In any industry, having a coherent, consistent, clear conversation with your stakeholders is critical if you want your point of view to be understood and appreciated.
In financial services we need to have dialogue with all sorts of stakeholders: consumer groups, regulators, the FOS, politicians, Government departments – and of course other trade bodies representing other significant industry segments.
But above and beyond this, in any line of work, industries want to have influence over events which affect them. And it is for this reason that trade associations exist.
Most trade bodies represent relatively diverse interests, yet it makes sense for parties with generally aligned interests to congregate under a single banner for the greater advantage of all concerned. Large congregations result in being seen as more significant and therefore ‘important’ and of course there is advantage in pooling resources and concentrating skills.
The ABI is a pretty good example of a well organised trade body in financial services which represents a number of diverse yet congruous interests. It has a board, with various board committees reporting to it.
These committees focus on regulation, running the association as an entity with other committees organised around the main activities of their members. There is a general insurance committee, an investment committee and a long term savings and life insurance committee (catchily known as the LTSLIC). These board committees then have various specialised sub-committees to represent and focus on all the detailed interests of their members. One of which of course is the protection committee, reporting to the LTSLIC.
Often the protection committee finds that on some of its initiatives (and some of the industry risks) it would be very helpful if it could liaise and work with an equivalent body representing the interests of protection intermediaries. Unfortunately no such representative body exists. However, whether such a body should or could exist has been the source of much debate recently, so I thought I would chuck in my ‘two penn’orth’.
As an individual who has spent half his working life as an intermediary and the other half working in large providers, it has always struck me how much benefit protection intermediaries would get from having a single, coherent, consistent and clear voice on the big issues affecting this important market segment.
Right now there are various parties organising themselves into groups and others researching the need for such a group. But whatever the outcome, for any group to be effective, it has to have the scale to be representative, the skills necessary to operate and the organisation and the resources necessary to function. A standalone body (separate from the current trade bodies) would simply dilute any approach and potentially confuse the intermediary voice. I know that if I was currently an intermediary I would be arguing forcefully that any group needs to develop within one of the already well established, well connected experienced intermediary trade bodies which doesn’t only represent a single product line.
It’s time for protection intermediaries (advised, non-advised, tied, multi-tied and whole of market) to develop a voice with influence for the health of this increasingly important, yet increasingly scrutinised market.
Richard Verdin is managing director of protection at Aviva