Matthew Hall explains why, in a fast-moving and challenging environment, the role of trusted adviser has never been so important
Against the backdrop of the continuing pandemic, the Society of Insurance Broking (SIB) placed a high priority on supporting young members during its third year. Now, recognising the crucial importance of talent to the vitality of the profession, it will focus on attracting the brightest and best to the sector in its fourth.
During the past 12 months, insurance brokers have faced many challenges. The continued impact of coronavirus has affected the ability of members to engage with their customers and clients as they might have previously. A continuing hard market has made new business and renewal conversations more challenging. The disruption of supply chain issues and Britain’s departure from the EU have added pressure to the sector, while the reputational fallout and impact of last year’s business interruption saga has left many brokers as the middleman in an increasingly fractious relationship between insurer and client.
Despite this, the sector has continued to thrive. In a fast-moving and challenging environment, never has the role of a trusted adviser been so important.
Many of our members speak of how adversity has actually bonded them to their clients more closely than ever before, with the ability to cut through the noise and offer realistic and pragmatic guidance under difficult circumstances.
At the virtual British Insurance Brokers’ Association conference in May 2020, the SIB’s non-executive director Liz Foster spoke of the importance of communicating that fundamental value to customers and clients. Noting that not every client has the same perspectives, she emphasised the importance of communicating in different ways – and also highlighted the opportunities that a renewed spotlight on the insurance sector can bring.
“It might seem like a very difficult storm to see Brexit, the pandemic and the hard market all coming together, but I am a great believer in challenges bringing opportunity,” said Ms Foster. “I think one of the things that has been widely recognised is that the pandemic has created a much greater need among our clients to understand their insurance – so I think we should take that as a great opportunity to communicate better.”
Fast forward a couple of months to the CII’s Shaping the Future conference, where SIB advisory board member Ajay Mistry took to the stage with members from the underwriting and claims Societies, to compare and contrast experiences across the sectors. With a particular focus on knowledge and skills, Mr Mistry emphasised a key tenet of the SIB’s work – connecting the professional community. Recommending a collaborative working culture with access to regular learning opportunities and diverse mentors, the session provided actionable advice to those navigating their early careers.
“I have been particularly inspired by the willingness of peers and colleagues to support each other with their learning and development and I have no doubt this collaborative professionalism will be of great benefit in the year ahead,” Mr Mistry said.
The breadth and quality of the content made available to our members continues to increase, helping brokers to improve their skills, leading to better advice and improved customer outcomes
In the next 12 months, the focus on knowledge and skills for young brokers will continue. The SIB will continue to consider the essential business skills – communication, leadership, problem-solving and negotiation, to name but a few. Technical skills will not be neglected, with upcoming digital programmes on ESG, cyber risk and regulation.
The SIB will also consider how talent is brought into the sector. With a new generation of career entrants coming through, it is essential that effective routes are established to attract the brightest and best from diverse backgrounds. Existing schemes such as apprenticeships and graduate schemes continue to be important, with the Society aiming to establish a closer and more productive relationship with academia and education.
Kevin Hancock, chair of the advisory board, comments: “The breadth and quality of the content made available to our members continues to increase, helping brokers to improve their skills, leading to better advice and improved customer outcomes. I am particularly keen to lead the agenda and conversations in respect of new entrants into the profession, including the increasing availability and awareness of the apprenticeship route alongside more graduate courses and opportunities.”
Diversity and inclusion in insurance broking has continued to be a real challenge but excellent progress has been made by many of the networks that exist across the sector and broader insurance profession. The SIB has committed to supporting, augmenting and amplifying those messages, while also striving to increase its own diversity.
As minds start to turn towards the new year, the SIB will continue to support its members in navigating the challenges, and provide them with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the opportunities as the world continues to emerge from the shadow of the pandemic. Better advice means better outcomes for customers and clients and a focus on developing well-rounded professionals with a broad array of technical and business skills will place our profession in the best possible position, demonstrating the essential value that the trusted advice of a broker can provide in protecting clients, their loved ones, their possessions and their businesses.
Matthew Hall is strategy and operations manager of insurance societies and networks at the CII