John Jackson says the award of chartered status to broking firms is a good move to endorse professionalism

I was somewhat bemused recently when a number of brokers – who should have known better – were publicly critical of the decision by the CII to offer the opportunity of being granted chartered status to broking firms in a move to raise professionalism in the industry.

Being a cynic, my first thought was ‘I wonder who does their books for tax purposes – a firm of chartered accountants perhaps?’ My second thought was who they would get to build a house for them. It struck me they would look for a firm of chartered surveyors.

Of course, if their collars are felt by VAT inspectors and their houses fall down, this might, as was said on another occasion in another context, concentrate their minds wonderfully.

One complaint of the CII proposal was that it was duplicating the role of Biba, and broking firms would be paying twice.

It was not without significance that Eric Galbraith, Biba chief executive, dismissed this argument out of hand. He saw chartered status for firms as complementing Biba membership.

Put another way, you judge a ‘club’ by the quality of its members. Given that the AXA-owned brokers Smart & Cook, Stuart Alexander and Layton Blackham – household names in the industry for excellence – are signed up, that’s not a bad trio to follow.

The status of being ‘chartered’ is, first of all, a reassurance to the consumer – be it for personal lines or commercial business. There is something solid about the title.

I well remember as a former editor of two insurance magazines, regularly receiving readers’ letters with ‘Chartered Insurer’ after their names. That told me a great deal about the writers.

“Direct Line may continue to sneer at the ‘middleman’ in its current adverts, but there is nothing wrong with middlemen, provided they are properly qualified

Now individual brokers can have chartered status, and with this they can present serious credentials to a potential employer. Offering the same status to a broking firm is a good advertisement for the insurance industry, not noted for its outstanding public image.

To become a chartered broker, a firm must have nine out of ten of its customer-facing staff as CII members, and half its directors must hold either CII or third-party chartered status. This, in itself, is a spur to firms to ensure that their individual employees hold chartered status.

With the launch by the CII of the Broker Academy at the beginning of the year, the move to professionalism is gathering pace. Direct Line may continue to sneer at the ‘middleman’ in its current adverts, but there is nothing wrong with middlemen, provided they are properly qualified.

Moreover, the CII can remove a company’s chartered status if it breaches the regulations.

As more and more broking firms come on board – and despite its detractors this is almost certain to happen – chartered status will become the norm.

Losing that status would, at that point, become a serious problem for the firm concerned. At the very least, key staff would quit. Others would be reluctant to join.

The CII has got it right. Let’s see broking firms signing up for this badge of professionalism. IT