The Biba conference in Bournemouth is virtually the last chance brokers will have to air their opinions of regulation, and they must use the occasion, says John Jackson

Next month's Biba conference in Bournemouth needs to hear much stronger language from brokers than is customary.

If they do not speak out, then their voice - and their business - may quickly disappear.

For this year's conference will be virtually the last opportunity for brokers to make their views known on the forthcoming statutory regulation of their industry by the FSA.

CP174 consequences
Currently, the FSA has a major consultation paper, CP174, out for discussion which will have a major impact on how insurance broking will be conducted after statutory regulation comes in on 1 January 2005.

CP174 is just one set of proposals that are a minefield of bureaucratic red tape that is likely to strangle many small to medium firms.

It is to be hoped that Bournemouth's bracing fresh air does not lull brokers into a false sense of well-being.

The conference is all about regulation, and crucially John Tiner, FSA managing director for consumer, investment and insurance, is due to speak there. Brokers need to listen to him very carefully. They also need to leave him in no doubt of their areas of concern.

Here is a classic case when the members need to tell their trade body what they want. Biba has given a forceful lead, but this fight needs to be very much a bottom-up attack.

The big problem is that regulation enforcers such as the FSA do not live in the commercially competitive world of the general insurance broker. The ivory towers of Canary Wharf are far removed from handling the problems of employers' liability cover on the high street.

Regulation police tend to stick rigidly to the rule book - especially when they have written it.

Biba website
There is an open forum dedicated solely to regulation. Biba has opened a website for brokers to ask questions and express concerns ( ). This website should be choked with questions and concerns.

The clock is ticking away to statutory regulation.

Being a 'quiet man' may be all right for the Leader of the Opposition. But it is a useless stance for the insurance broker.