I want to leave the global banking crisis to one side and turn to the rather more parochial matter of the breakaway of the London Market Brokers Committee from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association to form the London International Insurance Brokers Association (LIIBA). I find this almost unfathomable in the context of the current state of the financial markets and regulation. Clearly no-one has applied the “How do others see us test?” to this.
The last thing insurance intermediaries need at the moment is further fragmentation of their representation. Just how do these London market brokers think news of yet another trade association to deal with is going to be greeted in the Treasury and at the Financial Services Authority with everything they have to deal with at the moment? A groan or two would seem to be the mildest reaction. More likely, they will be cursing, that is when they even have time to notice a new acronym appearing on the outer fringes of their radar screens.
It does seem that unity in the world of intermediary representation is an elusive goal. Just as BIBA and the Institute of Insurance Brokers start moving closer together so the London market brokers fall off the other end. And if you consider the independent financial advisers also have their own trade bodies, it looks as if there will be four (or more) organisations pushing the intermediary case with government and regulators.
This really does seem a step back into the past. Thirty years ago there were four intermediary bodies that briefly came together to form BIBA, a rare moment of unity before regulation started to change the world and the new breed of IFAs emerged as the general and life markets drifted apart. Now we have a potential return to that ludicrous multiplicity of trade bodies.
Intermediaries and brokers often complain they get a bad deal from government and regulators: do they really wonder why? Are there really people out there who believe that by having more organisations representing what most of the rest of the world sees as one market they will get a better deal? It is a spectacular piece of self-deluding naivety if they genuinely think that.
While the Treasury and the FSA will be groaning at the prospect, other market bodies that brokers might find themselves at loggerheads with will be quietly relishing the prospect of being able to play the broker trade associations off against each other. The skilled and experienced lobbyists among the really powerful trade associations like the Association of British Travel Agents and the Association of British Insurers will be quietly very content at the disunity in the world of insurance broking.
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