Insurance Times poses the question to eight industry leaders after the industry collaborated to rise to the challenge earlier in May 

Graeme Trudgill, executive director, Biba

Graeme Trudgill, executive director, BIBA

Graeme Trudgill 

It was a fascinating Biba conference this year – it was over in a flash, but a great opportunity to pick up wisdom from members and life lessons from some very successful people.

What struck me most, whether it was my lockdown coach Joe Wicks, gold medallists Ellie Simmonds ir Sir Mo Farah, was they all wanted to give something back – this is exactly what I see every day at Biba with so many members on our committees and advisory boards offering their time and ideas, not to mention the advice they give to customers.

My key takeaways from Biba 2023 were Sir Mo Farah’s point that if you want to win, believe in yourself and work 20% harder than your competition in training, Joe Wick’s idea to get moving and look after your mental health and Ellie Simmond’s highlight to learn from a time when things didn’t go so well.

I also noted that – and this is particularly relevant in our sphere – the views from brokers in the two seminars I chaired were that they mostly want better eTrade right now and their biggest current challenge was recruitment. Looking forwards, they worry about future regulatory and government changes and, most of all, want a period of stability.

Ajay Mistry, co-founder, The Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (iCAN)

The Biba conference provided a wealth of valuable insights, making it challenging to pinpoint just one important lesson. At the forefront, however, is the pressing need for diversity. Whilst the conference boasted exceptional speakers, panel members and hosts, there remains a noticeable lack of representation of people from different backgrounds. Specifically, the insurance industry should focus on attracting and nurturing more Gen Z talent.

Ajay Mistry - Gambit Partners founder

Ajay Mistry 

Organisations should start capitalising on the sector’s existing resources. Unfortunately, there are currently several missed opportunities as companies are refraining from sending their employees (especially the Gen Z generation) to events, possibly due to financial constraints or concerns about other companies poaching their talent.

However, employees participating in these events will certainly be helped with their professional development and in establishing vital connections. By leveraging what the industry already offers, businesses can nurture their workforce and strengthen their networks, leading to long-term growth and success, which at the moment is a real issue.

As the industry evolves, embracing these lessons will undoubtedly contribute to a more inclusive and thriving insurance sector – where people feel more connected to not just their employers, but the industry as a whole.

Peter Blanc, group chief executive, Aston Lark, head of M&A, Howden Group

PeterBlanc, Howden head of M&A

Peter Blanc 

There’s one lesson I learn at every Biba – an hour in bed before midnight is worth two hours after.

On a serious note though, I attended a great session on What the future holds for brokers and one of the polls revealed that the topic concerning brokers most of all is regulation – understandable, given the sheer amount of change that’s happened in recent years and the forthcoming changes around Consumer Duty.

I strongly believe the regulator wants what every broker wants – customers to be treated fairly, the market to work properly and create insurance products that deliver what they promise. So why do we struggle with the regulatory burden? As ever, the problem and the solutions lie in effective communication.

The relationship between the FCA and brokers is currently too remote. We shouldn’t fear that the regulator is ‘out to get us’, but instead we should be creating more forums to help us demonstrate just what a great job we do at protecting customers.

It would be a real shame if regulation itself were to reduce the number of consumer-facing brokers in the market. Leaving customers to ‘self-serve’ online would deliver the exact opposite of the FCA’s stated aims.

So, my lesson from Biba is for us to stay on the front foot, engage with the regulator to show how we work and how we deliver great outcomes. In this way, the relationship between brokers and our regulator will become one of trust rather than opposition.

Kelly Ostler-Coyle, head of communications, Flood Re

In a nutshell, it was the chance to speak to and hear from real people face to face – and to be reminded that the work we do at Flood Re really makes a difference to people’s lives.

Kelly Ostler-Coyle, Flood Re

Kelly Ostler-Coyle 

One broker, for example, came to our stand not to learn more about the scheme, or to hear about our Build Back Better initiative, but just to say thank you on behalf of their client – someone who had cried tears of relief after being provided with a reasonable quote via the Flood Re scheme, having previously been quoted over £120,000 for their home insurance.

Receiving comments like that really bring home the value and role of insurance as a whole and why the insurance market should be proud of what it does – it is not just a product, but a solution that helps protect both individuals and businesses.

That aside, the other real key takeaway from this year’s record-breaking attendance conference was don’t peak too early and wear comfortable shoes!

Nick Hobbs, chief distribution officer, Allianz Commercial 

The conference is, of course, fantastic for networking and I was both holding and earwigging on conversations – what came to life for me was the subject of professionalism in the profession.

Nick Hobbs

Nick Hobbs

It’s not a new theme, but an important one that should be on regular and repeat display. It’s not about putting on smart shoes or a tie or speaking properly – although looking the part does help.

It’s about understanding that bit more, bothering to learn the next page, absorbing it and deploying it more often in more conversations – or process, behaviour, or proposition – that have real and positive customer impact.

Professionalism isn’t necessarily just about having qualifications, it’s about attitude and outlook and it was great to overhear so many conversations around me that weren’t just about the night before, or which stand had the best coffee, but were about the big topics that we are looking to tackle jointly as partners.

There is a war for talent being waged and one way we can win it is to fly the flag of our profession – by continuing to be even more professional.

Philippe Gouraud, chief executive, Rising Edge 

Philipe Gourard, Rising Edge

Philippe Gouraud

At times, financial lines can be challenging for brokers to cross sell to their clients.

We found that the traditional carriers have great offerings for the SME or mid market segment – broad coverage, keenly priced, well serviced… as long as the client’s needs are fairly standard.

As soon as the client’s risk profile deviates from the norm, the computer tends so say no. And if the broker does not have access to specialist directors’ and officers’ (D&O) underwriters, they are at risk of losing a valuable client.

Discussion with regional brokers and national ones serving the SME or mid market segment confirmed this. We know how to respond to their specific D&O or employment practices liability (EPL) needs. The Biba conference offers a unique UK market place where such exchange are possible. Bring on Biba 2024. 

Laura Hancock, managing director, Yutree 

I have been going to this conference for 20 years and the most important lesson for me is always the same – that is the power of building and maintaining a strong network.

Laura Hancock Yutree

Laura Hancock

My biggest takeaway this year was that for whatever personal challenge I had, whatever business opportunity we wanted to move forward, whatever inspiration I needed and whatever question I had, there was someone there to talk to.

Our own network gives back in abundance – personally and professionally – and this conference enables collaboration, the cultivation of ideas, support, inspiration and the sharing of knowledge like no other event.

To anyone who says that they cannot afford the time to go, I would say that we believe that we cannot afford not to. When you throw in the valuable insights, experiences and trends that you hear and learn from the speaker programme, the value of the event and the connections made are immeasurable.

Kieron Burrows, head of insurance, Konsileo

Kieron Burrows, head of insurance, Konsileo

Kieron Burrows 

I think I relearned a lesson that I already knew – that you can’t beat face-to-face time for building great relationships.

There were so many good sessions at this year’s Biba, but some of the most interesting discussions took place off the stages. What I love about Biba is the matchmaking opportunities it provides – the chance to get people in front of people.

It’s particularly key for Konsileo brokers because we’re not constricted to specific markets, so getting out and about and in front of new markets is invaluable.

I spent a lot of my time introducing people I knew could be useful to each other and I like to think I saw the beginnings of a few beautiful relationships. Certainly, I’m excited to see how those Biba introductions mature over the coming months.