Amanda Blanc said the industry needs to act as a united profession to regain lost consumer confidence

The way the insurance industry dealt with the recent flooding left it looking “like a shambles”, according to AXA chief executive commercial lines and personal intermediary Amanda Blanc.

Speaking at a Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) seminar in Milton Keynes, Blanc said the Christmas and New Year storms had been an opportunity for insurers and brokers to regain lost consumer confidence, but that it had missed that opportunity.

“The floods of the last few months are a great example of a fantastic opportunity for the insurance industry profession to come out as one voice and say in times of real need we are here to help customers,” she said. “What has happened is you have the politicians beating us up, insurers saying we’re doing ok, Biba saying Flood Re is rubbish because you’re not covering SMEs… and we absolutely look like a shambles.”

And Blanc said that while the financial crisis had not been as bad for the insurance sector as it had been for banks, it had still been a damaging event that the industry has still not fully recovered from.

Culturally we have some way to go if we are to improve our reputation.”

Amanda Blanc, AXA

“It’s not all well in financial services,” she said. “Our reputation is not what it could be. We could pretend that we had a good financial crisis as insurers, but I would argue that’s not strictly true. It’s not just the banks.

“Culturally we have some way to go if we are to improve our reputation. From the customer’s perspective, they need to trust their financial services company. It’s really important because at the end of the day we are only selling a promise to pay [in the event of a claim].”

Acting as a profession

The broker-insurer relationship also came in for criticism from Blanc.

“It’s fair to say that it’s not always a harmonious relationship between insurers and brokers,” she said. “That lack of a harmonious relationship, that lack of acting with one voice and as a profession is a real problem for us.”

But Blanc said that not all is lost.

She said that by portraying the industry as a profession, similar to accountants and lawyers, this lost trust could be regained, but that it would take a concerted effort on many fronts.

 “There is no silver bullet in moving us from an industry to a profession,” she said. “There so many things that we need to do.”

One action Blanc said the industry could take is nurturing the next generation of insurance workers and then rewarding their professional development.

“You can be so many different things in insurance, it’s a phenomenal business to work in,” she said. “But people don’t always see that. If you went into a school, none of them would definitely want to be in insurance.

“We need to provide those opportunities for apprentices to come in and see what opportunities there are. We then need to reward ethical behaviour and reward their professional development.”