Critical Illness Working Party culminated in that organisation successfully achieving standard definitions with some 41 product providers, bringing his wish for better understanding and greater sales closer to realisation.”
Unsurprisingly, Joseph is unrepentant about creating waves in the industry, especially if it results in what he sees as benefits for the market as a whole. He cites his opposition to the current moves in the industry regarding total permanent disability. “The insurance companies felt they wanted to swing away from own occupation onto Functional Assessment Tests or FATS. I wasn’t happy with that if it was going to be instead of own occupation.
“I think there is a need for underwriting and there are certain times you can’t define own occupation, for example, a housewife. I have voiced my concern and it has been taken on board,” Joseph says.
He goes on discuss his reservations about the OFT’s proposals for benchmark products: “A benchmark product would be a good thing if the benchmark was high enough, but at the moment it is tantamount to training dogs to jump over a fence.
“They lower the fence until every dog can jump over it. It’s fine if there’s no harm done. But there is harm being done by those that can only jump over the lowest fence.”
Joseph is equally zealous about the need to make intermediaries fully aware about critical illness. He is confident a thorough reading of the guide will provide someone with relatively little knowledge of critical illness with a immense level of understanding.
“If they’ve read it thoroughly, they should be able to have an intelligent conversation with their clients and guide them through which insurance companies they should consider,” he says.
But Joseph warns about the pitfalls of not recommending critical illness to existing clients. He is particularly worried about IFAs who only deal in certain sectors, like pensions, and may not consider telling their clients there are other products available: “At some stage in the future, a bedridden client who was only sold a pension is going to write a strong-worded letter asking why they weren’t told about critical illness policies.
“If IFAs persist in not advising clients about critical illness insurance, it will open up potential problems. If they don’t want to research the market, the guide has to be the answer.”
Joseph freely admits to being a workaholic and it is clear a lot of sweat and tears went into composing The Guide to Critical Illness
. He anticipates around 2,500 IFAs will subscribe to the third edition.
Meanwhile, maybe his continued success will mean he will have more time to pursue his hobbies: playing bridge and tracking his wife down in Harrods.