Ageing intermediary industry faces challenging times

Article date: 27 February 2006

New research from Norwich Union Healthcare reveals that theintermediary industry is failing to attract and retain youngerworkers and will remain older and male-dominated if this trendcontinues. The comprehensive study, "Intermediary Health of theNation", is an extension of Norwich Union Healthcare’sbi-annual Health of the Nation research and provides valuableinsights into the health of intermediaries, their lifestyle andattitudes to work.

Worryingly, all respondents aged 18 to 24 admitted that they haveconsidered leaving the industry altogether within the last 12months. The research indicated that only 7% of intermediaries areaged 18 to 24 but unless the industry tackles its image problem,the numbers are set to dwindle further.

The majority (59%) of respondents are aged 45-65 and only 16% arefemale. The research suggests more must be done to tackle theindustry’s older and male-dominated stereotype to attract ayounger generation of male and female intermediaries.

'Too much paperwork'
Poorly defined career progression is often a major issue foryounger workers across a number of industries. However, lack ofprofessional development was identified by only 3% of respondentsas the number one cause of dissatisfaction with their job.

It seems instead that the amount of paperwork and administrationinvolved are major problems, identified in the research by threequarters (74%) of intermediaries as the number one cause of jobdissatisfaction.

Paperwork and administrative tasks currently take up 65% ofrespondents working time. In contrast, only a quarter (24%) oftheir time is actually spent on the element of the job that manyfind most satisfying, that of face-to-face interaction withclients. For younger workers keen to develop highly effectiveinterpersonal skills and to provide a valued, professional serviceto clients this is proving a major disincentive.

Stress is also an issue for many intermediaries. The researchidentified work as the greatest cause of stress for intermediaries,with 40% blaming high stress levels on their jobs. With over aquarter (27%) of those in the industry working over 50 hours aweek, many confessed in the study to being unhappy with theircurrent work life balance.

David Elms, chief executive of IFA Promotion (IFAP), said:“We’re extremely keen that young talent is attracted tothe vibrant IFA sector. Working as an intermediary offers a rangeof rewarding opportunities, especially for those advisers whochoose to obtain additional qualifications to improve the level ofadvice they can offer consumers and businesses. However, as thisresearch indicates, more needs to be done to extend thesector’s appeal to graduates and younger workers in thishighly competitive job market.”

'Satisfied seniors'
On a more positive note, the research revealed that satisfactionlevels among more senior intermediaries are generally much higherdespite the long working hours. 39% of respondents aged 45-54 haveconsidered leaving the industry in the last 12 months, comparedwith 100% of 18-24 year olds. The research suggests this could inpart be explained by the fact that today’s intermediariesenjoy a more active life than traditionally associated with thoseworking within the industry.

In the research, more than a quarter (26%) of intermediariesdescribed themselves as physically very active with 22% of the 55plus age group claiming to be physically very active. Respondentsspend on average 4.3 hours a week exercising and 51% participate insports after work and at weekends suggesting that many manage tojuggle the demands of the job with varied interests outside ofwork.

Nicole Hockley, head of consumer marketing propositions at NorwichUnion Healthcare, said: “Working as an intermediary can bringwith it excellent prospects, but as our research suggests, lack ofjob satisfaction and its causes are clearly issues for theindustry. Our ‘Intermediary Health of the Nation’research helps to provide us with an in-depth understanding oftheir needs and the ways in which they work. Services such asHealthcare Zone, an online toolkit for intermediaries and NorwichUnion Healthcare sales support teams help us develop profitablebusiness relationships with intermediaries and highlight ourcommitment to addressing problems identified by theresearch.”

To find out more about starting a career as an independentfinancial adviser, IFAP offers a free guide, available fromwww.unbiased.co.uk/website/aboutus/careerifa.aspor by calling 0800 085 3250.

-ends-

Press office contacts:
Lorna Wiltshire 0207 662 1013Out of hours 07800 695150
James Evans 01904 452791 Out of hours 07800 699525

Notes to editors:

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer. It is a leadingprovider of life, pensions and investment products and one of theleading Financial Adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide around 75%of the company's long-term savings business in the UK
  • Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societiesand other leading UK brand names including Tesco Personal Financeand The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

About Norwich Union Healthcare

  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products that cover over 800,000lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection andprivate medical insurance in the UK.
  • Member of the Association of British Insurers and theFinancial Ombudsman Service.

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