I was very pleased to see that CII past president, Jonathan Clark, adopted development of a 'united profession' as his theme during his tenure.
Through the years, many insurance policies have become increasingly complex and shrouded in small print, as insurers vie to provide more cover than most policyholders require or need. Even the experts have problems interpreting them on occasion and I have encountered situations where claims handlers have been unable to interpret their own policies correctly. As a result, the 'word on the street' is that many consumers think the industry is out to rip them off.
In the past, insurers were well represented by their branches throughout the country and policyholders had direct contact with people that they came to know, thereby generating goodwill and trust. However, strategic exercises aimed at achieving economies and arguably improving efficiency resulted in the 'hands-on' relationship between insurers and their policyholders diminishing, which did nothing to enhance their image.
Initially, adjusters filled the vacuum but the introduction of small claims handling schemes, which questionably save costs, failed to consider that claims at all levels create stress, especially for the uninitiated and elderly people who are often nervous and overawed by the experience. Nothing replaces the friendly face and the need to demonstrate a caring relationship.
The principle of 'utmost good faith' is not confined to the actions of policyholders; it equally applies to all insurers and provides an industry benchmark. The industry needs to remember this: criticisms of individual insurers' practices and attitudes impact on the industry as a whole.
In my view, the CII provides the essential ingredients for integrity in insurance, by setting standards and responding to the overall needs of the industry. The independence of the CII -- and its qualifications -- demonstrates that its members have taken the time to learn their trade and are capable of impartial judgement.
Neil Kelly FCII, FCILA