Brokers were continuing to prove their worth in the face of adversity, George Nixon told delegates at the opening of the 2001 British Insurance Brokers Association (Biba) Conference.

They had shown their resilience and added value, despite major political change, the attack of direct writers, regulation, mergers and poor service standards, he said.

Nixon added that the stable economy, greater demand for independent and reliable advice from increasingly sophisticated clients and modern technology meant that the environment had never been better for brokers.

Technology did not necessarily allow brokers to replace face-to-face or personal contact, but supported it “with access to information, to knowledge and to collaborative working”.

The new regulatory regime also offered brokers a level playing field that did not discriminate against them, he said, and the new Chartered Insurance Broker title would help, too.

Nixon also spoke about what Biba had to offer brokers. He referred to a Department of Trade and Industry report on the modern trade association, where Patricia Hewitt, minister for small businesses and e-commerce, said: “Trade associations have a vital role to play in promoting best practice, helping firms become more competitive and formulating public policy. As in the commercial world, the business of representation requires investment of time and money to deliver returns.”

Nixon felt that Biba lived up to being a “modern trade association” by conducting training programmes, launching an advice service for technology-related issues and working to represent members where it mattered – with the GISC, the government and insurers.

Biba's custom-made insurance schemes, he said, also helped members sharpen their competitive edge.

“As you know, broking is a people business – the success of our business depends upon the performance of our people. We also know that if we want our business to perform well, we must embrace and apply technology to match our business model.

“If we are to invent the future successfully for our businesses, making the right decisions in relation to people and technology is paramount – this is why we have chosen to bring these two subjects together for this year's conference.”