The past year’s highs and lows will add a new flavour to this year’s Biba conference, Insurance Times’ Lauren MacGillivray predicts

The official theme of the 31st annual Biba conference in Manchester is “delivering value”. Unofficially, it’s “eat a little humble pie”.

It’s true that the folks at Biba have scored several important victories over the past year, such as getting their way on commission disclosure with a market-led solution. But with the Liiba coup and the credit crunch to contend with, plus insurers taking a tougher stance on commissions, the message is for brokers to cut out the frills and get back to basics.

The best way for a broker to ensure his or her survival in tough times isn’t about flashy acquisitions or driving up commissions; it’s about giving clients the best advice possible through technical knowledge and being there in times of need.

A recent report published by Biba found that brokers aren’t doing enough to explain the value they provide to SMEs. The research found confusion among small businesses about what constitutes advice – and where they should go to get it. But it also discovered that the SMEs that already use brokers put great value on the service they get.

Of course, this isn’t news to the best brokers; the profession has been built on value-added advice since it first began. But while challenges like the credit crunch can be devastating, they can also be a healthy reminder of what is most important. Now more than ever, it’s vital that insurance not be seen as a commodity.

This year’s conference is bound to have a much different feel than those in recent years. The opening reception, gala dinner and other celebrations are still going ahead. But chief executive Eric Galbraith has said the association has “worked very hard to drive down the cost of the conference while building up its value” to attendees.

Keynote speakers Erin Brockovich – a legal consultant, played by Julia Roberts in the 2000 Hollywood movie named after her – plus comic actress Ruby Wax and TV presenter René Carayol, are sure to add sparkle. But the straightforward theme of “delivering value” will be a constant throughout the seminars and speeches.

In the words of Galbraith, this could be a conference that you “really can’t afford to miss”. See you in Manchester, 13-15 May.

For more, see: BIBAtimes