Brokers will tell you everything, except what their commission is. John Jackson says it's time they were fee-based

When I became self-employed, one of my first acts was to obtain life insurance, as I was no longer protected by a company scheme. I went to a local independent financial adviser (IFA), who trawled the market and came up with an appropriate policy.

The subsequent documentation included his initial commission and the amount he would receive from the monthly premium. Full, open disclosure was the order of the day.

Ask an accountant or a solicitor for advice and they will charge a fee - all clearly recorded. That is how professional people work.

But not, apparently, insurance brokers.

They are perfectly happy to let you know how much the government takes in Insurance Premium Tax - and quite rightly so - but what about their slice of the premium cake?

That, apparently, is none of the client's business. They want it to remain a secret, and they are angry that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has suggested full commission disclosure.

Commission to me is something for bored Tupperware housewives, or the rake-off from selling some Ann Summers kinky underwear. Bookmakers like to call themselves "commission agents". Cold-calling double glazing pests are on commission.

At a time when a professional qualification of Chartered Insurance Broker is now available, it is time that brokers became fee-based.

After all, do brokers see themselves as giving professional advice or flogging a product?

I suspect that one reason why brokers are nervous about disclosing commission may have nothing to do with the client; it may have much more to do with other brokers finding out that they are favoured by certain insurers.

This is because insurers like to cherry-pick their brokers, offering different deals for the same product to different agencies.

It would be a variation on the long-running argument about why an insurer's direct arm produces the same product cheaper than through the broker channel. Answer - cost.

To be able to see that the broker down the road was getting a better deal would lead to a prolonged bout of righteous indignation.

On commercial business, sensible brokers have long abandoned commission and moved to a fee-based, risk management planning way of handling their clients. And the fee is, of course, disclosed. That is the professional way of doing business.

Commission is an outdated anachronism. Keeping it secret is downright silly and shows a lack of openness with the client.

This is the 21st century, guys. Get yourselves a life, for goodness sake.