Grant Ellis doesn't want to be Biba chief executive. He thinks a woman can do better
The new Biba chief executive should be a woman. Can I say that? Am I breaching some Euro-rule or protocol? Probably, but there, I've said it.
Why? Well, let's face it, men and women are different in more than just the immediately obvious ways. We chaps can only really do one thing at a time, can't we? (Often thinking and speaking at the same time is a bit of a problem if we're absolutely honest.) If we're out and about in the car looking for some new location, the first thing we do is turn off the radio (we know why, but ask any woman and she won't have a clue as to why it's necessary). When we're in a group, we take it in turns to speak, waiting for one person to stop talking before we chip in.
We defend this mono-tasking trait by saying we are that much more focused on the task in hand as a result, and this may be true, but I think secretly we all envy women their ability to do so many things at one go.
A woman can hold down three separate, but simultaneous conversations while watching TV, writing a "to-do" list and keeping a watchful eye on a couple of small children to boot - wouldn't it be wonderful to just be able to do a couple of these at any given time. Imagine being able to watch the big match on TV and hold an intelligent conversation with your partner at the same time - much less domestic strife.
Sadly, this is not likely, as we have been built differently, and it is for this reason that I'm suggesting that the best candidate for the Biba job is a woman.
It is, I believe an extraordinarily difficult job to do well. The task is to represent the interests of all broker members, but more often than not these do not and will neve, entirely coincide. What Willis, Marsh or Aon need from their trade association will differ from the needs of a small independent provincial broker, but both need to be accommodated. True, there will be times when all interests are aligned, but just as many when they are not.
Then there are the other industry bodies - there should be a close working relationship with the ABI - but not too close. There should also be good dialogue with the FSA and GISC, but again independence of view must prevail.
While all this is going on, a watchful eye needs to be kept on the consumer bodies and trade associations from other industries who will want to have a periodic pop at the broking fraternity.
While all these balls are being juggled, there are various government departments to respond to - Treasury, DTI, and individual MPs who have a particular bee in their bonnet. Then there is the Biba board itself - an elected group of member representatives to whom the chief executive must ultimately bow in the event of disagreement.
Couple this with the task of balancing the books and avoiding conflicts of interest with members (schemes run by Biba do compete with member schemes despite protestations to the contrary) and you can start to see the breadth of the task that faces the new incumbent.
And don't forget the diplomacy. Some mischief maker suggested early on that I might like the Biba job - you have to be joking - I wouldn't last five minutes. Diplomacy and blokes do not normally feature in the same sentence. We are not anything like as sensitive to other people's feelings as women are. Call it intuition if you like, but they pick up the vibes long before most men were aware that anything was amiss. From dealing with the press to addressing a government inquiry - all have to be handled with care and tact.
And being sympathetic to, having an appreciation of, and balancing a wide range of differing views and interests is what the Biba job is really all about. And I think that women do that sort of thing better, that's all.