Belfast Telegraph

Financial service Sun Life has some catching up to do

By Simon Read

Exciting news arrives. A finance firm which is being relaunched says it wants to "democratise financial services" for everyday customers.

Sun Life says it is "planning to completely transform its business with a new brand and products in savings, insurance and investments designed for those it feels have been left behind by the financial services industry".

And it's backing that intention up with hard cash – some £250m will be spent on marketing the brand over the next five years.

That sounds brilliant, doesn't it? Don't we all feel left behind by the financial services industry?

To be honest, not me. I feel the opposite. I've left the financial services industry behind and I'm waiting for it to catch up. Why? Because I've become fed up with being ripped-off by expensive banking and low-paying savings while being mis-sold useless insurance I don't need.

The only way the financial services industry will catch me up is if it starts to offer reasonably priced products with no hidden charges and fair rates. Back to Sun Life. Does it have a chance of catching me up?

Let's look at its recent history. For years it used Michael Parkinson to flog dodgy over-50s insurance plans. The problem with them was that many ended up paying much more into the plan that they will ever get out.

In short, most people would have been better off simply saving cash into an Isa or deposit account. Now Sun Life – owned by French insurance giant Axa – claims it is putting its murky past behind it "to become the UK's leading D2C financial services brand".

I had to ask what D2C means. It turns out it's not Dog2Cat or Doughnuts2Crumpets. It's something equally meaningless: Direct2Consumer.

If any financial firm really wants to catch up with consumers it has to offer three simple things: honesty, fairness and simplicity. Sun Life looks to have already failed on the third.

Belfast Telegraph