This year's Biba conference comes at a crucial time for the insurance industry

Many brokers will have just submitted their application for FSA authorisation and will be working hard to ensure they are compliant by January 2005.

For many there will be the unappealing prospect of no summer holiday this year, as brokers grapple with the fine detail of the FSA's rulebook and endeavour to make sure their systems are robust enough to withstand the scrutiny of the new regulator.

But with so much of the industry's attention focused on the immediate issue of compliance, it must not be forgotten that there is life after regulation. Businesses must be ready for the challenges ahead. The spectre of the direct market in commercial lines and the brandassurer continues to loom large over brokers. In the post-FSA environment what is the future for the small generalist broker?

With this in mind, Insurance Times has brought together three influential UK insurers and two regional brokers to debate the important issues of today - and tomorrow (page 10). From service standards to the softening market and the future of the high-street broker, do you agree with what they are saying?

Turning to Lloyd's, with the market beginning to soften, there is set to be a growth in the number of delegated authority arrangements that managing agents are willing to provide to brokers. We look at how to set one up (page 27).

And what lies beyond 2005? Some argue that there will be a rise in super-intermediaries that deal with mortgage, IFA and general insurance business.

Will this be the new business model (page 43)?

Of course, for many, compliance is still dominating the agenda.

We ask four brokers how they are managing the arduous task of meeting their regulatory obligations (page 40). Do your experiences match theirs?

There are clearly challenging and uncertain times ahead. Through discussion, debate and the sharing of knowledge, some clarity will hopefully emerge.