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Life Insurance Direct

Why going to a broker can still make financial sense.

In the life market, buying life insurance direct isn’t always a cheaper option. There is a complicated system of kickbacks and market protectionism which means brokers, agents and advisers can usually offer you a deal such that their “cut” makes no difference to the overall price you pay.

Financial products are a strange kettle of fish- there seem to be no rules as to whether the person you buy from will automatically give you a good deal. Take motor insurance for example. You’re probably used to the fact that you can sometimes get a better deal on your motor insurance by buying from a direct insurer rather than through a broker.

With life insurance sometimes the exact opposite can be true. You might have thought that by cutting out the broker or middle-man and buying your life insurance direct, you’ll be saving yourself some money. Well that may not be the case, for two reasons.

To begin with, most companies offer the same rates to you directly as you would receive through a broker. It’s worth more to the life company to keep the broker channel open and receive new business that way, than to undercut the broker and eventually see the brokers wither away. After all, without the broker, the life company would just have to spend more money (your money!) on advertising itself.

The second reason is a peculiar process called discounting. If you buy your life insurance direct, you’ll pay whatever the life company specifies. Brokers, however, have plenty of flexibility in regard to what they charge. They can, for example, discount by sharing some of the commission they get for the sale with you- which could mean you end up with a better deal. It also keeps brokers competitive with one another.

The thing to remember is that financial services is an odd business. At a fruit stall you can tell whether you’re being sold a good product or not. Brokers are there to advise you, because money products aren’t so easy to differentiate. There is therefore a separate competitive market amongst brokers as well as product provider. By all means look at getting your life insurance direct from a provider, but don’t assume that a broker or intermediary can’t match the deal.