There'll be no furry animals, according to Biba boss Eric Galbraith
The inspiration drawer – it was not a piece of furniture I’d come across before, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi made more alluring because Biba’s 2010 Manifesto was going to take pride of place in it.
Put simply, it is a drawer in which a recent visitor to our offices - a leading industry figure no less - keeps things that inspire and stimulate him. The drawer keeps these objects and documents safe allowing their owner to dip in and look at them whenever creativity and motivation is lagging.
The drawer’s creator was in earnest and did not mean the title as a polite euphemism for the bin. It got me thinking. The practicalities and legalities aside of keeping large, living things in a small piece of office furniture what would I fill my drawer with? I did a quick poll of the Biba office out of interest. My questioning revealed a mixed bag including a pair of Manolo Blahnick shoes, an Arsenal striker, a piece of Lalique glass, The Onion’s news archive and someone’s father.
I want to add Olympic oarsman Sir Matthew Pinsent’s formula for winning gold to that collective drawer. Pinsent and his crew used the mantra “Does it make the boat go faster?” to help them very quickly focus on the important things which improved their performance and to discard those things that did not. It’s something we’ve taken to heart at Biba.
Out of the boat would go all television advertising campaigns (even those featuring cute, furry mammals) which ignore the importance of getting the right insurance protection with their continual focus on bargain basement prices. Price comparison sites may have made the boat go faster for the consumer, but they do not always get you where you ought to be.
And at what cost to the insurance industry? Speed has meant that fewer questions are asked of the customer, little is know about them and their life style. Much of the business generated through these sites has been found to be poorer quality resulting in more claims and lost profits for insurers. Try to put up rates to compensate and the customer simply moves on to the next low cost provider and the cycle starts all over again. Sadly, the industry seems content to accept this state of affairs.
There are signs that insurers are looking to increase their terms, but I would argue there is more that we can be doing besides that to turn things around. Getting the right data from our customers in order to be able underwrite risk correctly would be a start. That is what being a broker is all about – asking the right questions, clarifying information when it is unclear and finding the right cover at the right price because they know their customer best. Such involvement can also filter out bad business helping to reduce insurance fraud which the National Fraud Authority estimates is costing the industry £2bn a year.
This may come as a revelation to some insurers, but hopefully not intermediaries. Perhaps now is the time for a reminder about the value a broker brings to the equation - that knowing the customer can and does result in higher quality business, improved retention and better service resulting in a faster boat not only for brokers, but for insurers and ultimately the consumer too. Now there’s inspiration for a TV advertising campaign in the making.
Eric Galbraith is chief executive of the British Insurance Broker's Association (Biba).