Imagine a picturesque vision of a beautiful landscape where the whole nation owns a critical illness policy. Such thoughts are not far from the mind of the self-professed sales and marketing guru Paul Brandwood, who has recently been elected as chairman of the IFA Association’s Critical Illness Working Party. But to get the full picture, we need to examine the journey that the polished consultant has taken to achieve his status.
At the age of 18 a friend suggested Brandwood should follow in his father’s footsteps, whose career had spanned 25 years with Pearl Assurance. His father told him he would not be able to do it.
These words challenged Brandwood to enter the profession, despite not quite knowing what his father meant: “I was not sure whether he was throwing down the gauntlet, or warning me not to do it.”
He left the Isle of Man in 1981 at the age of 22 for a two-month holiday in South Africa. This turned into a 16year career dealing with the product development side of critical illness cover in the country where it was invented.
Critical illness sales took off rapidly in South Africa with elements of the cover available in 60% of products five years after it was launched in a market without a `free’ NHS.
Critical illness policies did not reach the UK until 1986 and now only around half a million policies are sold every year, which is a situation Brandwood is not happy with: “To use an ancient adage, CI has to be sold in the UK, it will not just be bought as a matter of course because there is still the NHS.”
Coming back to UK, Brandwood joined life insurer Pegasus as group sales and marketing director responsible for product distribution and new business development.
For around five years he specialised in new business development with a rapid development strategy and a hands-on approach. His contribution was successful, and after three to four years at Pegasus it evolved from having no IFA market share to 25% of the CI business in the UK. New business premium income in 1991 was £800,000 which rose to £3m by the end of 1993.
But amid well founded rumours that the company would be taken over by Scottish Mutual, and with “the job done” in terms of increased sales, Brandwood decided to go it alone. This followed a family prededent. “In the Brandwood tradition, I had reached the grand age of 41, which was the age at which father, grandfather and great grandfather all started their own businesses. It was a walk into the abyss for the ultimate test.”
He set up a marketing management consultancy in Epping Forest, advising a variety of insurance companies. Brandwood says the role has been intriguing: “I have been involved with a number of companies that needed millions of pounds of new business. The shape of the product is important. If there is something wrong with the product it is not going to attract the punter,” he says.
For the past three to four years Brandwood has been involved with a number of companies to promote their products and was particularly satisfied to return to Pegasus to provide advice only a year after it had been taken over by Scottish Mutual. “Pride, politics and a number of other reasons made me satisfied. But there is an element of being a missionary about this. The fact that only 5% of the working population has CI cover is a serious indictment of the industry.”
Brandwood has recently been elected chairman of the IFA Association Critical Illness Working Party, and will replace Mike Owen of the IFA Portfolio. He has been with the working party for five years since its launch. It has IFAs, reinsurers and insurers on its committee and achievements to date include standardising core definitions.
The CI working party educates and informs on the need, the concept, definitions and standardisation, the selling process, and market penetration in an effort to raise awareness of CI among IFAs. Claims issues and education on changing medical needs and legislative changes are also covered.
IFAs have 30% of the market with direct sales holding the balance and Brandwood believes education is the key to IFAs achieving greater sales: “Education is very much the reason why more of the product is not sold. It is a lack of understanding. There are a certain number of IFAs who are confused about the benefits of CI and PHI and until it is clear to everyone there will be a certain amount of fence sitting.”
Brandwood, always with a statistic on the tip of his tongue, says that in 1996 IFAs sold an average of one CI policy every six weeks. Around 14-18% of the working population have individual or group PHI, and a similar proportion is covered by PMI. Brandwood says: “There is no reason why the same amount of CI policies could not be sold. It is something I feel very strongly about.”
Brandwood is also keen to standardise more of the core definitions such as `activities of daily living’ and issues surrounding occupational disability. He argues this is essential if IFAs are to have a greater chance of selling the product.
Brandwood continues his role with his marketing and management consultancy with a specialism in rapid new business development using “troubleshooting and diagnostic skills”.
Brandwood says he is always looking for challenge in his work. The surges of adrenalin which he says he gets from his job provide a good reason to jump out of bed in the morning.
Brandwood also enjoyed co-writing a guide to critical illness in 1994 and made a contribution to a guide to long term care with the IFA Association and IFA Portfolio. In five years time Brandwood can see himself working for a single company possibly as a marketing director or as a managing director, such is his eagerness to set himself new challenges.
But it is not all work, work, work. Married with three children, his interests include playing the harmonica, writing poetry and singing, in the shadow of his father’s talents as a classical pianist and composer. And to relax, Brandwood meditates, following a strong and long term interest in parapsychology, metaphysics and comparative religions. “For 15 years I used to meditate for an hour each day,” he explains.
It is a pastime which is not unconnected to his role as a consultant, providing focus, insight and creativity: “There are so many conventions in the financial services industry, sometimes it pays to dismiss them completely,” he says.
A former practising clairvoyant, Brandwood still practices spirtual healing and says that it has not been unhelpful to his work: “When I develop a conviction about something working I know it will. However this is based on objective research as well as mediative insight.”