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Editorial: Assessing the changing role of trade associations

Editorial: Assessing the changing role of trade associations | Insurance Business UK

Editorial: Assessing the changing role of trade associations

If 2021 to date could be surmised like a weather report, it would have recorded that ‘clouds still dominate, with some patches of sun peeking through’. As, amid all the turmoil of COVID-19, there have been glimmers of opportunity for the astute and forward-thinking insurance professional to broadcast the purpose of the industry and their own unique value proposition.

Insurance brokers have been afforded the chance to emphasise the need for an ‘advice over price’ approach to coverage. Insurance companies have had the opportunity to set themselves apart from their peers when it came to the timely payment of claims. MGAs have had 18 months to focus on the adoption of new processes able to spotlight the significant value of the data and customer insight they are able to provide to insurers.

Read more: Industry must spur innovation to achieve net zero – LIIBA chief

But perhaps no other element of the insurance distribution network has been offered quite the same time to shine as trade associations – whose market knowledge, government links and professionalism have been leaned on more than ever. Whether it’s the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), the London & International Insurance Brokers’ Association (LIIBA) or the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) – these organisations have each had their mettle tested over the last two years.

In the last week alone, the CII has urged members to talk about later-life care and offered them guidance on safely using social media, LIIBA’s chief exec has outlined why the wider industry must spur innovation to achieve net zero and Swiss Re’s CEO Christian Mumenthaler has become the new chair of The Geneva Association. With so much news, insight and advice forthcoming from these organisations, which are designed to promote the commercial and societal ambitions of their members, it feels like a natural time to step back and consider the impact they have.

The greater good is the concept at the heart of the trade association model as what’s beneficial to the wider industry is subsequently beneficial to the individual businesses that make it up. And, in turn, when an industry suffers so to do these businesses and, as a result, their clients, their suppliers and their partners.

Being a member of a trade association allows a business to become part of something bigger and to navigate the ripple effects of new regulations, industry moves and changing consumer expectations. Membership offers opportunities for firms and individual professionals to expand their professional network and learn from those around them. It offers them the chance to seize professional development qualifications or training outside that will help them apart and it provides insights into changing rules and regulations ahead of implementation dates.

This has always been true of (trustworthy) trade associations but the piece that is coming into its own lately is the “badge of honour” element that comes from being associated with a respected organisation. The reputation of the insurance industry has taken a series of hard knocks during COVID and the rhetoric surrounding exactly what professionalism looks like has changed, perhaps irreversibly.

As captured by Geoff Crisp, the chairman of Centor Insurance, “I’ve never met a broker who doesn’t say they’re professional, but some are and some aren’t.” A broker referring to themselves as professional can be taken with a pinch of salt, particularly considering that consumers have received so many warnings from media, regulators and consumer trade associations alike concerning the many pitfalls that accompany purchasing the right insurance coverage. Any indication that a claim of professionalism can be substantiated is, therefore, less likely to go unnoticed in this day and age.

This professionalism isn’t just about qualifications or certifications – it’s about proving to the perceptive consumer that, as a business, your firm is being held to an impartial series of standards, and has willingly signed itself up to face that scrutiny. It’s a confidence game with the concession being that the confidence displayed is genuine and earned. In a recent feature with Insurance Business, HDI Global’s Claire McDonald noted “sometimes what you need is just a little more self-belief’.

The insurance profession is residing at a fascinating crossroads, wherein the next year or so will set expectations and standards that can be expected to govern the industry’s direction of travel for the foreseeable future. It is to be hoped that trade associations will be with firms on every step of that journey, simultaneously scouting out the road ahead and keeping their members on the straight and narrow.