Andrew Paddick has finally outlined his plans for the future of broking in the UK. And that future is one of insularity.
Paddick's plans (see page 1) take the industry back to the last century. His idea for an Institute of Insurance Brokers Regulatory Council to oversee broker standards seems to add little more than an extra "I" to the Insurance Brokers' Registration Council (IBRC) - the body that advised broker standards before the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC).
Some will see sense in the proposals. Brokers may argue there should be a set of rules for them that cover their special disciplines and another set for other intermediaries that are selling insurance on the back of their core competencies.
The rest of the industry is still backing the GISC. While it does not recognise brokers' unique status, it provides common ground for all involved in the insurance business and, more importantly, it is acceptable to the government as a self-regulatory system. But for how much longer?
Smoke signals from the Treasury indicate if brokers break ranks and head for Paddick's camp, then the GISC will be brought under the control of the Financial Services Authority (FSA). That means a more formal and draconian system of compliance. Where GISC has operated a "hearts and minds" campaign of working with the industry, the FSA's dealings with the industry so far have been ominously threatening.
Because the industry is under pressure like never before to make operating rather than investment profits, then the industry's reputation is likely to suffer with clients who are unable to get the cover they want and who have to battle for every penny of claims.
Under this kind of pressure, the popularist government will feel more, rather than less, inclined to wield the FSA.