by Steve White, CEO, The British Insurance Broker’s Association
I firmly believe that the future of insurance broking is bright. However, that is not to say that we should carry on doing what we’ve always done – the world, customers, and technology are changing and changing fast, and our sector needs to reflect this.
The future is full of both risks and opportunities, as highlighted in the 2019 BIBA Manifesto, and in particular we need to adapt our working environment to suit both younger and future insurance professionals.
Some might think that a concentration on matters such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion, employee wellbeing (both mental and physical), and careers take the focus away from customers and business development. Believe me, this is absolutely not the case. The next generation of future leaders form career choices around a complex decision-tree that includes pay, prospects, and what I will loosely call a progressive atmosphere.
Taking it as a given that professionals want to be both well remunerated for their efforts and rewarded in terms of recognition, empowerment and promotion, employees also want to see that the organisation they join cares about them and all of its people. They probably also prefer it to care about the wider community.
According to Forbes, flexibility in the workplace is one of the key attributes sought by millennials. In return for adaptable working, they expect to be rewarded for the quality of their work, not for “presenteeism”. How can this work in such a customer centric sector? Insurtech might well provide the opportunity for brokers to have far less reliance on a centralised workplace.
Insurtech has the double benefit of delivering the access to technology that millennials and Generation Z crave. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Workforce of the Future Study (2017) found that 75 per cent of millennials feel they need technology in order to be effective at work.
That might be an easy enough theme to envisage, but what about the softer elements of employment? Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2018 revealed that millennials want businesses to be as concerned about social responsibility as they are with profits, and that the ability to attract and retain younger talent is enhanced when “businesses and their senior management teams are diverse.”
Building diversity and inclusion in our industry is key. We cannot be complacent about this. In our 2019 manifesto, we committed to embedding an inclusive culture within BIBA, to enhance diverse representation on our committees and boards, and to promote diversity throughout our sector. We know that this will not happen overnight – our profession still has a disproportionate number of white, straight, male, middle-class leaders, but as demonstrated by our member Aon, this can change. Aon set up a step-up programme of traineeship to encourage social diversity by tapping into talent from communities such as NEETs (not in employment, education or training) as part of their commitment to drive forward diversity.
Even with talk of robotics playing a much larger role in the sector, I believe that we will remain a predominately people business. Investing in every aspect of our people is key. And that brings me onto another of our manifesto commitments – one which will support employees’ wellbeing. Research by Ecclesiastical in 2018 suggested that brokers are more likely to suffer stress than other financial sector workers. Lockton, another member, recently revealed the fact that employees being required to be available round-the-clock negatively impacted work-life balance. Just as health and safety measures relating to physical wellbeing are regarded as hygiene factors in business, so must harmful effects upon mental health be guarded against. More and more firms are recognising the importance of mental wellbeing, and we call for a culture of openness around mental health. The insurance brokers of the future will want nothing less.
Firms ignore these findings at their peril. Surely it is more sensible to seize the opportunities that the younger generation provide. The BIBA Young Broker Ambassadors are a talented bunch of individuals who are committed to the future of insurance broking. They shine with enthusiasm and commitment to our sector.
Bethan Perris of Vista Insurance – our Manchester Young Ambassador – said on the podium at our manifesto launch: “Insurance broking provides a young professional with a career that offers new challenges every day, along with the skills and confidence to view each challenge as a new opportunity to develop. We are working to ensure that insurance broking is not a hidden career but viewed as an exciting opportunity for the next generation.”
With sentiment like this and the commitment of our sector to change, I think happiness is indeed around the corner, and is within us all.