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Editorial: Balancing the rough with the smooth in 2023

Editorial: Balancing the rough with the smooth in 2023 | Insurance Business UK

Editorial: Balancing the rough with the smooth in 2023

The early days of 2023 have brought with them a flurry of predictions around what the year might bring – with the first news stories of the year appearing to state with some level of confidence that the winds that buffeted the insurance sector in 2022 have yet to disperse.

The year kicked off with reports from Howden and Gallagher Re shedding light on the tumultuous reinsurance landscape and how factors including high inflation, interest rate hikes, depleted capital, fractured energy markets, the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, and Hurricane Ian have pushed the reinsurance sector into “significant volatility”, with rough conditions causing “tense and late” Jan. 1 reinsurance renewals.

This was swiftly followed up by the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 which highlighted the burgeoning tensions caused by the relative attention being paid to short- and long-term risks respectively. In an interview with Insurance Business, Marsh’s Carolina Klint emphasised the need for firms to take a longer-term, holistic approach to examining and navigating their risk environments and not to be too swayed by more immediate concerns.

The message of each of these reports cements a sentiment unique to the spirit of the New Year and particularly those few weeks after the initial celebration has passed – that feeling of anti-climax when the ‘New Year, New You’ sentiment drifts away and the changes you envisaged don’t immediately materialise. New Year feels like it should be a fresh start, a place and time untouched and unperilled by the challenges and consequences of what came before – but every year without fail it serves as a reminder that time runs on a series, not a parallel circuit.

Whether it’s the challenges facing the reinsurance market, the increasing awareness that it’s crunch time for the cybersecurity sector, or impending regulatory upheaval – what was worrying insurance businesses three few weeks ago is likely still worrying them today. That these concerns are playing out amid such a tumultuous external environment is only adding to the stress of insurance advisors looking to help their clients thrive or even just survive during the coming months.

To ‘ostrich’ the situation - putting your head in the sand and hoping for the best is counter-productive at best and outright dangerous at worst. But to zero in on these headlines for too long is to lose sight of the bigger picture and, with that, your view of the progress that has been made by so many insurance firms in recent years.

Over the Christmas break (which I’ve been assured by many across the market does feel as though it was 100 years ago now), I was recommended by a friend that early in the New Year, everybody should open up their phone’s photo gallery and look back over the year that was. His reasoning, he explained, is that generally speaking, you tend to take pictures during good times with good people – and looking back may call to mind occasions you’ve forgotten.

I suggest that the insurance profession does the same in these crucial early weeks of 2023, whether that’s looking back through personal galleries, or LinkedIn updates, or intranet callbacks. Because great strides have been made in the last year and these shouldn’t fly under the radar. After all, impossible though it may seem, it bears recalling that though the lockdowns had lifted by January 2022, the official events celebrating the New Year were cancelled in London.

Every in-person meeting, conference, seminar, concert and informal gathering since then has been an instrumental step away from the dreaded ‘new normal’ and a step towards a healthier, more sustainable and flexible approach to life and work. With a renewed understanding of what a healthy work/life balance looks like for employees and a shift away from a presenteeism mindset, many insurance businesses have made a success story of their hybrid working plans.

The news cycle brings near-constant updates on new employee benefits solutions and people-first initiatives from a host of companies of every size that are leaning into the challenge presented by the current job market by finding new ways to delineate themselves as employers of choice.

Beyond the internal mechanisms of the industry, there are positive shifts unlikely to be discerned from any slideshow of pictures but nonetheless real or relevant for that. Insurance brokers have left the pandemic behind with their reputations for customer-service and customer-centricity largely intact. High-quality brokers up and down the UK have done exceptional work in raising the profile of the profession and their actions are paying off dividends for the wider profession.  

Now facing into an uncertain economic environment, brokers are well-placed to leverage the trust their customers place in them to advise and support them through challenges including inflation, underinsurance and the energy crisis. This is a win for the broking profession and, while rarely the type to rest on their laurels, everybody with a part to play in that deserves acknowledgement of the work they continue to do to protect businesses and people alike.

So, even if every other resolution you made in the New Year has already gone the way of all flesh, here’s one to keep in mind – there’s no harm and plenty of good in well-reasoned optimism and in affirming what you’ve done well and what you’ve done right. So, if you get the chance, perhaps rather than look back at a photo reel at the end of the year, instead, on a daily basis, take the advice of Kurt Vonnegut: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or think at some point – if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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