Professionals used to reflect brilliant abilities and great technical know-how, but knowledge today is under strain with the development of the internet, Professor Anthony Clare told delegates on the first morning of the conference.

Today, he says, professionals are characterised more by confidence, optimism and the ability to monitor change.

Clare, a presenter on a number of television series, spoke about the psychology of being a professional and said it solves problems but does not remove all of them.

He told brokers that professionals can get things wrong and the relationship between them and their client determines the success of their professional activity.

"Clients served by a professional are vulnerable and dependent on them," he says. "They serve the needs of the public by serving needs of individual clients." They also have a shared sense of moral obligation and are able to make judgements beyond what information is given.

He also added that modern professionals are often characterised by stress. Some, he added, feel a degree of reassurance by being stressed, maybe even pride.

"A chief executive does not want to be told that telephonists and secretaries are more stressed," he said. "That is one of the hazards of being a professional."

Levels of optimism and pessimism will relate to everything. And how you manage uncertainty and manage other people's uncertainty, he said.