The Association of Insurance Intermediaries and Brokers (AiiB) has poured scorn on fellow trade body BIIBA's claim that it can drive sharp practice out of the industry.
Reacting to Insurance Times' front page story last week, the AiiB said that BIIBA's proposed Code of Conduct to outlaw client poaching would be impossible to police.
Instead, the AiiB argues that smaller brokers' and intermediaries' best hope of protecting their client base lies in self-help – and adhering to the AiiB's standard Terms of Business document.
The split in opinion follows increasing concern among brokers that their customers are being poached by insurance wholesalers or underwriters, often after the intermediary has requested a quotation on behalf of his or her client.
BIIBA's proposed Code of Conduct would also address the issue of underwriters contacting high street brokers directly, after they have lost a contract with a wholesale broker.
Both phenomena reflect intermediaries' decreased room for manoeuvre in a competitive climate where the industry has seen a wave of consolidation.
However, the AiiB believes that intermediaries and brokers seeking to protect their businesses should rely on their business instinct rather than put their trust in a code.
Members are advised to ensure that their terms of business with an insurer or underwriter include an ownership of clients clause, such as “The policyholder remains the client of an introducing intermediary. We (the insurer/underwriter) undertake not to directly contact the client without the intermediary's prior consent”.
Mike Slack, AiiB chairman, said: “If you are not happy with the terms of business of the company you intend to deal with, then don't deal with them. If all intermediaries adhered to this ethic, then the poachers would soon find it difficult to get business.”
A spokesman for BIIBA said that it was difficult to get insurers to agree to ownership of clients clauses. “We think it's off target to say that a code of conduct won't work,” she said, adding that full details would be announced by the end of year.