A commitment to standards, experience and training, and a mandate to act in the public interest. Like Christmastime, many of us only celebrate the renewal or purchase of an insurance contract once a year, and given all the purported bells and whistles, a broking business or insurer with chartered status should serve as a gift to the savvy insurance buyer. A 2023 Consumer Intelligence survey, in partnership with Insurance Business, raises a big question, though: Does the public know what chartered status is at all? And not just as it relates to the insurance industry.
Consumer Intelligence asked 1,079 people: Have you heard of chartered status for businesses? The answer was a resounding ‘no’. Just under 20% had heard of the status, meaning eight in 10 had no idea what chartered was as it pertains to firms.
Of those that had heard of chartered status for businesses, not a huge chunk had heard of chartered status in general in relation to the insurance profession. Just 80 out of 212 people said they had heard of chartered insurance brokers.
212 individuals who said they had heard of chartered status for businesses were asked to select all types of professions they had heard of having some kind of chartered status offering from a list of options. These were the rankings:
While chartered status has been around for a very long time, with the CII incorporated by Royal Charter more than one hundred years ago, it wasn’t until 2006-7 that the Privy Council granted permission to the CII to start offering corporate chartered status. As of 2018, prior to the CII’s relaunch of the corporate chartered proposition, there were just 161 Chartered Insurance Broker title holders – or fewer than 10% of insurance broking businesses in the UK.
Chartered titles are seen as a badge of elite status by insurance individuals heavily involved in the organisation. Current firm requirements include 90% of customer-facing staff being CII members, client access to an individual chartered insurance broker, in addition to an adherence to diversity and inclusion (D&I) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards.
Of the CII’s total 2021 membership of 123,879 – which included insurance professionals and financial planners under the auspices of the Professional Finance Society (PFS) – just under a fifth, or 22,693, had an individual chartered title. With the CII having revealed its intent to run a controversial “experience-based” pilot to attract more fellows and chartered individuals, this figure could be set to grow after a dip that year. With upwards of 536,000 individuals working across insurance and pensions functions and associated businesses across England and Wales in 2021 as per census data, a relatively low proportion of insurance workers hold the status, and many are not CII members.
Low public recognition of the status may not be the only potential point of concern for chartered proponents. While six in 10 (59.7%) of 1,079 survey takers said they would be more likely to trust a chartered insurance broker, just over half (50.3%) said they would not be more likely to use a broker that had chartered status.
Given this lack of public knowledge of chartered status, it’s perhaps no surprise that firms do opt out.
Nevertheless, many firms do clearly see benefits to being chartered, whether the wider recognition is there or not. Some positives often mooted include having a solid foundation through recognised qualifications to make good decisions and offer consumers the best service you can, community belonging, and an adherence to standards on ethics, training, and public good.
Besides the customer attraction point, internally this could all help keep you out of a regulatory bind. The at-times furious reaction (admittedly much of the loudest of this coming from some PFS members, for whom tensions have been brewing with the CII in recent months) to the experience pilot proposal goes to show how important the status is to some individuals.
Does it matter, then, if the public doesn’t understand or care about chartered status?
I would posit yes, and no. If the public are merrily unaware of why they are receiving a particular level of service or commitment from their chartered broker (or even that this service stems from them being chartered – though there are many broking businesses that do not ascribe to the status that surely also look to excellence), then surely no harm, no foul. But if businesses are delivering on their pledges, it’s a shame that outsiders don’t know about it.
Greater co-ordinated awareness building (the ball isn’t just in the CII’s court) of just what chartered status means and why that trust is so important could go a long way to making it less of a shiny bauble on the tree when a potential customer or client checks out a business’s website, and more of a Christmas number one with the public. If the CII wants to bring more people on board and further cement its relevance under new leadership, as its experience-based route trial suggests, this couldn’t hurt its industry-wide efforts either.