BIBA 2023 reflections: Did the market rise to the challenge?

Insurers, brokers, MGAs and more share their insights into the latest conference

BIBA 2023 reflections: Did the market rise to the challenge?

Insurance News

By Mia Wallace

Serving as the mid-year ‘Christmas’ of the insurance profession, the BIBA Conference remains a milestone date in the diary of brokers, insurers, MGAs and insurance services providers alike. The 2023 conference – anchored by the timely theme of ‘Rising to the Challenge’ proved no exception, bringing in record-breaking footfall with over 9,000 attendees.

Summing up the mood on the ground, Tom Downey, CEO of Pen Underwriting, emphasised the energy of the crowd gathered in Manchester Central for the second post-COVID in-person conference.

“Having the industry back together is just brilliant, as is seeing the buzz and the excitement,” he said.  “We’re all about growth and this is about just seeing the industry growing. There are some new faces, some familiar faces. But it’s energising and dynamic, which is really what we want the insurance industry to be all about.”

The BIBA conference is a reliable cornerstone of the insurance market, noted Chris Wallace, executive director of QBE’s UK insurance business. To see so many people come together under the banner of a common theme – that of supporting the insurance industry – works incredibly well. Last year was his first BIBA in a decade, he said, and seeing this theme play out in real-time continues to be a rewarding experience.

“Last year was the first year back in person after COVID, and there was a definite vibe in the [conference centre] last year,” said director of UK regions for QBE Andy Fitzgerald. “And I think everyone wondered, was it just that everybody was pleased to be here and gathered together again post-COVID? But I would say it’s continued, that vibe has stayed strong this year. Everybody’s keen to meet everybody and there’s generally a great buzz about the place. It has been engaging and exciting.”

BIBA represents the “best point in the UK calendar for the industry”, according to CEO of intermediary services at Davies Group Ltd, Chris Butcher. For him, the energy and excitement on the floor of the conference came as no surprise, and he relished the opportunity to catch up with clients, friends, peers and colleagues – both old and new – during such a crucial touchpoint for the market.

“Having been coming to BIBA for the last 14/15 years, I think is probably one of the busiest if not the busiest I’ve seen,” said Sandy Keith, MD of Apricot Insurance Services. “It’s been really good, there have been lots of meetings and certainly a great buzz about the place from what I’ve been seeing.”

While last year saw people easing back into the flow of things after COVID, this year people have been fully taking part in everything BIBA is meant to represent, said Dan Cicchetti, director of client engagement UK&I at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Seeing people network and connect and fully engage with the people-first agenda that BIBA promotes is great to see. One of the truly great things about insurance is that people across the market get on so well and have such a similar ethos when it comes to BIBA, engagement and the future of the insurance market.

As a newcomer to the BIBA conference experience, Bruce Whitmee, CUO of AmTrust International, also commented on the huge amount of energy felt across the conference hall. The event has proven a great opportunity for him and his team to meet clients, MGAs and brokers, he said, but also to explore the connections between them.

And there is no doubt that over the last few years, the ability to build relationships and transact on a virtual scale has significantly improved, he said. But there’s still something special about being able to tap into the energy and excitement generated by the wider industry coming together to work as a unit.

“[BIBA 2023] has been absolutely brilliant,” summarised Tom Needs, chief executive at Applied Systems Europe. “Insurance is a relationship-driven business. And so, this is a really great opportunity to connect with people – people that you work with, people that you don’t know and the wider market of insurers and brokers.

“I think we’ve all been too remote for too long and it’s time for us all to be getting back together. The content has been fantastic. when you go around the stalls, it’s so vibrant. And we’ve had some great conversations here. There’s such a great atmosphere here, and we do consider this the highlight of the UK calendar.”

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