Andrew Holt talks to Phil Taylor about the numerous challenges he faces in his new role, as the new chairman of the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII)
?Phil Taylor has a tough task on his hands. He has set out what, on the face it, looks like two simple objectives, after succeeding Stephen Walker in March as chairman of the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII).
The first is to promote professional development to his members and the second is to expand and widen the AMII’s membership to larger private medical insurance (PMI) brokers.
The problem for Taylor is that this message has become a little repetitive, given that Walker made such statements during his tenure, but the march of the AMII has been a tad slow.
This is in part to do with the nature of the PMI market in regards to brokers. But it is the reality Taylor has to work with. Driving forward objectives in a traditionally conservative segment of the insurance industry, which brokers see as offering them little in the way of commissions, is not going to be easy.
But it is hardly surprising therefore that he has chosen the professionalism tag to promote the AMII.
On his promotion of professional development, he says: “We are planning a range of training services via the website, the membership will be asked to approve proposals that training and successful completion of tests will eventually become mandatory.
“As an association we must show that our members meet our membership criteria demonstrating they have the experience and knowledge to carry the AMII logo, and that includes continuous professional development training.”
It is an important part of the industry and surely a link-up with the CII makes sense? “I aim to open a dialogue with the CII to discuss the possibility of establishing an affordable and relevant PMI certificate appropriate for our members,” he says.
Although no discussions have taken place, Taylor says this will happen as its internal training plans take shape.
AMII membership currently stands at around 100, something Taylor, like his predecessors, wants to improve. “By the end of the first quarter 2008 I would like to see our membership double to 200,” says Taylor.
AMII does suffer the perception that it is light on membership. But Taylor says there have been six new members added since the AMII conference in the summer, with several more going through the application process.
“Hopefully we will be able to attract many more larger players without losing sight of the fact that smaller members will always remain the AMIIâ€™s bedrock
“Total membership has been largely static in recent years as mergers and acquisitions cancel out new members,” argues Taylor.
Taylor knows this himself, as he is in the process of selling his own company Preferred Medical. But whether M&A activity is really an excuse for the levels of AMII membership is open for debate.
“I also want to see the membership base broaden out and include more of the larger intermediaries, to present a truly unified and representative picture of the specialist PMI intermediary sector.”
On this, at least, the MII is making some strides forward. “Membership now includes Jelf, Gissings, PMI and a number of other large businesses and there are ongoing discussions with others.
“This underlines the positive direction the association is heading, the benefits it offers members, and reflects the hard work to date.
“Hopefully we will be able to attract many more larger players without losing sight of the fact that smaller members will always remain the AMII’s bedrock.”
Taylor is looking to review the fee structure with the possible introduction of a sliding scale based on the size of individual businesses.
The irony is that given its complexities, PMI is one area of insurance that brokers can really make a difference in.
“It is an incredibly complex market. Customers need to understand whether their insurers offer fully underwritten PMI and different plans suit different patients. This is where the broker can be crucial.”
Some insurers have been critical that the AMII conference includes the same brokers each year and very few new contacts are made.
“We are always looking to increase our numbers, but our conference does work as an effective networking event,” says Taylor. “You just have to look at the numbers attending that highlight that.”
“It is an incredibly complex market. Customers need to understand whether their insurers offer fully underwritten PMI and different plans to suit patients
Although the numbers attending in recent years has increased, there seems to be a limit of around 400 potential attendees.
Taylor says: “The AMII conference this year was an encouraging success. We had a great turnout of members which is obviously testament to how intermediaries value the support and networking opportunities membership offers.
“This, after all, is what it is all about. Members can get together and work through issues that concern them and their clients.
“What stands out is this real feeling between providers and intermediaries of co-operation towards the common goal of meeting client healthcare needs.”
Expanding on the view that he is building on solid foundations, Taylor is keen to compliment his predecessor.
“The association owes a huge debt to Stephen Walker who has worked tirelessly on our behalf.
“Under his stewardship, the AMII has become an extremely credible trade body for the specialist sector of medical insurance intermediaries and is now acknowledged by all sides of our industry.”
But now is the time for Taylor to make his mark. And there is no doubt it will be a challenge.