Eric Galbraith has faced criticism that he is not up to the job of heading-up Biba He attempts to show Andrew Holt that he packs a punch.

Eric Galbraith is up and down like a yo-yo. I ask him a question and he jumps out of his seat searching for papers to find the answer.

I wonder if this is him wanting to be specific or evidence that he hasn't got a clue.

I am not the only one to wonder. Criticism over his apparent inability to do the job have hung over him since he became Biba chief executive in November 2003. In particular, he has been blamed for Biba not having a strong and loud enough voice for its members.

He is defensive about criticism, saying he has taken time to get things right. He says in his soft Scottish brogue: "I don't think that criticism is valid. Biba is in a strong position and has a strong voice."

He argues he has been busy making the organisation stronger. "I knew when I took on the role it would take time to get the structure right and get the right people in place. We have had to put in people on communications, FSA regulation and on membership. These were very important in the run up to regulation and in order to build up information on our membership."

As part of this, Biba strengthened its members' services teams with the key appointment of Steve White heading up the new broker compliance facility in April 2004.

Despite all the criticism there is no doubt Galbraith is experienced.

He joined Marsh way back in 1965 and after 30 years there he was headhunted by the Royal Bank of Scotland to run Royal Bank Insurance Services.

He calmly puts his case that amid the outbursts from some members he has done his best. "I have tried to address all the issues that have been presented to me. I want us to have a very professional position within the market. We have been doing a lot more by going out and putting ourselves about."

It is a worry that his leadership is still an issue 14 months after taking up the post. But he is very keen to convince that under him Biba packs a punch.

"We do carry weight with various bodies, whether that is the government, the treasury department or DTI. They recognise we have a strong voice and when we talk we do so with the power of the industry behind us."

Galbraith now wants to look forward and focus on the issues he has identified as part of his agenda. One of these is developing Biba's membership representation and membership itself.

Diverse areas

He is at his best when expanding on his vision. "I want to represent the wide membership of the broking and intermediary channel. I want to have a real focus on the diverse areas of our market.

"We have a range of members from small commercial, to small retail to the large retail to the high street, the commercial broker, the networks, the nationals, the internationals, the super regionals.

"The challenge for me is to make sure we are representative of each of these segments and that is top of my agenda as well as to grow the membership."

But this could be the difficulty for Galbraith. How does he satisfy such a diverse range of members? They all want something different and therefore he cannot keep them all happy all the time.

To his credit, instead of accepting this as an excuse he says he has been in contact with much of the membership to try to make this year's conference the biggest and best.

"We have been doing a great deal of work to try to take into account members and sponsors' views about what they want from the conference.

"We have been doing a number of things: we have changed how we do some of the bursaries; and entrants to the Young Broker of the Year have increased from 180 to 250."

Galbraith is passionate about bringing in younger members. "We are trying to attract younger members and more broking firms - people who have not come to the conference before.

"We have to start with the younger members of our industry to make sure we are moving forward in line with what they think and taking into account their thoughts. We cannot keep doing the same old thing. The future brokers section is one aspect that should attract some young brokers to the conference."

But do younger members share his passion? If you look at Jayne Sedgwick's response to Biba (on page 15) the answer is 'no'. She doesn't evenknow what Biba does. So Galbraith may have his work cut out more than he realises.

Much discussion now will also focus on the post regulatory environment.

"We have been focused on regulation and the build up, so now we have that, let's get back to basics and back to business. Let's see how we can work within this environment, let's see how can move forward. Let's make sure that our standards are better than those laid out by the FSA."

But again, he has his work cut out. According to the 2005 Mazars' Insurance Broker Survey, the percentage of brokers who thought the impact of the FSA on the industry was positive fell from 46% in 2004 to 37% in 2005.

And those who thought the impact would be positive on their clients fell from 31% to 25%.

He accepts that the industry has been talking about reputation for a long time, probably too long. "It is now time we start addressing this. The ABI has been looking at how the industry contributes to UK plc so that is part of the understanding of the value of the industry what we actually bring.

"It is a cross-party issue in dealing with the ABI and the CII on how we raise standards. Everyone should have that on their agenda. When we are talking to the government or whoever, we are talking with the power of the industry behind us."

But all this amounts to is just good PR. Where is the substance?

Fighting EU legislation

Galbraith is also presenting himself as the fighter of creeping EU regulation.

He told the EU that the UK insurance market was functioning well and there was a high level of competitiveness, slamming EU accusations of a malfunctioning UK insurance industry, saying they are "unfounded".

"The size and strength of the intermediaries market in the UK ensures a very high level of competition within the market. In fact it has been said that the UK market is too competitive and overly regulated, thus damaging the financial strength of the industry."

And could this be the last conference in its present form for Biba? As rumours abound that Galbraith and Andrew Paddick from the IIB will merge into one broker organisation.

To this, Galbraith's answers are contradictory. He says: "I have no problem working with the IIB. Having a strong voice in the industry is important.

Whether that is with one organisation or two then I have an open mind on it." Which definitely edges towards a merger.

But then says: "There are no detailed discussions ongoing with the IIB." Which seems a categoric 'no'.

And how would he like his time as Biba's chief executive to be remembered?

"I would like to remembered as a catalyst who brought together the industry.

Although it's not over yet," he laughs. If he doesn't convince his detractors, it will be.