In September, the Society of Insurance Broking will mark its second birthday. This time last year I wrote a similar article looking back over our first twelve months and setting out our objectives for the coming one. Where to start with a review of a year that was turned on its head halfway through?
Even before the government announced the official ‘lockdown’ on March 23rd, coronavirus had already started to have a widespread impact on the broking profession and our members. Meetings, events, and conferences started to be cancelled, and many began to work from home. It was evident immediately that the priority had to be in supporting our members during an incredibly difficult time. How could we do that? In an environment where so much was beyond our control, we focused on our core objectives – by providing our members with knowledge, skills, and insight, we could ensure they were best equipped to navigate the challenging business environment, and crucially, achieve the best outcomes for their customers and clients.
“Informative, clear and unambiguous information without a political agenda” (Member satisfaction survey, July 2020)
At the end of March, we launched our ‘Coronavirus Hub’: a destination for insurance brokers who wanted to access news, CPD, and learning in one place. Two distinct areas of interest emerged: our members were hungry for technical knowledge, from the latest FCA updates to business interruption, and the impact on motor and property. As popular, if not more so, was the raft of new professional skills our members needed to grasp quickly: working remotely, managing and motivating teams, mental health and wellbeing.
As weeks turned to months in lockdown, we started to investigate more specific issues: new customer vulnerabilities began to rapidly emerge, increased financial difficulties for millions across the UK, the rise of scams and fraud using coronavirus as an emotional lever. We investigated the implications of unoccupied commercial properties, and the obligations of the employer to a workforce based at home full-time. We reissued our updated Good Practice Guidance on surge events. A review that was in progress long before coronavirus appeared, it certainly seemed even more important than before.
The Business Interruption debate began to gather pace, and we ensured our members could stay informed with a number of different perspectives and opinions: from customer and public expectations, through to policy wordings and the FCA test case.
“There are benefits to career development and having avenues to knowledge that isn’t readily available when learning on the job.” (Member satisfaction survey, July 2020)
Depending on who you speak to in which insurance class, we are either approaching or are already in a hard insurance market. Coronavirus has exacerbated the difficult conditions, and for many young professionals in the broking sector, this is the first time they have experienced such a difficult environment. We published learning to help members manage difficult conversations, emphasise the value of professional advice, and maintain and improve their sales and renewals. Our ‘Mastering Conversion’ webinar series was one of the most popular pieces of content ever.
Now, as I write this in August, we begin to see a return to what might not be called normality but could certainly be considered more stable than a few months ago. As a result, we’ve begun to look beyond the here and now, starting to look into the long term financial and economic impact of the pandemic, and the ways it will change our ways of working long after it is gone.
“The provision of training webinars has been truly excellent.” (Member satisfaction survey, July 2020)
Against this backdrop, it would be easy to forget the objective the Advisory Board and I set ourselves. We said we would ‘greatly expand and diversify the content and insight we offer to our members’. Whether by coincidence or design, our existing strategic focus on digital content, available anytime and anywhere, has allowed us to do just that for our members. We have seen a huge increase in demand and consumption of webinars and podcasts, and a more accessible, mobile friendly website means members can find them more easily than ever.
What next? It’s hard to predict how all this will turn out for the broking profession, but over the past few months many examples and conversations have only emphasised to me the importance of insurance to society – both the rewards in getting it right and the risks in getting it wrong. The value of clear professional advice to businesses and individuals is only likely to increase in the months ahead, and we will be there to ensure our members are supported on what will undoubtedly be a long road to recovery and normality. The Society of Insurance Broking is a professional community for insurance brokers, and to use a cliché of the pandemic, ‘now more than ever’ this is what the sector needs.