While many opponents of the aims and objectives of GISC may have felt euphoric about the decision to initially make membership voluntary, they do need to consider what is the potential end game.
Some facts are unchallengeable:
1. GISC is sponsored by The Treasury as the only body to implement the Government's strategy of self regulation to protect the consumer. The Government has decided to repeal the IBRA, and the FSA currently does not want statutory regulation.
2. Early in 2001, the EU will pass legislation on intermediary regulation which will need to be implemented within the UK in 18 months.
3. The UK has one of the weakest systems of intermediary regulation in the EU.
4. There will be a single licensing authority in the UK which will either be the GISC or a statutory body.
5. The OFT will agree to compulsory membership. The only alternative to compliance with the EU regulation is statutory regulation
6. GISC is supported in principle by all the industry bodies except one, which has not presented a viable industry solution.
7. Some 90% of responses to the consultation were supportive of the GISC.
The delay in issuing the rule book is a good step. It shows the GISC is being consultative and wants to produce a workable solution. Did FIMBRA have a similar approach? The penalty for the delay is high as it causes conflict with The Competition Act. Delay, however, has to be preferable to an unworkable solution. Voluntary membership allows time for a more considered, tried and tested set of rules.
GISC's major mistake was not being open with the industry on the impact of the Act. It tended to be dismissive when the subject was raised. This is not the way to treat a mature industry and I hope a more open approach will result.
Opponents to GISC somehow think a better solution will magically appear. I cannot see how. The current proposals offer the level playing field which brokers have been demanding since 1967, at an entry level at higher than that which applies to brokers. Surely, when the alternative is chaos or statutory regulation by the FSA, we all need to work in support of the GISC?
Opponents have to come up with a better politically acceptable solution or shut up.
Wacky times on the box
The AA has given us much for which we should be grateful. Indeed, my family and I always eagerly anticipate the commercial break for the brilliant portrayal of the dedicated boss of its busy call centre; a role model for us all. Also, the insight to the market it often provides I find invaluable.
I was particularly intrigued this week to note that the upsurge in commercial vehicle business can be attributed to the popularity of the BBC programme Ground Force. May I ask whether, in the wake of the programme from the same channel, Animal Hospital, it has experienced similar success in the pet insurance market for customers wishing to insure their much-loved chinchillas, bush babies etc.?
If this is the case then there must be an even stronger case for reinstatement of One Man and His Dog.
A note of caution though - motor brokers be on your guard for a prime-time re-run of Wacky Races.
Paddick needs to think again
I have been following the lively correspondence in Insurance Times from Andrew Paddick of the IIB, regarding the role of the GISC.
Mr Paddick's "A New Year message from the director general" seems to smack of paranoia when he mentions the GISC. He states that insurer members will seek to introduce "restrictive" and "prescriptive" rules and regulations to protect their own interests, to the detriment of brokers. What he overlooks are consumers' interests!
The GISC has been very even-handed in its attempts to achieve consensus from the disparate constituents that comprise the service sector responsible for delivering insurance products. Mr Paddick's credibility, as a guardian of best practice, was somewhat undermined for me when he turned down the opportunity to attend the initial debate on the GISC at the CII's annual conference in Manchester.
Regulation of brokers and other forms of intermediary in our industry is indeed an important issue. There is obviously room for improvement in market practice as evidenced by one of ISL's associates, who is currently on his 200th expert witness case involving broker negligence!
Perhaps, when he returns from his trip to Singapore, where government legislation on brokers was enacted last year, Mr Paddick will be able to make some positive contribution towards the subject of broker regulation.
Insurance Solutions Limited
Small really is more beautiful
I write in response to Graham McKean's letter "Why we must fight 'obnoxious' insurers" (January 27)
I know a number of brokers who would share the views expressed about the larger companies, especially given that many brokers may find themselves overcommitted to a few insurers following the spate of mergers and takeovers in recent years.
Whilst the remedies suggested are very valid, I would like to recommend a
complementary approach. To be less vulnerable to bullying by the "big boys", why not put more of your business with smaller companies, such as Ecclesiastical? Despite the name, we don't just write churches, schools, charities and care homes, but a range of general commercial and industrial risks. We are also a growing force in the EDI household market. But perhaps the clincher is that, by being owned by a charitable trust, we can't be subjected to a takeover.
It seems to me, that by far the best way of ensuring the major carriers cannot dominate the market to the detriment of medium and smaller brokers, is to maintain healthy competition by supporting smaller companies which are willing to support you. In short, diversify away from the big companies to those who will value your business and treat you as true trading partners.
Finally, we are continuing to support the interests of the broker community in the context of the Ombudsman and GISC, as reported in this very publication on October 7, 1999. So give us a call, you might be pleasantly surprised!
Intermediary operations manager
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group
Brokers must be innovators
Peter Blanc's letter "Customer care must be industry's priority" (February 3) is worthy of further analysis, especially in the area of adding value and broker differentiation through commitment to customer service.
The time has come for our industry to really take a look at itself and ask how it appears to customers. Most brokers pride themselves on giving good advice, negotiating cost effective insurance programmes and giving good customer service. Insurance broking services to a good level merely matches the base standard expected by clients. This is simply the level playing field on which the game starts. The perception of customer service is the key issue here.
As an industry, we have to raise the standards to a much higher level. It is well known that "satisfied" customers readily move their business to a more attractive offer. "Very" satisfied customers rarely move.
How can brokers ensure customers are "very" satisfied?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer but it is clear that we have to add value and move away from being only brokers to being business advisers. No matter how cliched that statement sounds.
I am reminded of the production of the Sony Walkman. No one knew that they wanted one until it came on the market. This meant Sony was years ahead of its competitors with a unique product. Brokers have to be the same - give the
customer more than he thinks he wants!
This means high quality broking and prompt service must also migrate into added value. Serious customer service is not a single issue; it is hundreds of small issues done well to create exceptional value.
There is a challenge in our market. The industry is under attack from all sides and only constant reassessment and innovation in our service standards will win the day.
Alliance Insurance Management Limited
LFC boss was warning others
I refer to "DAS clause attacked by LFC's boss" (February 3), and write to express my disappointment.
The article reads as though we were not aware of the policy conditions, and that our interpretation of same was different from that of DAS.
This is not the case. In fact, we are well aware of the policy condition, we have accepted the clause as standard within the DAS policy. What we were attempting to do is bring to the attention of brokers and intermediaries, the potential problems with new businesses or new policies for existing businesses, and the excluded contracts.
We have since heard from Composite Legal Insurers, First Assist and Abbey Legal Protection, all of whom do not have such a clause within their policy.
LFC Insurance Brokers
South Woodham Ferrers