The Insurance Societies and Networks have continued to support our members during a challenging time. With restrictions beginning to ease, our sector and region-specific professional communities have begun to look ahead to the future.
Our Local Institute Network continues to provide its members with high quality digital CPD. From macro issues such as such as Aubrey Capital Management’s Chris Sutton taking a look at the reaction and outlook of global markets through to more specific issues such as Bernard Thornton’s session on Personal Injury Claims, as well as considering the new skillsets needed for working from home, volunteers across the country have been working hard to deliver for insurance professionals in their local area. It’s been great to also see social events adapting to the virtual world, with online quizzes, virtual coffee mornings, and even yoga and mindfulness sessions to keep our members not only working well, but feeling great too.
The Society of Insurance Broking is working hard to equip our members with the skills and knowledge for the challenges ahead. A hardening market is challenging for most in insurance, but for a generation of young brokers, it will be the first time they will have had to deal with it. A recent ‘sales masterclass’ webinars series has focused on one of the most fundamental skills in the sector: communication. From having difficult conversations to emphasising the value of professional advice, the series has also considered how to generate leads, win business, and maintain profitable business – all whilst maintaining high professional standards and securing the best outcomes for clients.
Meanwhile, the Society of Underwriting Professionals has been looking at how technology is shaping the sectors response to the pandemic. Even before coronavirus, digitalisation and automation has been a key theme for the Society, and unfortunately this has not always in a positive context. It has been refreshing to see some of the ways our underwriting members have adapted to provide risk assessments, including the use of drones as just one example. Of course, policy wordings and scope of cover continue to be hot topics, with demand for genuine comprehensive cover increasing. As a subject so critical to public trust, the Society will continue to explore the issues and themes around this in the months ahead.
Last but certainly not least, the Society of Claims Professionals continues to consider issues around remote working. It’s fair to say some organisations have faced considerable challenges in this regard, in particular large call centre operations suddenly having to deliver their services with their staff at home. A series of articles from members of the Board has looked at culture and approaches within different firms, and a common thread runs through all of them – put your staff first. All will be experiencing different feelings and emotions about the situation, they will have different attitudes to risk, different attitudes to the social component of their job, different perspectives on how their efficiency and productivity can be maximised. There is no one size fits all approach, so it is crucial that return to work policies and procedures are producing in consultation with the workforce. As staff now begin to return gradually, it will be fascinating to see which changes to working culture stay with us, and what areas will return to normality.
From my own perspective, I am certainly looking forward to returning to the office. Coronavirus may finally banish ‘presenteeism’ culture, and the adaptability and flexibility we have all demonstrated during this time should be embraced and continued. However, with many different colleagues and stakeholders, success in my role is built on the relationships I build, and it feels there is only so far Zoom and Teams can take me. Take for example, the many unscheduled conversations one might have around the office, the dynamics of a meeting, a colleague’s body language, sitting across the table from a client – all these things add up to much more than the sum of their parts.
A few weeks ago, I had the unusual experience of hosting an exhibition booth at a virtual broking conference. It was enjoyable to meet lots of new members, and I was able to connect with many different people, perhaps some of which would not normally have attended a physical event. Even so, it was very hard to replicate the networking and social aspect that an industry event provides. Perhaps then, virtual events will complement and provide an alternative to the ‘real’ thing, but never really replace them.
As with everything in life, balance is the key. I am lucky enough to have written part of this from a deckchair in my garden, watching my cat chasing butterflies, and drinking a coffee that didn’t cost me a small fortune – the changing ways we are working have their upsides!
Strategy & Operations Manager, Insurance Societies & Networks