So many things to think about!

The next few months may prove to be just about the most tumultuous in the history of retail financial services and protection insurance is certainly not immune from the turmoil.

First the market faces direct changes. The gender directive is the most immediate with providers expected to start coming out with their new single gender priced insurance offerings in the next few weeks.

We will soon know what it really means for pricing and how that compares with a gender priced market.

The taxation changes – the end of the now almost famous income minus expenses rule – will have an impact on the relative competitiveness of different insurers – definitely on price but perhaps even on the scope and design of products given that it will impact combined life and critical illness.

The impact of the RDR will be profound as well. First and directly, IFAs and protection advisers will have to beef up the disclosure of commission on protection sales.

Indirectly, many IFAs will get a much better understanding of clients’ attitudes to the new charging structure for their pension and investment business.

That will obviously have repercussions for protection too. Some advisers or firms may well become protection specialists. This could boost protection sales, but clearly an adviser or firm could face an increased claw-back risk as a result. There will also be a more general compliance risk for all advisers if they haven’t focused much on protection recently and start to do so now.

Other advice firms may be too distracted by all these other changes to consider protection at all.

Some IFAs – though once again we don’t really know exactly how many – will obviously move to a restricted status potentially limiting some providers’ routes to market.

When the dust settles on these changes, the Mortgage Market Review looms in 2013, which could put new time pressures on protection sales if advisers are required to spend much more time on the mortgage sale.

Finally it may be worth keeping one eye on the proposal for a kite-marked, simple income protection product.

This could prove revolutionary if the Government was to incorporate the product into their welfare reform plans though it is some way away yet.

It is certainly a considerable list and yet we won’t really know the impact of all these changes until they happen.

It will take a lot of detailed work to comply with the new regulations while finding acceptable solutions for clients and customers.

But there is a significant risk that firms get totally bogged down in the detail of meeting the regulations and stop communicating.

If everyone locks themselves away, it must increase the likelihood that intermediaries and providers give each other some nasty surprises in the next 12 months or so.

Everyone, particularly on the provider side, will be looking for a competitive edge from these changes and quite right too.

But those firms which display what might be called business empathy or, in other words, the best understanding of how these challenges affect not just their own firm but their business partners, may come out the other side in the best shape.

That means leaving at least some time aside to keep talking particularly about how customers and clients are reacting. In these times of change, we think everyone needs to keep their lines of communication open.

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