I thank you for your article on David Bland. The CII have achieved much under his leadership. Having started my insurance career in 1963, and sitting my first CII examinations in 1964, working through to Associateship and then Fellowship by examination, I believe I have something worthwhile to contribute to our 'Profession.'
Throughout my career I have sought to be professional in all that I do and in the training and guidance that I have given others. The CII encourages the taking of examinations to achieve professional status, and yet, it persists in referring to insurance as an industry. Several times at CII meetings I have challenged those present on the matter and urged that the CII refer to insurance as a profession. All concerned wish to see our standing with the general public enhanced, but this will never happen while we continue to refer to ourselves as an industry.
In your article with David Bland you quote him as saying 'the industry has only gone as far as regulation insists'. Surely, those in a position of influence in insurance – and there can be few more influential than the head of the CII – should, individually and collectively, act at all times in a professional manner and to consistently refer to insurance as a profession. It will take time for the general public to get used to the idea of those in insurance professionals, alongside accountants, architects, and so on, and it is unlikely now to happen in the rest of my working lifetime. But unless action is taken now, it will not be recognised as a profession in 20 years time.
So come on David, start now and give your successor the chance to continue what you will have started by only referring to insurance as a profession. If you, your staff, the press and all leaders in the companies, Lloyd's, and brokers markets, with whom you come into contact persistently refer to the insurance profession, and act accordingly, we will get there; and if it is taken on board with enthusiasm it could be done within ten years, but we must work together.
Alpha Insurance brokers
I would like to recommend my software provider to other brokers; apparently they have offered, via their subsidiary, to beat any quote I can put forward using the software they sold me. They are doing this to help me – too many customers can be a real headache. Eventually I hope to have no customers and just the software, then I will have the time to really explore the benefits of this product.
They have sent me an exclusive invitation to buy a computer from a well known computer manufacturer.
For £728, ex vat and delivery of course, I will get one of those new 466 MHz processors, an amazing 32 meg fast ram and a massive 15" VGA Monitor, sorry I mean Super VGA Monitor. Of course, if you contact the computer company yourself they will try and palm you off with one of those Flashy 500 MHz at £499, including the year on site maintenance and a load of software like Microhard Works that you just don't need. And of course you don't get the secret bit all my software providers' machines have.
Obviously disappointed that I had just purchased a couple of Pentium III 600 MHz with 64 Meg ram and 17" screens at £725 each, I called my software provider to get the amazing software that comes on a single floppy disc extended to two more machines. Apparently the guy I purchased my computers from is an Alien, they say I have Alien Machines.
To help me out though, they can send someone round for £85 (no problem) and as per the quotation I have in front of me, I can buy two lots of Alien Windylink for £590 all in, plus of course £60 pa. This allows me to use the software. It's expensive because it's secret and a miniature program and they're a lot dearer.
My software people said that had I bought one of their recommended machines I would of got the secret bit and the software bit free, apart from the £60pa, but this only helps if haven't already got a licence. The special offer is only open until the end of May and can't be used in conjunction with any of their other amazing offers, so hurry.
Name and address withheld
We are all aware of the losses that have bedevilled general insurance over the last few years – and motor insurance in particular. How the industry addresses these losses is crucially important.
There would currently seem to be a massive knee-jerk reaction going on, which at best is profiteering and at worst is a complete lack of underwriting.
Take for example a recent renewal case where the owner of a fleet of heavy goods vehicles has been paying over £2,000 per vehicle for several years and (miraculously) during the last three year has not had a single claim, despite running 12 vehicles. We recently had such a renewal and the underwriter (who shall remain nameless – there are too few of them to upset) sent through a renewal invitation at a quite staggering 41% rate increase.
When my colleague told me the news, I assumed this would be a computer generated renewal invitation – but no. There it was in the underwriters' blue pen. This person had actually sat down and using professional skill and judgement decided that a claim free risk generating more than £20,000 a year in profit really needed a rate increase of another £8,000 plus. If this is not throwing the baby out with the bath water I don't know what is.
Fortunately, we were able to replace the risk at expiring terms with a more level headed insurer. But what perception of the insurance industry have we left with that client? The overriding effect has to be one of "blow loyalty" – I will get the best price I can each year as the insurance industry clearly is not interested in reciprocal loyalty.
It also raises another question. If underwriters are losing so much money and their answer is to simply employ blanket rate increases regardless of the merits of the individual case, presumably a computer could churn such renewal invitations out far more cost effectively than a so-called professional.
Loyalty works both ways and the industry should remember that and not profiteer at clients expense to redress losses brought about through our own over competitiveness over the last few years.
Reply to Mr Walker
I read with interest Mr Walker's letter in the Insurance Times dated April 20th.
Dear Mr Walker, firstly, can I put the tables straight – Highway do indeed continue to handle motor. In fact we are the eighth largest writer of motor business in the UK.
The difficulty which arose with your client following the sale of your business to Hill House Hammond, sadly for your customer who is over 80 years of age, is that Highway do not transact business with Hill House Hammond. This can be a problem encountered in circumstances such as yours when you have disposed of your portfolio to another broker who does not hold the same agency facilities. The aged client sadly in this case has suffered and I suppose his only option would have been to transfer his individual policy to another broker dealing with Highway.
The main point of your letter to Insurance Times was that of dual pricing by insurers with a direct arm, as well as a broker a division and indeed the massive discrepancy from £1,030 through Hill House Hammond to £424 through NU Direct epitomises how broker-orientated some insurers are.
Join the network
I read with interest the letter published two weeks ago from Andrew Perry of Leeds and the ongoing struggle of commercially aware intermediaries – 'Size Matters'.
May I say how perceptive Mr Perry was, and I dare say he is in the same boat as others. However, let me encourage him to continue his struggle because I believe if he practices what he preached he will run out.
Many brokers will recognise the difficulty of independent existence, however collectively, singing from the same hymn sheet with the same commitment and the right resources, they can make a difference.
However, intermediaries cannot just join a network, sit back and hope everything will be OK. They must accept the changes and empower themselves with the tools provided by the network. The right minded will come out as victors. We, our members and insurers work closely together to provide the right results.
I encourage all commercially aware intermediaries to consider joining a network because the right network, with the right members and the right resources is a very powerful proposition.
The Broker Network