Admiral, Esure and Lloyd’s Banking Group to be included in talks

Tom Woolgrove

Direct Line Group’s Tom Woolgrove has vowed to use his CII presidency to encourage other personal lines insurers to raise their professional standards.

Several large insurers including Admiral, Esure and Lloyds Banking Group have never engaged with the CII’s professionalism taskforce and Woolgrove, DLG’s personal lines managing director, plans to talk to leaders including Stuart Vann, David Stevens and Craig Thornton about professionalism “at an industry level”.

“I will have the conversation with all the leaders of the retail sector to define what professionalism is, how we engage with that ambition, and what’s fit for purpose for a retail insurers where 80% of our colleagues are at the front line,” he told Insurance Times.

Woolgrove, who will hold the presidency until next August, said: “My aim for this year is causing the conversation. It won’t necessarily conclude by the end of my presidency but I think we’ll have a strong sense of progress and what’s next.”

He will tell the leaders of direct personal lines firms: “The behaviour and standards of one inevitably colours the perception of the whole.”

“I genuinely believe people with better insurance knowledge will take better decisions, deliver better customer outcomes, and want to stay and build their career with us.”

Direct Line Group has stepped up its training budget – including CII qualifications – in the last three years, under the current leadership team.

Woolgrove is himself studying for a CII diploma and others on the executive committee have recently gained certificates. “It’s hugely time consuming but I’m doing it to show it’s an important part of showing demonstrating that we’re competent and continuing to develop,” he said.

“It’s not something that five years ago we’d have done as a business. But if you go back ten years it’s absolutely something we’d have done.

“Frankly I think under the bank’s [RBS] ownership we lost some of that focus on the importance of insurer technical skills.”

But despite upping its investment in training, Woolgrove admitted DLG will not meet the criteria of the Aldermanbury Declaration by December’s deadline.

“It has just been too big a hurdle to achieve in the time frame. That’s not to say we don’t want to get to it – it’s a practical challenge given all the changes and things we have to do.”

Under the declaration, insurers have to meet two of the following four criteria by the end of the year: a quarter of the board or highest management time hold a charted title; half the board holds the CII’s diploma in insurance; 1% or more of customer-facing staff are chartered insurers; a quarter of customer-facing staff have a CII certificate in insurance or higher.

Woolgrove said the challenge for a retail insurer like DLG to meet the criteria came from all levels. “There are three former FTSE 100 finance directors on our board, but we won’t have an ACII [advanced diploma] because that’s not the traditional background people have come from.

“The Aldermanbury Declaration was very much an initiative to get momentum. The criteria probably will live on but it does need to be refined - I can imagine a framework that is consistent in its ambition but is more appropriate for retail insurers and recognises the different nature of those businesses.

“There are some very practical differences just in terms of the makeup of the work force, the cost agenda, expense ratio that retail insurers operate under.

Woolgrove said insurers had to strike a balance commercially between training investment and keeping costs down.

“Our brand is delivered by individuals on the phone. And so the better qualified, and competent they are, the better collectively our actions can be.

“But the reality is we could do all of this and if we were £10 more expensive to a certain degree all this aspiration goes out of the window.”

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