With reference to the letter written by A McArthur (of Logie & McArthur) 'Brokers to file for divorce from CGNU?' (Insurance Times, March 23). At last someone else has decided to stand up to the might of Norwich Union.

My letter of a few months ago on the issue certainly got them jumping and I hope Mr McArthur's does as well.

This is a classic case – Norwich Union will argue that the direct policy excludes things such as foreign use extension, ULR, RAC European breakdown cover. The unfairness here is that we cannot delete these extensions from our policies.

OK, they may be charged extra for by NU Direct but some clients don't want a foreign use (some find it hard enough trying to drive in this country!).

If the merger does go ahead, we will also have a massive CGNU account. Will we still see anyone from the company?

Will they decide to integrate into a super branch with no local knowledge and no local support, having to phone long distance, and what about the queues that we have now, will they just grow and grow?

I think that many brokers/intermediaries will have started analysing their accounts and it will have proved frightening reading as to how much business they will possibly have with this 'super-insurer'.

Perhaps we should all sell up and start selling The Big Issue.
Phil Warman
Warman & Co

Price bands are snowballing on
My staff tell me I am a bit of a hoarder, and so after reading Insurance Times, March 23, I dug out a number of articles which I had kept about Norwich Union going back to November 1994.

The first of these was in the 'marketplace' taking the form of a presentation paper sent to all intermediaries. The headline read 'Totally committed to you' and was written by Patrick Snowball. The next was in May 1995 and the headline read 'Club together for total partnership', The last was in July 1995 under the headline 'Committed to partnership'.

At the time Snowball received a lot of bad press from brokers such as myself, and our agencies were put on the line for criticism because he was also heading up the NU direct operation.

Five years on and things still haven't changed. Snowball and his IRKS are still leading the brokers down the slippery piste (snowball/ piste... get the pun?).

In January, we at Topaz learned that our partnership deal was not being renewed despite a record year of business to NU. The reason given was 'unprofitability'.

Therefore, if brokers cannot produce profitable business at the rates NU supplies to us, why is it they undercut their own rates by as much as 45% to insure clients direct?

The fact that NU has gone to bed with Ford and insures cars direct for them clearly proves that this is not about profit, but volume. Insurers moan about retention rates being lower via brokers but that's exactly our job to seek the best and lowest premiums for the client.

No doubt once the dot.coms start to get a hold there won't just be dual pricing, but triple pricing, and you can bet your life NU will be dishing out the usual PR nonsense.
R Mikula
Topaz Insurance

Beg pardon, but who are you?
Having read the letter from John Bourne, Brighton Road, Gateshead, with regard to the Norwich Union/CGU merger, I can only say that I am sure all other brokers are of the same opinion that as far as relationships between the insurers and brokers go there will only be disaster.

Having enjoyed good relationships with the local Commercial Union office, and not so local General Accident office (Dundee!), we then had a merger between the two, where all dealings are now sent to a London office, who have no idea who we are, where we are, and what we are about.

Surely, adding that further complication of yet another insurer into the already collapsed structure will only result in brokers looking to switch business elsewhere, perhaps even to smaller companies whom we hope will remain intact.

Just think, we would have one 'super company' who would take even longer to answer the phone and once they did would have no idea who you were!
Robert Sykes
Fairweather Insurance Services
Ruislip Manor

Send us brokers all the business
Re: your front page article 'Biba slams dual price insurers' (Insurance Times, March 23).

I am glad to see I am not on my own.

The differences are unjustifiable. If insurers have any business acumen they should be directing all the business in the direction of the broker and increasing our commission at the same time, at these rates they have shown us it can stand it.
Tom Hurley
Healey Starr

Proud of drive to back Rover
You end your article 'Like flogging a dead horse' (Backchat, IT, March 23) with "shame the car has to be a Rover".

But there's not too much mention that the whole campaign is in support of the broker, who, as evidenced by many other of your articles, are more often undermined by insurers than helped by them.

But, it may just be that your criticism is only directed at the choice of prize for this promotion – a Rover car.

Well, I stand up to be counted. I chose a Rover because of its British heritage and origin. If faced with the choice again, but this time with the knowledge of the sell-off, I would still choose a Rover – a British car and one I am proud to support!

More to the point, each of the participating brokers I have spoken to tells me that the promotion is working. It is generating enquiries and real business.
Terry Stanley
Broker services and marketing director
Broker Direct Plc

PS And yes, I am getting rid of my BMW.

A post mortem after the epitaph
I prefer your obituary writer's view to that of Mark Twain in the matter of the GISC ('Has the GISC promise come to nothing?', IT, March 23) and suggest 'Quantum meruit' – 'It got what it deserved' – as an appropriate epitaph.

However, I am unable to agree that the wording of Insurance Brokers Registration Act is the reason for its failure.

Rather, I think the proximate cause is because the ABI was allowed to rewrite its original codes of selling practice to create independent intermediaries not registered under the Act – probably because of the lack of any creative regulation of insurance companies themselves.
John Lynch
Insurance Advisory Service

Appreciating a welcome face?
We were pleased as punch to see a picture of Mike Slack in Insurance Times ('Insurer triggers client ownership row', March 23) because we had missed seeing him for quite a while.

In fact, we are in the progress of setting up an appreciation society, as we are sure that there may be many people in the insurance industry who wish to see more pictures of Michael in the pages of your magazine.

We therefore invite your readers to write in to us in the event that they would like further details of the society, enclosing a cheque for £50.
Nigel Cakes and Sandy Fladgham
Witzend Insurance Services

I've a soft spot for dinosaurs
Much recent reporting has concerned ecommerce and the impact that it will have on intermediaries. Most predict partial extinction, especially for those failing to take on board new technology.

Gurus extol the advantages of the new technology, making it seem too good to be true. Minimal effort, because consumers do most of the work, huge cost savings which translate in to lower premiums together with an unlimited market. Utopia for those selling simple contracts en masse but not likely to be a system that will benefit your average local intermediary.

Anyone who has ever sold insurance on a face to face basis appreciates that clients often interpret questions wrongly on proposal forms. Members of the public buying complex insurance products, having answered a few questions on someone's website, is a prospect which should fill any self respecting intermediary or insurer with dread.

It is one thing to botch a minor plumbing job in your own home but quite another to invalidate your home insurance policy on the eve of a serious fire.

It is high time the industry regulators got their act together and made sure that general insurance is sold properly via conventional channels before the newer channels are opened up.

One final point is that I think it is about time that the broker community woke up to reality. Insurance companies do not like us. We have been spoiling their market place and ruining their sales strategies and profit margins for far too long now. Dual pricing is no accident and the men at the top of the new corporations know that only too well.

The government may want a fair deal for customers but the big insurers want control of the market. We are just getting in their way.

I intend to continue to do so for as long as I can. Perhaps this is because I have always had a soft spot for dinosaurs.
G Skirrow
Skirrow Insurance Services