Editor Katie Scott discusses the appetite around industry in-person gatherings ahead of this year’s Biba conference

This May, I will be heading to Manchester to attend my very first in-person annual Biba conference – despite now having around two and a half years of Insurance Times experience under my belt.

Originally, 2020’s event hosted by the broking trade body was going to be my initiation into the wonderful world of UKGI. Instead, the conference was cancelled amid the turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the subsequent 2021 event was held online.

Katie Scott_bw_path

Katie Scott

Now, however, I am looking forward to meeting many of you face-to-face next week.

Returning to physical proximity with colleagues and peers has remained a slightly contentious industry topic, despite the fact that the UK has been unfettered from Covid restrictions for many months now.

For example, freelance journalist and friend of Insurance Times Jon Guy wrote last month on how London market firms are still struggling to get co-workers back into office environments following the comfort and work-life benefits of homeworking.

He noted how hybrid working schedules have additionally caused calendar confusion for brokers and underwriters looking to align their days in the city for in-person meet-ups.

While London market participants may be keen to remain at home, the majority of brokers I have spoken to throughout the course of the pandemic have been keen to maintain as much office-based working and in-person networking as possible, restrictions permitting.

One particularly vocal advocate of this has been PIB Group chief executive Brendan McManus.

He told me: “All our offices remained open throughout the Covid crisis and increasingly we saw there was a demand for people to come back into the office.

“We had a lot of people like me who are dinosaurs and can’t work at home and we had a lot of young people who live in small apartments being driven up the wall by staring at the same four walls every day.”

Despite his personal preference for office working, McManus emphasised that PIB Group takes the stance that “we only employ adults and they can decide how to do their work”.

He continued: “So long as [staff are] performing, I don’t really care. We want to see everybody every week, but a lot of people like homeworking and it’s convenient for their families and childcare. In other cases, people want to be in the office.

“Meeting with people is really important. We don’t enforce really strict rules. Generally speaking, we want local management to agree with their people what works for them.”

Ken Norgrove, UK and international boss at RSA, told me the insurer was also embracing hybrid working, with teams required to attend the office once or twice a week, depending on their function.

Based on my experience, the insurance industry has wholeheartedly thrown itself back into in-person networking and gatherings following the lifting of lockdown restrictions – something I will very much be taking advantage of in Manchester next week.

However, it also appears that the balance of hybrid working still needs perfecting between different parts of the market if we are to operate as a cohesive machine to benefit end clients.

The post-pandemic ‘new normal’ may not be as fully engrained or universally commonplace as some market players first thought.