Lord Hunt says that to restore public trust in insurance practitioners, companies must raise their professional standards
?As CII president this year I have pledged to focus my tenure, where possible, on the issue of professionalism. The industry has faced a tough time over the past decade or so in terms of public trust and esteem. It has taken quite a battering.
It is fair to say that some of this has been self-inflicted, through scandals which have lowered the perception of the industry in the public mind.
This has been deeply damaging as the public has approached the industry with scepticism – or worse, stayed away.
In a recent survey of MPs commissioned by the CII, my political colleagues were asked which professions they held in high regard and those which have problems with their reputations.
Insurance practitioners did not fare well among the backbenchers, with doctors, architects and accountants ranking as the top three professions, leaving insurance trailing behind at number six – behind even lawyers.
In all, 90% of MPs believe that the top tier of financial services advisers should be qualified to chartered status, similar to other professions such as surveyors, accountants or engineers. However it is heartening to see that many general insurance brokers are beginning to take the chartered route, with Towergate recently joining the list of UK intermediaries reaching the pinnacle of professional excellence.
This is just one way of addressing the decline in public trust.
One key way to ensure we rebuild public trust – and it is not a short term or easy fix – is to build professionalism throughout our industry so that we match the attributes, capabilities and behaviours of the best of other professions.
The CII sees it as its mission over the next few years to work with others – a coalition of the willing you might call it – to argue the case for raising standards.
“It is heartening to see that many general insurance brokers are beginning to take the chartered route, with Towergate joining the list of UK intermediaries reaching the pinnacle of professional excellence
We have already started this process by commissioning an independent report from Deloitte & Touche, Professionalism and Reputation, which provides a comparative overview against other professions and outlines what actions we need to take to ensure our industry raises its standards.
To those of you who may think that retail distribution is not their part of the industry and ignore it, I say do not do so for two reasons. First, the issue of improving levels of professionalism is universal across our profession.
And second, issues that start in one area of FSA thinking and policy tend to develop a wider application as they develop – a good reason to take an interest in developments.
Essential to a profession worthy of the name are professional bodies which cut the mustard.
So this is not simply about passing exams, important though this is. It is a declaration to the public at large that the advice given by an individual or firm is of the highest quality, is based solely on the needs of the customer, is provided by someone not exceeding their level of competence, is governed by a code of ethics and that monitoring exists and discipline is applied to those who transgress.
With the government pursuing an agenda which will endorse its skills pledge – one of the outcomes of the recent Leitch Review –
I hope to make my year a defining one at the CII where the clarion cry will be: “Who trains, wins.”
Lord Hunt is CII president, and a partner and chairman of the financial services division at Beachcroft