What the A-team and insurance brokers have in common.

“I love it when a plan comes together”. Those of you who were young during the 1980s will remember the catchphrase of cigar-chomping Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith of the A-team.

The action-packed adventure TV series was required viewing for many children (and a fair few adults too) during that decade. Once Hannibal uttered those words, we knew that everything would soon be right with the world.

When you participate in as many forums, round table discussions and conferences as I do, it can sometimes be quite hard to determine whether there is a ‘plan’ in the world beyond the walls of the venue, let alone one with sufficient cohesion to bring things to a successful conclusion. Unlike in the A-team, where there was only good and bad or black and white, the real world contains many different shades of grey in between. Don’t get me wrong, discussion is great, but occasionally the seeming lack of progress on an issue or ‘plan’ gets frustrating.

Last week saw me in Berlin for another quarterly conference of our European sister organisation BIPAR, where once again commission disclosure and transparency issues were on the agenda. This week I was up in Edinburgh for the AIRMIC annual conference where I attended a forum discussion entitled: ‘Do the regulators understand our business?’ While I don’t think the content of the discussion quite matched its billing, it was interesting nonetheless and heartening.

“I can finally erase Mr Ts voice which has been niggling at the back of my mind and calling me a Crazy fool! for believing.

Up on stage Sean Greenaway, from the DG Competition unit at the European Commission, Matthew Brown from the FSA, and UK Law Commissioner David Hertzell, offered a perspective on the work their respective organisations were currently pursuing. Insurance law reform and in particular the question of who the intermediary is agent of, commission disclosure, transparency, access to market and encouraging greater competition are all interconnected issues under discussion which will have significant repercussions for the industry.

Greenaway was complimentary about the work that BIPAR had done in putting forward an industry solution for the placement of co-insurance in the subscription market; he hoped BIPAR would continue those efforts by engaging in discussions on intermediary transparency and conflicts of interest across Europe.

Brown acknowledged that issues surrounding broker commission and disclosure had dragged on for too long and that there was now an urgency to get these resolved; with a market solution the preferred option seemingly.

This was all extremely reassuring; at last the regulators seemed to be listening to market participants. BIBA’s hard work, including its engagement with BIPAR, on all these fronts appears to be paying off with things beginning to gel; so much so that there is the potential for that ‘plan’ to come together at last. Fingers crossed, I’m not proven wrong and I can finally erase Mr T’s voice which has been niggling at the back of my mind and calling me a “Crazy fool!” for believing.