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More information but not more empowered

I read this story in the NZ Herald a few weeks ago which referred to a study suggesting that women, not men, “make almost all consumer purchase decisions and are typically household managers and accountants, yet they are financially clueless when it comes to investments and planning for retirement.” Whilst I have no comment to make on this, what caught my eye in the story was a financial adviser and author quoted as saying

“…there was more information about financial education and investments available now than ever before. But our financial health is getting worse. We make it harder than it has to be."

I agree with this statement, particularly as it relates to life insurance. Today there is more choice. In NZ there are at least 10 mainstream insurers offering life insurance products and today there is more and more information about these products. Not only is there more choice, but the choices are more complicated with more features and subtle differences. The problem is that whilst the life insurance industry has increased the options and information available to consumers, it has not done anything to educate consumers or help them make a good choice... other than to create an army of ‘advisers’ to help consumers choose.Consumers are not empowered by what the industry has done. They are in fact more reliant on advice and less empowered.

This is exactly what Pinnacle Life set out to address in its on-line offering. Rather than offering a choice of 3 or 4 complicated life insurance products, Pinnacle Life offers a straightforward, no-nonsense product, communicated in plain English. No insurance-speak, no legal jargon, quick step-by-step buying process and instant cover for people with no indicated health issues. The purpose was to truly empower the consumer and feedback from consumers suggests that has been achieved.

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