Broker association gets stuck into tackling its manifesto pledges

Steve White

On the eve of the annual Biba conference in Manchester, chief executive Steve White has plenty to think about.

The dust has settled on Biba’s manifesto, launched at parliament in January. Now work is in full swing to ensure pledges are followed up on and promises are kept.

One of the issues highlighted in Section One of the manifesto was addressing insurance premium tax (IPT). On this, there has already been some movement, with the government in March promising to publish an operational review of IPT in the next few months.

Speaking to Insurance Times, White points out that chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement during his Spring Statement focused on the ‘fairness’ of the collection mechanism, and was not a negotiation about the rate itself.

Biba is pushing for a fairer rate, with a particular emphasis on an IPT break for young drivers and those who use telematics devices.

“We’ve already made a strong cost-benefit case. We’re waiting to see the full remit of the review before we can commit to that, but it does give us a chance to make those points again. 

“The government never consults on the rate of tax. But it does give us the chance to make the point that they doubled it in a three-year period. It’s not a very conservative thing to be doing to be penalising those looking out for themselves,” he says.

Brexit concern

Perhaps the fact the issue was even raised at all at a time when government and civil service resource is being sucked up by the all-consuming Brexit process is a victory of sorts.

For Biba’s members, uncertainty is the key Brexit concern. White confirmed that the organisation had been fielding multiple enquiries over the issue of green cards – the documents that would be needed by UK drivers taking their vehicles into the European Union should a transition deal not be forthcoming.

Another Brexit challenge that White highlights is stockpiling. Are customers telling their brokers that they’ve stockpiled goods or supplies? Because doing so means they need to increase their sums insured, he says.

Brexit is highly likely to be a prominent theme at this year’s Biba Manchester conference. White says the event’s focus will be on how brokers can lead the way in several important areas. One of those is the issue of mental health and wellbeing. A celebrity panel discussion is due to tackle this very issue, with presenter Katie Piper, ex-cricketer Andrew Flintoff and rapper Professor Green all booked to discuss their personal experiences.

Mental wellbeing

It is part of the wider conversation about how to attract young people into the broking industry. White believes today’s young employees want to work in an inclusive culture where mental wellbeing is supported. Biba is already seeing a big demand from brokers on how to create more supportive and diverse workplaces.

Part of its drive will also see its young ambassadors getting out and about and raising their profile to help attract new talent to the industry. Despite ongoing issues over gender imbalance in the industry, White insists progress is being made. 

“There is a predominance of young women coming into the industry,” he says. Biba also points out that three of the last four Young Broker of the Year awards went to women, with three of the finalists in last year’s award being female.

The trade body is also looking at encouraging more people from different socio-economic backgrounds into the broking industry. This can be a neglected area of diversity, and as White points out: “You can’t just have middle class well-educated people. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve got. You have to reflect society.” 

Biba member Aon has been pushing this particular agenda, launching its Step-Up traineeship for those not in employment, education or training. Biba hopes to replicate the programme, White tells Insurance Times.

Another topic that Biba is seeking to take a lead on is that of the ‘digital divide’ and upskilling workers, which forms part of Section Four of its manifesto. It’s pledge is to make being comfortable with digital as important as literacy and numeracy.

“We need to make sure the brokers of today have the skills for the business of tomorrow. The core skills that we need will remain. Ability to interact, ability to identify and mitigate risk,” White says.

But one of the key points to promote the industry as a vibrant one for young people to join is the variety of roles available. “You don’t have to join as an insurance technician or be an underwriter or an actuary. You can do digital marketing, accountancy. There’s a whole raft of skills needed,” White says.

Emergence of ‘intangible’ risks 

Why is there a need for these new skills? One reason is the nature of emerging risks the industry faces. There has been a move towards more ‘intangible’ risks for a while, which White sees as “an interesting journey for brokers to go on with their customers”. 

He points out that customers are used to insuring what they can see, not what they can’t. Cyber forms one of the main emerging intangible risks. 

One problem for brokers is the variety of wordings and definitions. It can be a complex suite of covers that sounds simple at first, but might have 18-20 sections.

“It’s not just a case of saying to the customer ‘do you want cyber cover?’,” White says.

SMEs might think they are less likely to be hit by a cyber attack, but this can be a mistaken approach, as by their nature smaller businesses can become targets for hackers because they might be deemed to have weaker defences in place, as well as also being seen as an entry point to data held by larger companies.

One of the things Biba is doing to help its members is encouraging the sharing of case studies. One problem that this addresses is the general lack of sharing when something does go wrong. 

Biba has partnered with the Cyber security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP). Any Biba member signing up to CiSP must share the types of claims they have dealt with. In turn, they have access to the experiences of other brokers. 

This allows a broker to sit down with a customer and talk through a real-life case affecting a company like theirs. 

With new and existing risks and opportunities for brokers, there will be plenty of talking points at this year’s Biba conference.