In the Spotlight with Jeff Woods, L&G

We spoke to Jeff Woods, head of intermediary development at Legal & General, about supporting advisers to make sure more people have access to the right protection and what is driving positive SME sentiment in 2022.

Related topics:  In The Spotlight,  Protection
Rozi Jones
11th February 2022
Jeff Woods
"The role of the adviser is two-fold; to educate clients on the range of options available and guide them towards the right cover that aligns with their circumstances."

FR: You recently joined Legal & General as head of intermediary development. Can you tell us a little bit about your role?

I manage a team of market development managers who work to grow the protection market through training and developing advisers in both personal and business protection. Our overarching goal is to support the adviser community in getting more people access to the right protection.

FR: Legal & General recently released its annual State of the Nation research, revealing that SMEs are optimistic for 2022 despite an increase in the amount of debt they’re in. What do you think is driving that sentiment and what is your opinion on it?

The natural entrepreneurial spirit of small and medium-sized business owners often brings a huge amount of positivity. The incredible strength shown to survive the past eighteen months will have also brought them renewed hope. I believe their optimism is justified – if their business was strong and adaptable enough to survive this extremely challenging period they must be in a good place, despite their debt.

FR: How important is business protection when it comes to maintaining this optimism in the long run?

To maintain optimism, SMEs need confidence in their own future. Ensuring they are safeguarded against unforeseen circumstances is therefore key. The last two years have shown many businesses the impact and vulnerability they can face if a key person is unable to work through illness. With government support such as the furlough scheme coming to an end, products such as Key Person Protection, become of even greater importance. Such a form of support would allow a business to cover debts or hire additional staff for example, to account for the loss, and brighten their financial outlook.

FR: What is the role of the adviser in helping UK SMEs become financially secure?

The role of the adviser is two-fold; to educate clients on the range of options available and guide them towards the right cover that aligns with their circumstances. Advisers are not just tackling a protection gap, but also an advice gap. Our latest research found that less than 1 in 10 (9%) of respondents had heard of Key Person Income Protection cover and taken a policy. That said, 97% of SMEs also said that they would look to professional advisers for advice, so they have an excellent opportunity to kickstart conversations about cover, and, in turn, increase the support in place for SMEs.

FR: If you could read one headline about the protection market in 2022, what would it be?

Ideally, it would be something like 'Number of SMEs supported by business protection doubles in 2022'. The key priority for us is to make sure SMEs not only survive but also start thriving as we tentatively emerge from the pandemic. Having the right protection in place is vital for that – having the right business policies not only protect an SMEs financial security, but also stop owners and directors giving personal guarantees on corporate debt which can only be a good thing.

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