Luke Holloway talks to Stuart Harbourne about the crucial role local institutes play for insurance professionals
Local institutes are the beating heart of the CII. They give fellow insurance professionals a place to build relationships, a platform to share ideas and a source of learning and support throughout their career.
One member who knows this as well as any is president of the Birmingham Insurance Institute (BII) and Chartered insurer, Stuart Harbourne.
“I like to consider myself a people person and I feel strongly that this is a key way in which you learn and develop as a professional.
“As a local institute, we have such a wide range of members from all areas of the profession – managing directors, senior directors, young professionals, brokers, loss adjusters, legal practitioners, technical specialists, recruitment consultants and many more. Drawing on the experiences, insights and skills of these professionals while building relationships with them has benefited me hugely.”
I am so proud of what we do as a profession and how we are there for our customers in their times of need
With Allianz since 2004 – now as claims change consultant – Mr Harbourne says that one of the fundamental reasons the insurer appealed to him when looking for a career move was its focus on professional development and its relationship with the CII.
“When joining Allianz, I was very clear I wanted to pursue professional qualifications and they offered me fantastic support, firstly in achieving my ACII and then my Chartered insurer status. I have always stayed close to the CII by attending both learning and social events, before looking to get more involved by joining the BII and having direct day-to-day involvement.
Like many insurers and businesses, the last two years have produced new challenges for the BII, and the institute has had to adapt to continue to offer members knowledge and support.
“As president, I would have liked to be out at more face-to-face events and I am glad these are now returning, but I am very proud of how the institute has evolved its model and we will continue to use this to serve our members in the future.
“Since 2020, we have put on more than 100 remote webinars – reaching a far wider audience. We have had such a wide range of subjects touching on technical skills, soft skills, market awareness and wellbeing. Our purpose is to provide a diverse programme of events that supports the ongoing professional development of our members and builds upon public trust in our industry. Our digital events are now fully booked, requiring waiting lists and additional sessions to be added, and I am really encouraged by the response to our new hybrid model,” he says.
One event that will be face to face this May is ‘Ambassadors in Action’. The new CII network conference will bring together both local institute councils and Personal Finance Society regional committees to share good practice and develop local relationships.
“I am tremendously excited to be attending Ambassadors in Action,” says Mr Harbourne. “The conference will be held at The Grand in Birmingham, which is hugely significant for our institute as it is where we were formed in 1887.
“We have now had the Shaping the future together consultation, which many members contributed to and to which the BII provided an in-depth institute response. As the CII, we aim to build public trust, but it is also important we build trust internally across our profession with other institutes and regions to continue to support members.
“It has been such an interesting period of change and we really want to share our ideas on engagement, and are looking to learn from others,” he says.
This year also marks 125 years since local institutes came together to form the federation that would later evolve into the CII. Mr Harbourne stresses how immensely proud he feels, knowing he is helping to guide an organisation that has such a long and important history.
“The idea in the beginning was to get together with likeminded peers, share ideas, thoughts and best practices, while creating a social networking environment – those foundations still hold true today,” he says. “It makes me immensely proud to know how long we have been going; and to have been asked to step into the role I am in as president. I am really honoured.”
As Mr Harbourne’s presidency concludes this spring, he will continue as an active member of the BII council while offering guidance and support to the next president, drawn from his own experience. He is also as keen as ever to welcome new members to the CII, wherever they are throughout the UK.
“I would say just get involved in whatever capacity that may be. Visit your local institute website, see what events are coming up, the topics of their learning sessions, and go along. I am sure it is the same in Birmingham as all over the UK – we are accessible, welcoming and always open to new members,” says Mr Harbourne.
“We have people at all levels and all ages. It is very sociable, our members raise a lot of money for charity, enjoy themselves and add value to their careers. I cannot recommend it enough.
“I am so proud of what we do as a profession and how we are there for our customers in their times of need. I have worked in claims for 22 years and I see first-hand how we support our customers to piece their businesses and their lives back together after something they may have never experienced before.
“As a profession, we should celebrate that more. Insurance is a sector that has supported me well and I feel good knowing I am trying to support it in return through the CII and our local institutes.”
Mr Harbourne has more than 22 years’ experience in claims, is a Chartered insurer and president of the Birmingham Insurance Institute.
He has dealt with commercial and retail products across all business lines, including field investigation and external auditing.
He has been with Allianz Insurance in the UK since 2004 and is currently claims change consultant of process, planning and performance.
Luke Holloway is editor of The Journal