The CII's local institutes have redoubled their efforts to provide training and networking digitally, as Matt Hall explains
The local institute network provides vibrant member communities for insurance and financial advice professionals throughout the regions of the UK. During the past few weeks, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold and government guidance restricted movement, many local institutes were forced to cancel or postpone their continuing professional development (CPD) events, AGMs and annual dinners.
As a part of our membership offering that prides itself on engagement through face-to-face programmes of learning and networking events, it would be all too easy to assume the network would have to batten down the hatches and wait until this storm had passed. In fact, the opposite has been true -- our local institutes have shown remarkable agility in responding to the needs of their members during such a challenging period.
Clearly, government guidance has prohibited face-to-face events, but our members' desire to keep their knowledge and skills up to date is undiminished. It could even be argued that in a fast-changing business environment, this is now more important than ever before.
Many local institutes moved rapidly towards offering digital CPD to their members, especially webinars. A programme looking at the much-debated issue of business interruption insurance has been extremely popular, with sessions being booked out in minutes and further sessions added to deal with demand. Alongside more technical issues of policy wording and cover extensions, the CPD programme has also considered the broader communication and business skills that are essential at a time like this, including guidance on having difficult conversations with customers and clients.
A host of other learning is being developed, such as advice on working from home, treatment of vulnerable customers, and mental health and wellbeing during this challenging period. For many institutes, this will be delivered alongside planned topics, actually meaning there will be more options for digital learning than ever before.
Paul Hudson, chair of CPD at the Insurance Institute of Manchester, says: "I am proud of the way the Manchester insurance market and our colleagues in other regions have joined forces to ensure our membership can continue their professional development in the middle of all that is going on around us.
"The Insurance Institute of Manchester moved quickly to secure prominent speakers to host virtual sessions on topical matters in relation to Covid-19. These sessions were put on within a week of the government's instruction to stay at home, demonstrating our commitment to ensuring the Manchester insurance market is at the forefront
Mr Hudson adds: "Our CPD committee is currently drawing up plans to take the existing calendar of technical subjects and convert them to digital ones, while also complimenting these with further topical sessions to actually increase our CPD output at this time."
Alan Chandler, a general insurance trainer and consultant who has delivered several business interruption webinars across the network, says: "The uptake has been breathtaking and the webinars designed as workshops have allowed a professional debate to take place within all the local institutes concerning policy coverage. There are very divided opinions but all concerned have welcomed clarity and the opportunity to debate this highly topical subject in a professional way."
It has been hugely uplifting to see the way members all across the country have responded to support each other in times of need. Of course, when restrictions are eased and we eventually return to normality, I am sure members will be very keen to meet up and enjoy one another's company again. We cannot wait to welcome you back.
Matthew Hall is strategy and operations manager of insurance societies and networks