These last few weeks have been momentous for the insurance sector, and indeed for the world in general, and the CII President’s Dinner and Public Trust Awards, recently held at Guildhall, showcased the commitments being made across this sector to keep the home fires burning. Throughout the evening, the role of the insurance sector in providing support and guidance to the most vulnerable in society was highlighted in the context of the recent coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the event, journalist and presenter, Kate Silverton said: “Many people will turn to you in the coming weeks and months. Honour what needs to be honoured and support those who need you at this crucial time.”
Though he could not attend the event in person due to the stringent travel restrictions being widely implemented, president of the CII, Nick Turner, gave a powerful speech on the core values required from professionals working within the insurance sector.
“We live in a time of change,” he said. “We live in a time of uncertainty. We definitely live in volatile times. The strap line that sits under the CII’s branding sets out an idea that is arguably more relevant today than ever – standards, professionalism, and trust.”
In the insurance business, he said, there is no product, and nothing is made except a promise. Insurance offers promises as a trade, he stated, and, due to this, the most important word in the insurance vocabulary has to be trust. Raising awareness of how individual actions build or erode trust has been a theme of his presidency, Turner said, and he posed the question of whether the phrase ‘trust arrives on foot and departs on horseback’ holds as true today as it might have in previous years.
“The internet has transformed our understanding of the world, largely to all of our benefit, but we do also need to be cautious,” he said. “It has changed fundamentally the speed at which society operates. Digital developments are giving consumers more access and choice than ever before and deliver that transparency to moments of truth that validate, or otherwise, the trust placed in insurance services and professionals.”
This should be the death of complacency, he said, but there is an increasing challenge across the profession to persuade consumers that insurance is more than a mere commodity. When trust is broken, he said, it breaks down to thousands as digital technologies have raised the stakes of failure significantly. It is clear, Turner said, that insurance professionals must wire the idea of building consumer trust into themselves and into their business models.
When building a trustworthy business filled with trustworthy people, he said, he believes that there are four interwoven paths that businesses must take. Speaking to the assembled insurance professionals gathered at this event, Turner urged each of them to commit to focusing on at least one of these actions to increase public faith in the sector.
The first of these is to show benevolence, he said, so that people know that the organisation and the individual person they are dealing with is fundamentally kind and has their best interests at heart.
Another important value is that of integrity, he outlined, so the customer knows they are dealing with an ethical person who is honest about their mistakes and transparently manages conflicts of interest. Maintaining competence is also essential, Turner said, and he highlighted the work done by the CII and local institutes when it comes to building broad foundational knowledge and CPD across thousands of insurance and financial services professionals.
Finally, predictability is essential, he said, and people, services and organisations must behave in a way that can be consistently forecast. Turner believes that this last ingredient in the trust equation is the one where the insurance profession has the furthest to go. To achieve this involves meeting customer expectations every time, he said, and ensuring that no outcome is unexpected, that no price rise is misunderstood, that no market fluctuation is a surprise, that no recommendations are passively received and that there is no variance in minimum standards or professionalism.
“Consumer trust will prove elusive for some time I fear,” he said, “and to deliver the outcomes that I’m sure we all aspire to, we’re going to have to think quite differently in the years ahead.”