One in three advisers at the event, held by Corporate Adviser in association with Norwich Union, said that more than 25 per cent of clients are engaged in or talking about cutting back on benefits.
A poll of delegates found that 82 per cent saw clients reducing core benefits, with a further 18 per cent seeing clients restricting qualification criteria. No delegates saw no cutbacks at all.
However, advisers felt that while group risk business will shrink in 2009, 84 per cent said it would fare no worse than other forms of employee benefit in the downturn.
Advisers urged providers to grasp the nettle and launch a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of group protection products amongst the public, government and employers.
Simon Derby, director of i2 Healthcare said: “There is a sense of crisis and of being in freefall. We will see a reduction in the numbers who are employed and also an erosion of benefits so we are being hit by a double whammy. It could be catastrophic, with a huge dip in annual premium income.”
Jamie Barnes, client services director at Enrich said: “Employees don’t know about group income protection because we live in an era in which all that insurers ever do is advertise to the community that already knows about the product. They never advertise to the general public to make them aware that this benefit exists, and employers don’t seem to want to promote it either.”