The insurance sector has much to be proud of. Let’s start the new decade with a resolution to make our industry even greater

Amid all the new year resolutions, commitments, promises – whatever you call them – there must be one overriding objective for 2010. If we could speak with one voice, this great insurance industry could not only make a difference, but it could set the agenda for a series of initiatives that would build on our hard-earned and well-deserved global reputation for expertise, integrity and professionalism.

I strongly believe that the financial services sector will have a critical role to play in enabling UK plc to weather whatever storms lie ahead, and to negotiate a relatively safe passage into calmer waters, to the great benefit of all sectors of the economy and for everybody who really cares about the future. When you analyse the expertise of our profession, it has always been founded on providing the best possible advice on how to invest and manage risk.

One unknown for 2010 is the outcome of the general election that we know must happen between now and June. At the time of writing, much of the clever money is shifting from a May election to one in March. Whenever it comes, it may well bring a change of government and also a change in regulatory regime.

Whatever the future holds, we now urgently need regulators to explain exactly what principles-based regulation means and how it is intended to work in practice. Appropriate and proportionate regulation has to move away from over-reliance on trite acronyms and bureaucratic box-ticking. When I was proud to chair the Professional Standards Board of the CII, it seemed so obvious that we needed to set out the main principles that should underpin our code of practice.

Of course, we must always take into account the demands of modern-day governance but, nevertheless, our philosophy should be to set out in straightforward language how we can earn the financial services industry’s most coveted badge of professionalism: by acting in the best interests of each and every client, always complying with the highest ethical standards and integrity, providing the highest possible standard of service, and complying with all the relevant criteria for equality and diversity.

There is every reason for us to demonstrate confidence and self-belief, because the world needs insurance – firms need insurance, families need insurance, and individuals need insurance. This new year’s vital resolution for the industry is surely to maintain that long march towards continuous professional development and the widespread adoption of professional ethical standards. Last year, I reminded everyone of Sir Winston Churchill’s words: “If I had my way, I would write the word ‘insure’ over every door of every cottage and upon the blotting book of every man, because I am convinced that for sacrifices that are inconceivably small, families can be secured against catastrophes which otherwise would smash them up for ever.”

What wise words and, as firms, families and individuals, we must redouble our efforts to entrench this country’s position as the widely respected international centre of excellence. Happy new year to every reader! IT

Lord Hunt is a partner and chairman of the financial services group at national commercial law firm Beachcroft LLP.