It's not often I respond to articles in your publication, but the Business Intelligence Feature 'A view from CGU Insurance' (Insurance Times, March 9) demands comment.

One wonders upon which planet the author has been dwelling for the past 12 months? Instead of offering us this patronising horse manure, why not have CGU take a look in their own backyard?

I propose therefore an alternative message from CGU entitled 'CGU – A View from the Real World':

Existing brokers
These are our lifeblood, we really shouldn't tick them off by:
- Sending all the staff away on a course the same day.
- Continually assuring brokers that "things are improving".
- Sending out commercial schedules with no EL certificates as the papers emanate from a printer in another country.
- Learn from experience
- Don't merge – ever!
- Make loyalty count
- Don't tell the press in advance that the new Leviathan, CGNU, will be looking in future to write anything other than the business most of their key brokers hold.

This will generate a departure by said brokers quicker than you can say "NTU".

- Reviewing your clients
Check you have any brokers left before telling them what you intend to do for them.

- Key to relationships
Efficient support, communication and service are all vital aspects of a successful business partnership. Therefore, don't let your brokers' entire accounts be dependent on the only person that can:
- Fix the tea urn.
- Go on a course at a moment's notice.
- Spend hours searching for the code to print EL certificates on the old GA computer system.

At Marrs, we have as good a service from CGU staff as we could realistically expect to get, allowing for the ill-planned and dismally executed merger of GA and CU.

The proposed marriage to an entity of such breathtaking arrogance as Norwich Union will be, I predict, the last straw for many people, staff and intermediaries alike.
Mark Coffer
Marrs Insurance Brokers Ltd

- This article is an extract from the latest edition of The Rotting Veg and Other Fertiliser, available from your local CGU Branch. Price £7m, plus profit share.

Pick way out of phone minefield
I share your concern expressed in the leader article 'We must call time on terrible service' (IT, March 9), and I would love to return to telephone service with a 'reception'.

I do however take some comfort from the fact that I recently had the misfortune to have to ring a well known bank, which used to be a building society that has its HQ not a million miles away from here, on behalf of a relative about a buildings claim.

As a form of positive therapy I would recommend any caring 'insurance intermediary' (I think we are the only ones who do – care that is) to make that similar call to realise what service is being provided by one of the players at the forefront of the direct business.

It will provide reassurance that we can still provide a 'personal service' and protect our clients from the telephone minefield that exists. I am presently wondering what ways there are of warning people about the consequences of dealing with these people and the business opportunities that it provides.

My relative was in a distressed enough state having had a broken bathroom sink.

Imagine how that state would have been compounded if she had to make that initial phone call – or should I say calls.
David Pickles
Bailey Sloman
(Insurance Brokers)
West Yorkshire

No, not perfect – but yes, we care
Do any insurers out there care (IT, March 9)? Yes we do.

I have no doubt your recent leader will have rung true for many brokers and intermediaries who are facing confusion and poor service as a result of insurance company mergers and takeovers.

Our own experience confirms this fact, with several intermediaries frustrated with the service, contacting us to enquire about taking on a Norman Insurance agency. They want to deal with a secure company, with secure competitive products, that does not deal direct.

We may not be perfect, but we do care and we are working exceptionally hard to differentiate ourselves from our competitors on the basis of the service we provide.
Dianne Smith
Marketing and communications manager
Norman Insurance Company

Merger written off as mega-flop
The announcement of a CGU-NU merger must have come as a body blow to CGU staff and customers still reeling from the havoc caused by the CU-GA merger.

In the present state of the insurance industry, I think everyone expected consolidation to continue; what no one anticipated was the speed.

For CGU to embark on this course when they have still not fully integrated IT, policy administration, claims handling or staff terms and conditions following the previous merger appears foolhardy in the extreme.

It also seems that many of the aspirations of the last merger have been abandoned. Remember how we were told that the new CGU brand would be a market leader and that the company would combine the best strengths of both CU and GA?

Now it appears that the CGU brand has been written off as a flop and that the new company will abandon its traditional expertise in large commercial risks to concentrate on the NU's core areas of life and personal business.

It is as if Manchester United were to withdraw from the Champions League because it is too big and risky, and instead enter the Auto Windscreens Shield. Where is the vision?

Senior management have given assurances that service standards will be maintained. However, one wonders if anybody, other than these managers in their ivory towers, takes such assurances seriously any more.

To really improve service delivery, CGNU needs extra staff in key areas and high-quality IT systems to replace the incredibly archaic working methods that still exist in many parts of the business. The merger however will result in a freeze on recruitment and further delay in IT progress.

No wonder it has been given the thumbs-down by both the insurance industry and the stock market.
John Bourn
Brighton Road

Clear it's still too early for all-clear
In light of your article 'Watching and waiting' (March 2), I wish to make the following observations.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 49 people have been killed by terrorists in Northern Ireland.

In a series of parliamentary written answers about terrorist activity in Ulster since April 1998, Adam Ingram, a Northern Ireland minister, also revealed that there have been 2,422 terrorist attacks; members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary had been attacked on 2,901 occasions.

It is clear that the world is not quite as safe as your article would have us believe.
Stephen Ashwell
Terrorism underwriter,
Hiscox plc

Credit hire code must be a bonus
We were encouraged to see Penny Coombs' (ABI Motor Manager) article 'No need to fight back' (Feb 24), concerning the future of credit hire.

We are affected by the excesses – on both sides – in the industry, and are strongly of the opinion that a national standard or code of practice to which all interested parties could adhere would be a welcome advance.

We have been reassured to see that Direct Line, RSA and CIS (the proponents in Dimond vs Lovell) among others, do work in accordance with the initiative with companies who, like ourselves, are not at present listed hire providers.

The trouble is that not everyone in the game appears to want to play ball. Recognition by many insurers that some hire companies are trying to be positive is slow in coming.

A set of industry practices that are well communicated would be a real bonus for the front line dealers on both sides. This would avoid the daily wastage of resources (man hours and legal costs) to the benefit of the whole industry.

The key word, surely, in all of this is 'reasonableness'. That applies on both sides. If the ABI initiative is not to be a restrictive practice – a monopoly position – then insurers cannot have any realistic objection to vehicle providers who are able and are willing to come on board.

As Coombs rightly says, "where the third party genuinely needs the services of a credit organisation and the costs are reasonable the insurers should have little to challenge".

The truth is, surely that the outcome of this case is almost incidental. It is not going to be a cure-all for the industry. We have found that each new case that comes to court and clears up one point only muddies another. The ABI initiative is one that we wholly endorse.
Martin Wills
Motor Claims Direct

Mark my words Mr Bishop...
Re the letter from my dear friend Mark Bishop (IT, March 9) in which he is sure, he says, that he speaks for everyone in the industry.

Well you may have done when you worked for the ABI, but not any more, Mark. And by the way, didn't you do the radio broadcasts while Tony Baker got the TV jobs?

What are we to read into this?
Terry Stanley
Broker services and marketing director
Broker Direct plc