The article by CII director general Sandy Scott (16 May, Insurance Times) is a timely reminder that the greatest threat hanging over our industry is its dreadful image with our paying customers.

With all due respect to the many other challenges facing us - regulation, 11 September and so on - our reputation and the poor public perception of the insurance business is surely the greatest.

Exaggeration? I think not.

It affects everything we do. Whether marketing and selling product, handling claims, recruiting the best people, or serving our customers, we seem to have lost the trust of a disbelieving public. Of course, we all know that the true picture is not quite as black as that painted by the media. But these days `perception is reality' and as Scott rightly says, we are currently languishing at the bottom of the popularity league along with estate agents and railway operators.

The world we now live in is driven by consumers. So when someone comes along and makes their life easier; they jump at it, and the historical methods of supply vanish. We call this process `change' and I am sad to say that our industry has been snail-like in its ability to grasp the opportunities that it presents.

If we are to survive we need to be bold. We need to be positive in embracing the future. The problem of our poor image is simply too huge to be corrected by tinkering. Our customers don't like insurance. They don't understand it and they do not appreciate its value.

We need to tailor our products and services to meet customers' needs. This might mean jettisoning part of our historical heritage. But if it makes us money, and is what the customer wants, then why not?

Surely, it is only by removing the stress and distrust that people historically associate with insurance that we can hope to win them over?

As I said earlier, our customers really don't want to buy insurance anyway. So let's market something that they do want - an easier life.

Let's have a consumer friend, a champion who will provide solutions to everyday problems, and then back them up when things go wrong.

Of course, transforming insurance into a true customer champion may turn out to be beyond us.

After all, old habits die hard.

But the change will come and if we are not leading from the front then we will only have ourselves to blame.

Jamie Marchant
Marketing and communications director
Groupama Insurances

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