In recent years, there have been reports on the level of under-insurance in New Zealand which should set off the alarm bells throughout the community. Various studies, reports, and articles have attempted to discover the cause of this malaise, but the Laird reckons that one of the contributing factors is the confusing level of technobabble, jargon, mnemonics, and generally incomprehensible terminology employed in the life insurance industry.

After 30+ years in the industry, I reckon I've done my 10,000 hours referred to by Malcolm Gladwell, so I believe I'm reasonably well qualified to comment on the subject.

In conversation with a colleague from outside our industry, I was concerned that he had just spent two hours with his financial adviser (authorised) and by the end of the session was bemused and bewildered by the alphabet soup he had been served. In fact, the message contained within the recommendations and solutions had been all but lost in the confusion of TPD, DI, TIB and goodness knows what else had been trotted out to this client.

Incidentally, he's in the Information Technology industry, which is not exactly known for being jargon-free either, but that's an issue for another day.


The usage of industry terminology amongst financial services practitioners is common-place and natural. Over the years, the industry has coined words, phrases, and terms which impart generally accepted concepts to the participants in a related conversation. This occurs in every walk of commercial life and is an efficient means of interaction and communication.

Unfortunately, as the cartoon suggests, this language has been carried over into the consumer contact space and is entirely unsuitable, confusing, and in the Laird's humble opinion, contributes to the relatively low take-up rate of financial protection products and solutions in NZ.

Now, I'm not aiming these remarks at every adviser or company executive in the land. Many of the experienced advisers I've had the privilege of dealing with over the years have developed a plain-speaking approach with clients and the ability of the experienced and expert advisers to make the complicated sound simple is admirable. However, there are still instances of companies and advisory firms lapsing into industry-speak which leaves consumers and potential clients in the dark.

The problem is we don't realise we're doing it and a conscious effort has to be made to stick with language and terminology to which clients can easily relate.

Once the industry has addressed this issue, and consumers can understand why the recommended solutions were implemented, we'll be well on the way to taking New Zealand out of the Third World level of under-insurance which currently prevails.

The Laird of Albany