Biba's chief executive talks about his achievements and disappointments, and what Biba can do to further the interests of the broker
What has pleased you most, from Biba’s perspective, in the past year?
This has been an exceptionally busy and challenging 12 months for the association. The successful formation of a new London Market Region Committee and a move to new offices have both gone well.
What pleases me most is the team spirit and energy that helps to make Biba a continuing success. Last year, we were named Trade Association of the Year, successfully campaigned for electronic motor certificates and worked closely with HMRC to reduce changes to the insurance premium tax.
It is also pleasing to see key parliamentary bills receive Royal Assent, such as the Equality Bill, and the Flood and Water Management Bill.
What has been the biggest disappointment?
Scotland not qualifying for the World Cup and our rugby team only managing a draw with the English at Murrayfield!
What are you most hoping the new government will deliver?
That we’ll be able to get the right regulation in place. The current regulation and style is extremely expensive and completely out of proportion with the risks involved in our sector.
How can the sector persuade the government that insurance in general, and broking in particular, does not get lumped in with the other financial services for regulation?
While the government can and should help by taking a fresh look at how it might support and promote the industry, I believe that we must play a role in demonstrating and explaining the differences between our sector and the banking sector.
We have many strengths that we need to demonstrate to the government – and we must be prepared to invest time, effort and resources in this. The regulator and the government, however, must reciprocate, and our sector must see the regulatory benefits as a result of that investment.
The association does a lot of work behind the scenes that members never directly hear about, but we are working hard to achieve the best possible results for our members.
What’s the future of broker lobbying? Will there be just a single association to represent the sector?
It has a strong and busy future. We shall continue our lobbying with the government and other stakeholders, with Europe and, where necessary, ensure that we have one voice.
How does Biba ensure that the voice of the small broker gets heard?
We go out of our way to ensure that all members’ interests are represented, and we are particularly conscious of the issues surrounding small brokers. The Biba regions are supported by seven regional executives, which means that we get as much small member feedback as we can. This is fed into all of our committees, which include many small members, so their voice is valuable and is heard by the board.
What will Biba do over the next year to develop a broader understanding among the general public of the value of advice?
This is a core element of what we do. An example is our work on the Equality Act, where we are helping members of the public who have been turned down for insurance to find a broker who can help them to find cover. Promoting broker services and their value to the government and the media is key to what we do and will continue to do.
Is new technology in general, and aggregator websites in particular, a threat or an opportunity?
It is the natural process of evolution, both an opportunity and threat to our sector. Handled properly, it will create a fantastically useful tool for many in the sector to develop the business, but it must be done without consumer detriment. Brokers with a specialism or a niche are seeing particular benefits.
What progress is being made on steps to review the selling practices of price comparison websites?
We continue to talk with the FSA and with the main players in the market. The industry guidelines to good practice were launched at the start of the year and we have seen some improvements from sites, but we need to ensure clients are treated fairly and will continue to push on their behalf.
Who will you be supporting in the World Cup?
As Scotland didn’t qualify, I shall be cheering on England. As my wife is Dutch, Holland will be next, followed by Australia – my son is married to an Australian! IT
Eric Galbraith is Biba’s chief executive
Eric says …
A selection of Galbraith nuggets of wisdom from his Biba blogs on insurancetimes.co.uk
‘Every time I see reference to, or get involved in contributing to an article or discussion called, “a view from the top”, it reminds me of the old adage that a company is like a tree full of monkeys – with those at the top looking down on smiling faces and those at the bottom looking up and seeing mostly a***holes’
‘Olympic oarsman Sir Matthew Pinsent and his crew used the mantra “Does it make the boat go faster?” to focus on the things that improved their performance and discard those that did not. For me, out of the boat would go all television advertising campaigns (even those featuring cute, furry mammals) that ignore the importance of getting the right insurance protection with their continual focus on bargain basement prices’
‘Biba’s major criticism of the current regulatory regime is that the low-risk insurance intermediary sector was shoe-horned into a regulatory framework designed for the higher-risk parts of the financial services sector. We cannot have this happen again’
‘The recent failures in the banking sector highlight the need for the current structure to be changed. It may seem like “mission impossible” to influence change but the challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to raise this issue at every opportunity with MPs, government departments and the relevant authorities’