Mike Izzard has been chairman of the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries for three months and is talking about lobbying the Government along with the British Insurance Brokers Association and Group Risk Development (Grid).
“I would like to have closer dialogue with the regulator and if the Biba and Grid came on board with us we could be a united front. For regulation purposes, there is not much difference between an IFA, a general broker and a PMI broker,” says Izzard, who is the founder and managing director of Premier Choice Healthcare which is based in Towcester, Northamptonshire.
“We have all got the same fears and concerns and needs. The FSA is a regulator, it does not deal with consumers except those that are disaffected. It does not see satisfied consumers so it needs to be educated as to what the real need is out there. We should set the agenda and formulate policy, rather than react to it. As a united front, we could have an open and constructive dialogue with the regulator.”
Izzard’s big ambition for the AMII during the next two years is to make the organisation more relevant to its members. “I think that since the FSA came in, the AMII has lost a certain direction,” he says. At its most popular, the AMII had around 125 members, predominantly one-person firms. “At that time, the glue holding the AMII together was the impeding introduction of self-regulation with GISC. What really hit membership was GISC being replaced by the FSA. We were a group of disparate people with a common aim, we had a purpose.”
Apart from trying to form a closer working relationship with the FSA, Izzard also intends to lobby the body politic. “That does not mean to harangue the Government or take sides with the opposition of the day. We would like to formulate policy for protection and healthcare needs in relation to PMI and how it fits in with the NHS.
“We would like to have representation on committees with shadow ministers and the Department of Health. I think there are certain issues we can bring back on to the agenda. It may be a vain hope but I would like to at least put it on the radar and reintroduce the protection refund on individual policies for people over 60. When Labour came to power in 1997, they abolished it. I think they saved about £120m in the tax relief that had previously been provided to PMI policyholders over 60.
“At that time, it forced a lot of people to cancel their policies because they lost 25 per cent tax relief. A lot of them were pensioners who could not afford the increased costs. It saved the Government a pittance really. It threw all those people on to the NHS, forming huge queues for orthopedic operations. It probably cost the NHS another £2bn to put them through the system for Labour’s saving of just £120m. It is not practical common sense.
“I think there is an agenda for bringing back some form of tax relief for the older person to cater for their own needs, as has become the requirement in Australia. I would like to have everybody but you have got to start somewhere. Older people probably cost the NHS more and make queues longer because they are more likely to need orthopedic work.”
Bizarrely, Izzard’s passion for PMI does not originate from a disgruntled disillusion of the UK’s health care system but from working with burglar alarms. After getting a business degree from what is now London Metropolitan University, Izzard joined Grant Thornton as an articled clerk. Just one exam away from qualifying as a chartered accountant, he decided to go travelling.
He returned to the UK as a happily married man to run his father’s electrical engineering firm. “There is an interesting twist to this story which has a relevance today. I got involved by accident with the installation of burglar alarms. You did not have to wake up every morning and sell a burglar alarm. You sold a burglar alarm and you attached to it a maintenance contract or service agreement. That was my first introduction to what is commonly known as residual income.”
Eventually, he sold the firm and did brief stints at Barclays (in the independent brokering arm) Standard Life, Norwich Union and Clinicare before setting up Premier Choice Healthcare.
“I had been involved in marketing and selling arms so I thought I would go for insurance products because they too have a residual income. I did that for two or three years and realised medical insurance was the way to go.”
Starting out with two people doing about £1m in premiums in 1996, Premier choice now has a GWP of £32m. Having settled in the business, Izzard wanted to put something back into the industry so he became a member of the AMII.
One of the first things Izzard wants to introduce to the AMII is an exam. “We are working on a baseline accreditation with the Chartered Insurance Institute. We are regulated as an industry by the FSA but we do not have a compulsory exam.
“We want to have a cogent examination to test the skill at point of sale. If you want to join the AMII, you will have to pass the exam 12 months from now. All members’ face-to-face salespeople have got to pass it as well. There will also be a time limit for existing members of the AMII to pass the test, probably about two years.”
Izzard has two years of his term to make these changes. “If you do it for more than two years, you either detract from what the office stands for or you damage your own business by neglecting it.”
As for the PMI market, he applauds recent product innovation that is bringing younger policyholders to the sector but he says: “There is still a gap between cash plans and the full pay market plan. I think the blue-collar worker has been left out of PMI.”
Born: Bedford, 1951
Education: Newnham School
Career: 1970-78: articled clerk, Grant Thornton; 1978-90: director Alkey Intruder Alarms; 1990-92: protection specialist, Barclays; 1992-95: regional manager, Norwich Union; 1995-96 corporate services, MIA; 1996-present: Premier Choice
Likes: Theatre, motor racing, foreign travel
Dislikes: Doing nothing
Drives: Audi A8
Book: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Film: Memphis Belle
Album: Queen, Greatest hits trilogy
Career ambition: To do the best I can
Life ambition: To build Premier Choice Group into the best PMI broker
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Driving racing cars