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Column: What the lessons of BIBA 2022 might mean for the future of the market

Column: What the lessons of BIBA 2022 might mean for the future of the market | Insurance Business UK

Column: What the lessons of BIBA 2022 might mean for the future of the market

There are certain nuggets of wisdom from your school days that nobody ever really seems to forget. That a mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, the Pythagorean theorem, the chemical formula for salt – to name but a few.

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And for those unfortunate few like myself who nursed a zeal for the subject of chemistry, among those is the First Law of Thermodynamics. It dictates that energy cannot be created or destroyed, merely conserved and converted from one form to another. It’s what makes energy so valuable as a resource – it is a non-renewable, indestructible currency and one that was in no short supply at the BIBA 2022 conference.

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‘Energy’ was the word on the ground, in the business hubs and across the seminar conference halls. It was remarked on and marvelled at by everybody I had the pleasure of catching up with over the course of the two-day event which reaffirmed the power of networking and the joy of being face to face once more. As a newcomer to the BIBA conference, it was a baptism of fire in the best sense possible, bringing people together to reforge old partnerships or craft new relationships.

Now a little over a week later, that energy is showing no signs of dissipating and so I will look to instead channel it into another form – a few thoughts on what the BIBA conference said about the future of the insurance profession.

The role of the broker is still critical

In a recent chat with Insurance Business, insurance veteran Andy Fairchild revealed why he’s confident about the future of the independent insurance broker, and at BIBA 2022, the wider broking market was the beneficiary of similar optimism. Across carriers, MGAs and associations alike, the flag for insurance broking was roundly waved and it was broadly agreed that its future looks bright.

Read more: Andy Fairchild on why he's so positive about the future of the independent broker

The challenges facing the wider insurance profession were not ignored when coming to this diagnosis. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the impact of rising inflation, and the economic aftershocks of COVID were prominent features in market conversations and the pressure they are placing on brokers is widely understood.

But the BIBA conference drove home the message that brokers are the ones operating on the front lines of customer engagement, and it’s a position that across many business lines simply cannot yet be filled by any other market player. The message to brokers was, therefore, largely positive and emphasised that the long-standing relationships they have built for themselves and fostered across the wider industry are fit for purpose and future-proofed. 

Insurtech – no ceiling in sight, but more scrutiny than ever

The BIBA conference hall played host to a raft of insurtech firms, several of which punched significantly above their weight in terms of the crowds they attracted and the conversation they provoked. The growth of the insurtech sector has been remarkable to witness, particularly over the last two years or so and the news that the UK trails only the US in terms of insurance start-up funding is unsurprising.

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But in much the same that great power brings responsibility, significant investment brings proportional scrutiny. Conversations with industry peers and sector specialists brought with them a strong sense that insurtech firms are being watched more closely and evaluated more carefully – and those which are struggling to meet financial milestones may be in for a rude awakening.

The future of work

Towergate’s Richard Tuplin said it best when he commented that “there’s a place for virtual things but [BIBA] is not one of them”. It’s an observation that captured the mood of the insurance market, not just in relation to the conference itself but rather the entire spirit of the insurance profession.

There’s a widespread appreciation for the digital tools and channels that enabled the market to carry on operating during the thick of the COVID crisis – and an acceptance that the niche carved out by these is now a permanent fixture. What the profession is calling out for – from the upper echelons of the C-suite all the way down to market entrants – is a proportional response by employers.

There’s little appetite for a full-time return to the office, and if the results reported by many insurance businesses are anything to go by, any demand to do so would likely not be rooted in financial or operational considerations. But the value of face-to-face interactions is a light undimmed by COVID and word on the ground is that people firmly expect their insurance employers to exercise the same flexibility they themselves did when the gauntlet of resilience was thrown down in March 2020.