For years, there has been the industry joke that if you want to get your broker on a Monday, try the golf course. Now, apparently, they are so run off their feet, the courses are empty.

At the same time, the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) is anxious for these busy regional brokers to come forward as potential directors, as it outlines its final proposals on governance by the end of the year.

The first elections for some directorships are expected in the second quarter of 2002, but to retain continuity, not all the board positions will be elected first time round.

The ultimate aim is for all board places to be elected, using a weighted voting system, including consumer representatives. That will greatly enhance the status of the GISC within the industry. One problem is whether to proceed with those elections at all, because at around that time, a decision is expected on whether Rule F42 can be enforced, in which GISC members can only do business with fellow members.

Majority should rule
I do not believe the GISC should lose any more momentum caused by the legal challenges of a minority, hell-bent on frustrating the wishes of the vast majority within the insurance industry. After all, many will have been GISC members for 18 months come next spring and their voices will be overdue to be heard in deciding who should represent them on the board.

Currently, there are two regional broker board members - Simon Bolam of Edinburgh brokerage EH Ransom and John Miller of Anchor Insurance in Milton Keynes. But they could do with some back-up. This is not the time for brokers to navel-gaze - they need to put their names forward to strengthen their voice among the decision-makers. A strong, single, industry-wide regulator is vital in the new consumer-conscious climate.

The only show in town
It is too easy to sit back and let others carry the burden of ensuring the industry's reputation with consumers is in good hands. Whatever the outcome of the F42 dispute, the GISC is the only regulatory show in town and will remain so.

But my eyes glaze over when I hear brokers snipe at the GISC as a "creature of the insurers". Only by being proactive can brokers ensure they have a strong voice at the heart of the industry's regulation.

The alternative is the unwieldy monster of the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Then the anti-GISC whingers will really have a field day - and only themselves to blame.

Regarding the FSA, I was alarmed to read about the re-emergence of a proposed merger between the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Bankers' Association (BBA) to provide clout to deal with the FSA - Godzilla joins with King Kong to take on Hannibal Lecter?

It makes tactical sense for these two big beasts to get together, not least given the rapid growth of bancassurance. But my fear is: what will get gobbled up in this scenario?

The answer is the voice of the smaller insurer, which time and again has proved to be the real friend of the regional broker.

  • John Jackson is an insurance journalist and PR consultant.

  • Topics