"I think I'm doing a lot of work someone else should be doing." That was how Lillian Boyle defused a tense moment at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) annual conference at the end of September.

"I think I'm doing a lot of work someone else should be doing." That was how Lillian Boyle defused a tense moment at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) annual conference at the end of September.

Boyle was addressing the first session of the conference - the first time since Michael Bright resigned his presidency in June that Boyle - Bright's deputy - had publicly stood in for Independent Insurance's former chief executive.

Everyone in the hall knew Michael Bright had been due to open the conference. But he had resigned his post in June after the collapse of Independent Insurance. The fact he was not there was awkward - it reminded everyone their president had been in charge of an insurance company that had spectacularly collapsed just a few months previously. The collapse caused acute embarrassment to the industry, as the reputation of insurance was dragged through the mud by the national press.

Boyle's comment took the tension out of the moment immediately. She acknowledged Bright's noticeable absence, but with wit and charm.

It is impossible not to warm to Boyle.

She punctuates her conversation with witty asides, even when confronted with the toughest questions, she smiles, but answers firmly.

When asked whether the fall of Indepen-dent tarnished the image of the institute, since Bright had been president at the time, Boyle s says: "I don't really believe the CII has been damaged at all. What happens to companies is not in our control - that is a fact of life.

"It would be dreadful if the good work done by people here was be tarnished by a president. I don't think it has happened. I think CII members are sensible and understand that distinction."

Boyle had been expecting to become the first female president in September at the annual conference, but was thrust into the role in June when Bright resigned. Despite being pushed into the limelight early, Boyle claims not to have been thrown. "I didn't have any holidays planned in," she jokes, adding: "I have been a CII officer for a long time [ten years]. I have been treasurer for three years and all the staff know me. It wasn't difficult to step in."

The CII has been changing over the past couple of years. Driven by former CGNU boss Bob Scott, the CII is becoming customer-focused. It is starting to operate as slickly as some of the companies it serves.

Boyle, who, at 43, is the youngest CII president, has been at the heart of the change.

"We have recognised that the people who work in insurance now are different to those who started 20 years ago. Regardless of what you are doing in insurance now, it has to be done at the very highest standard. The N2 regulations will ensure that," she says.

"There is an emphasis on back-room staff now having the right qualifications and we have tackled that by introducing the Foundation Insurance Test."

Conflict of interest?
In its drive to improve standards, the CII has expanded its role. It now accredits training companies and also carries out training itself. Critics say this is a dilemma. How can a company that offers training also be regulating its rivals?

"I'm not sure there is a conflict of interest," says Boyle. "We have Chinese walls and our corporate governance ensures there isn't any kind of conflict. Our reputation is key."

But what is the reputation of the CII? Many people in the industry see the institute as dominated by a core of grey-haired men, who are out of touch with the industry.

Boyle recognises the criticism, but reiterates that the organisation is changing. For the first time, the CII is set to invite students into its fold. The idea is that a new generation of young people will be drawn into the institute so they can shape its future.

Boyle explains the initiative, which allows anyone who wants to take a CII exam to join, requires a change in CII regulation that has to be endorsed by Privy Council and the Queen. This is not expected to be a problem.

So how does Boyle, who is Scottish Provident's company secretary, view the general insurance business? She is intrigued by the process of regulation that is going on under the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC).

"I come from the life side, where there used to be lots of organisations and lots of different exams. The public was confused. I am concerned that we don't get to a stage in general insurance where we confuse the public further," she says.

"I'm happy with the GISC. I come from life, which is well regulated. It seems normal," she adds.

Lillian Boyle - personal file
Age: 43
Lives: Isle of Man
Education: Law degree from Glasgow University

  • Allied Dunbar
  • Scottish Amicable
  • Scottish Mutual
  • Abbey National
  • Scottish Provident
    Car: Jaguar XJ8
    Favourite magazine: The New Yorker
    Hero: Dad
    Hobby: Golf

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