News that the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) is to bring students into its fold as a new class of members is most timely.
We need a generation of 20 and 30-year-olds who are enthusiastic about their profession and really want to put something back in. By introducing student membership, we can make sure bright young managers of the future have a way of influencing the way their profession develops.
We need a challenging environment where the future leaders play a full part in moving the CII forward, building on its rich heritage.
General insurance has changed enormously over the past ten years. The emphasis on call centres rather than branch networks means skills needed by insurance industry employees are very different now.
I believe the CII fully recognises these changes and is ready to meet the needs of employers and their staff in a rapidly changing business environment.
The CII has made a major success of financial planning qualifications and is now determined to build a more innovative and structured approach to the broader requirements of other staff working in financial services. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) will take an increasing interest in this area.
Gone are the days of narrow examination structures. The attitude of "this is what's good for you, eat it" is defunct. The CII will offer modular courses, so members can match education to their needs. These courses will be delivered over intranets, extranets and the internet. This means staff can learn while they work.
And it is not only delivery that is changing. Content is being overhauled. New modules will be offered, incorporating specialist subjects such as marketing, personnel management and supply chain management. These modules can be "bought in" from other recognised professional bodies.
This will have the added benefit of making training more universal and recognisable outside the insurance industry. The managers and staff we as an industry employ are versatile and the days of 40-year careers in insurance are gone. Therefore, training must reflect that careers will not be confined to the insurance industry. It should be remembered that the modern insurance industry employs staff who previously were trained and qualified within many other disciplines. All major insurers now have specialists handling human resource management and supply chain management for example.
During a period of consolidation in all sectors of the industry, a disconnect had developed between employers and the CII in so far as training and education requirements were concerned.
A quick 30-minute meeting with a chief executive is not enough to gauge what the industry needs from its professional institute. The industry also includes many small employers, particularly brokers, independent financial advisers and loss adjusters who have quite different requirements from the major employer. In many cases, the CII will be required to provide a more tailor-made service to assist individual businesses.
Last year, employers both large and small were fully consulted on their requirements concerning CII examinations and the reshaping of the institute's structure is well under way.
Now it is developing the rules of account management, it knows who its clients are and is starting to put in place the platform for the future. Members will always be at the heart of the organisation, but having a stronger, more meaningful relationship with employers will bring huge benefits to the members of the CII.
A top quality service for customers can only be provided by knowledgeable staff. There is no better investment for employers and working with the CII will ensure the resources are committed to the priorities that will bring about the best results.