Leadership debate: market forced to defend record on broker remuneration models

Panel grilled on Brexit, innovation, pricing and much more.

Airmic members expressed their dissatisfaction with the insurance market on a range of topics, in the much-anticipated leadership debate in Birmingham, expertly chaired by BBC news presenter Huw Edwards.

In a panel-debate first, the audience were asked their views on a range of topics which, for the most part, gave a damning verdict - see box.

The ever-contentious subject of broker remuneration models produced the strongest response from the audience, with the vast majority (83%) of audience members expressing concern with potential conflicts of interest. "I don't believe it should be creating a conflict of interest," Chris Brown, partner at Lockton, said, "but if it's not handled correctly, it can." Indeed, most on the panel agreed that transparency and communication with clients are imperative:

"We occupy a position of great trust. I haven't detected a shift in trust in recent years, but the results of the survey are worrying for us all," Mark Platten, chief underwriting officer at AXA Corporate Solutions UK, said. "We should ask ourselves some challenging questions about how we communicate."

Q: Brexit: The insurance industry is well prepared for all outcomes on Brexit and there will be no major issues for commercial insurance buyers

YES: 26%                              NO: 74%

Q: Innovation: The insurance industry is making good progress in creating and adapting products and services which meet the needs of the digital economy​

YES: 33%                              NO: 67%

Q: Pricing: A sustained continuation of the current soft market will have negative consequences for buyers in levels of service, innovation and claims 'generosity'​

YES: 64%                              NO: 36%

Q: Broker Business Models: Levels of income from insurers is creating potential conflicts of interest for brokers​

YES: 83%                              NO: 17%

Q: The Insurance Act: The Act is already achieving one of its prime objectives in terms of closer client/underwriter engagement​

YES: 64%                              NO: 36%

Q: The profession: The risk and insurance profession has the diversity and demographics to ensure its continued success in the digital economy​

YES: 40%                              NO: 60%

The importance of product innovation occupied much of the debate, after two thirds of the audience said the industry is not making good progress on innovation for the digital economy. Paul Goulding, Airmic chairman and director of insurance at Heathrow, summed up the sentiment: "Most risks on a risk register today are not insurable. My insurance programme is the same as it was two decades ago."

The problem, according to Mark Weil, CEO of Marsh Ltd, is that the industry is product-centric, has an inherently conservative culture and is not, therefore, a naturally innovative space. "But, we desperately need to be innovative if we are to stay relevant," he added.

Mark Platten of AXA noted that the industry is providing new products, but accepted that for some risks, there may not be a risk transfer solution. Instead, he said, the focus should be on providing extra services: "With many intangible risks, it's tough to come up with products without the data."

The audience did, however, give the market credit in progress made under the Insurance Act which came into force ten months ago, with two thirds agreeing that it had resulted in closer engagement between client and underwriter.

THE PANEL:

Chris Brown, partner at Lockton; Paul Goulding, Airmic chairman and director of insurance at Heathrow; Mark Platten, chief underwriting officer at AXA Corporate Solutions UK, Vincent Vandendael, chief commercial officer at Lloyd's; Mark Weil, CEO of Marsh Ltd.

Chair: Huw Edwards, BBC News presenter

The panel expressed concern with a perceived trend for contracting out of certain obligations under the Act, noting that it could lead to less differentiation between those risk managers that have been diligent with their presentation of risk and those that have not. "That is not what the Act was designed to achieve," Vincent Vandendael, chief commercial officer at Lloyd's, commented.