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Emma Thomson: 'Advisers can help clients make better lifestyle choices'

Published 10/11/2021

We spoke to Sesame Bankhall Group’s Emma Thomson about how protection propositions are evolving to help advisers encourage their clients to make healthier decisions at a time when wellbeing is very much in the spotlight.

For our Agents of Change video series, we’ve interviewed some of the leading names in the intermediary community about the role that financial advisers have in supporting the health and wellbeing of their clients.

As well as being there at the time of crisis, some protection plans are designed to be used daily. This is why we believe financial advisers can be agents of change. By asking the right questions and recommending the most suitable products, they can encourage clients to make positive lifestyle choices.

And this benefits all involved. It’s good for your client (because it means they are healthier). For us as the insurer (because it reduces the likelihood of claim). And for society (because a healthier population is good for society). For a number of reasons, it’s good for advisers too. We sat down with Emma Thomson, Head of Protection and GI Propositions at Sesame Bankhall Group, to find out more.

Can financial advisers encourage clients to make positive lifestyle choices?

I think advisers have an important role to play in helping consumers make better lifestyle choices. Just purely through asking the questions related to protection they are going into that space. For example, smoker status, height and weight and what health situation the customer might have. And through that conversation, the client might consider questions like, ‘What if I lost some weight’, ‘What if I stopped smoking’, ‘What if I didn’t drink quite so much’. If, of course, the adviser has explained that those answers might have led to an adverse decision being made, I think advisers can then go into details, such as ‘if you do stop smoking for 12 months and then come back to us, we might be able to reduce your premium’. It needs to be carefully handled but there is scope here for advisers to help their clients if the opportunity arises.

Of course there are propositions like Vitality, which lends itself to proactively have those conversations - in terms of gym memberships, steps a day and getting rewards through the more you move and the more active you become. Obviously that benefits Vitality because a healthier lifestyle should actually result in a better claims experience. So that’s a natural conversation an adviser can have as a real selling point as to why their client should take out protection.

How can advisers help their clients think differently about the lifestyle choices they make?

If you’ve got an adviser that’s become far more active themselves - they might never have gone to the gym before – maybe they are using their Apple Watch (or whatever fitness device they have got) to be far more aware of what steps they are doing, and they’ve been able to lose weight and become healthier as a result. I think advisers can use their own experiences to influence their clients.

But also, given what we’ve been going through over the last 18 months; we haven’t been as active because we’ve not been walking to the tube, getting on a train, walking around the office as much. While working from home, many of us have had to make a more conscious effort to move around. It is quite challenging when you have back-to-back meetings on Teams or Zoom. But having a fitness tracker and a rewards programme can help people stay motivated. By advisers asking the right questions to clients to ascertain whether this is likely to be something they are interested in – and lots of them obviously are – that should form part of their advice process, because it could impact the type of policy they recommend to them.

Why are these conversations likely to resonate with clients now?

Wellbeing is absolutely in the spotlight at the moment, whether that is physical or mental wellbeing. We’ve all gone through a massive crisis and we’re not yet out of the woods. People with underlying health conditions are more ‘at risk’ of having more severe effects of Covid, so we need to make sure we are helping people – as well as ourselves and our loved ones – to make better lifestyle choices.

There is lots that our industry is trying to do to help consumers be a bit healthier. And given the pressures on the NHS now and going forward, we all need to be a bit better. Ultimately policies like these can help. They are there for customers when tragedy strikes but they are also there to be utilised month in, month out. And that’s something advisers should be really proud of. Because we have a real duty of care to our clients - and a social responsibility as well. We can really make a massive difference to people at the time of need, but we can also help them make better choices and provide a bit of fun too, especially if it’s through rewards and discounts.

Why is it important for financial advisers to talk about the added value of rewards and benefits with clients?

There are number of reasons why advisers should be talking about additional rewards and benefits with clients. They are really useful in my mind as a retention tool and also a customer engagement tool. It is a reason to go and talk to clients to let them know what they have on offer. And that’s a really important part of this; making sure that existing clients are communicated with so they don’t forget all the added benefits that might be available through the policies they have. Yes, it takes longer, but it’s definitely worth it. Both for you as an adviser, but also to give them that extra peace of mind and additional value to your client.

“For me, advisers have a crucial role to play in not only the financial wellbeing of their clients, but their overall wellbeing too.”

- Emma Thomson, Head of Protection and GI Propositions for Sesame Bankhall Group
Emma Thompson
We’ve all got our reasons to make positive changes in life. That includes you and your clients. Watch the Agents of Change video series to hear more about how financial advisers are bringing Shared Value to their clients and how they are also benefiting as a result.

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