The issue of compliance with the General Insurance Standards Council's (GISC) requirements is complex and confusing for many insurers and brokers, and competence and training is a key area which looms large on the agenda.

Major concerns are implementing training in the most cost-effective way and how to ensure that the procedures put in place meet the requirements of compliance auditors.

Technology provider Digital Think claims to have come up with a solution – web-based training and testing. The company is the largest deliverer of e-learning worldwide and trains thousands of corporate employees.

One of the many companies to use Digital Think to implement e-learning software is global broker Marsh, which now trains several thousand employees online.

The software firm recently held a discussion seminar with brokers and insurers to address the ways in which it can help with GISC training and competence.

Many who attended the seminar expressed concerns about having to employ extra people to train existing staff and the amount of time that employees would have to spend out of the office in order to meet training requirements.

Digital Think managing director Paul Pastrone says: “The challenges are to make GISC compliance an everyday part of the job and deliver it with the minimum business disruption.”

He adds that one problem with the GISC rules is that, while the need for training has been outlined, the body has not provided any specifications as to what it should contain.

“The principle the GISC has come up with is that it wants to see an organisation demonstrate that its employees have training and competence and we can help to provide that,” he says.

Meeting the requirements
Digital Think offers technology for a company to test individuals online before employing them, to assess their competency for a particular job. Training tools include online books, questionnaires and quizzes, which can be used through generic material or with the addition of material tailored to the individual firm's needs.

John Taylor, engagement leader for Digital Think, says online training offers companies the added bonus of being able to track employees' progress electronically.

“We can take the training courses to the office, keep track of how people performed in tests and therefore demonstrate to the GISC that training has been a success,” he says.

As yet, the company has not come up with the content for its courses but is in negotiations with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) and a number of insurers to provide generic material for the insurance market.

This will consist of a range of subjects including the principles of personal lines insurance, insurance indemnity, selling and customer relations skills. Digital Think aims to launch the complete package in September this year.

Cost consideration
But the costs of implementing the e-learning facilities are variable, depending upon the size of the company. An example of £50 a head was given for a company with 5,500 users so, inevitably, economies of scale will mean a smaller company will pay more.

But Taylor says solutions can still be found for small companies – they can either team up to share resources with another company,

buy generic material instead of having it individually tailored or simply use CD-Roms to aid training instead of implementing the full software.

He says e-learning can help to significantly reduce training costs.

“It can be expensive to set up and manage training courses and seminars,” he says.

“E-learning means the training can be done on the job. This saves time as well as improving employee performance.”

Leading by example
Groupama Commercial Insurances is extending its training to preferred brokers with the launch of the Star Brokers Training CD - a training and development CD-Rom which is being distributed to 125 brokers.

The CD-Rom contains a list of tips on software applications and business processes and provides a list of free courses open to brokers from each of the training centres located in five key regions of the UK – Manchester, Birmingham, Barnet (London) Croydon and Portsmouth.

Courses vary from how to use software packages such as Word and Excel right through to creating a powerful presentation in support of a business pitch.

For more intensive learning, the CD provides a list of over 50 courses on offer from the Groupama training centres. The training methods can also vary – from sessions that are fully tutored to those managed interactively in the group's learning centres.

Sales and distribution manager for Groupama Commercial Insurances, David Gayton, says the aim of the new CD is to provide a range of course options to meet the immediate and long-term training needs of brokers and their staff.

He says: “The CD enables training requirements to be accessed from the CD-Rom alphabetically or by competence. In addition to this, it offers a vast array of material and guidance on the range of skills required to improve business efficiency.

“This development is a clear demonstration of Groupama's commitment to providing value added services to ensure that our star brokers have access to the support they need to help their businesses grow.”