Who else can lead us to contract certainty, asks Alex Letts

' Is that ticking I hear a clock counting down the days to Big Bang for the insurance market, or the ticking of a time bomb?

FSA chief executive John Tiner has set a deadline for contract certainty in the London industry for the end of 2006. Yet the majority of underwriters seem oblivious. In Bermuda, they observe they are not subject to FSA rules and have no need to meet its demands.

Nick Prettejohn is beating the drum among his own franchise, but his position is compromised by his Kinnect investment, not least at a time when questions are being asked about the relevance of Kinnect to the contract certainty process. The London Market Association, chaired by Dane Douetil of Brit, is making waves, but one wonders how far down these will wash.

It all comes back again to the brokers, whose reputation and grip on the market has weakened over the past six months under the assault of Spitzer. They feel, too, that they are a prime target for the FSA.

There are those who want to believe the period of hegemony is closing. But it is the brokers' responsibility to galvanise the reluctant industry that has paid them well over the years. They are the problem-solvers and the quickest wits in the market. They must persuade underwriters of the need to support contract certainty, and of worldwide demand for a standardised process, audit trails and single-source records.

This is not simply a UK or US issue, it includes Bermuda. Brokers there will need to impress on the Bermudian reinsurers that this is a requirement from clients who operate outside the Bermudian regime.

If brokers don't lead now, is there a loss of self-belief and a growing introspection? Do they lack the vision for which they are renowned? Maybe they should move over.

But those who relish the decline of their powers should ask themselves who else has the drive to lead the industry. If brokers lose the plot now, far from being a metaphor for the electronic revolution,

Big Bang will be the sound of the market blowing up at the end of 2006.

' Alex Letts is chief executive of RI3K